SAALT Releases Report Mapping Impact of COVID-19 on South Asian American Communities

Featured

Washington, DC., September 29, 2020: South Asian Amer­i­cans Lead­ing Togeth­er (SAALT) released the report Unequal Con­se­quences: The Dis­parate Impact of COVID-19 Across South Asian Amer­i­cans today, high­light­ing the urgent need for fun­ders and pol­i­cy mak­ers to gath­er accu­rate dis­ag­gre­gat­ed data on South Asian com­mu­ni­ties in the U.S. to be able to under­stand and respond to the needs that have emerged since the onset of the pan­dem­ic.

The report exam­ines areas of the U.S. with among the largest South Asians pop­u­la­tions includ­ing New York, Chicago, Houston, Atlanta, and the Bay Area and Central Valley in California and draws pri­mar­i­ly on inter­views with com­mu­ni­ty lead­ers who are mem­bers of the Nation­al Coali­tion of South Asian Orga­ni­za­tions (NCSO), a nation­al com­mu­ni­ty sur­vey, and media reports. SAALT also launched an inter­ac­tive map and video tes­ti­mo­ni­als to fur­ther high­light the impact of the pan­dem­ic on South Asians.

Key find­ings of the report include:

  • South Asian Americans who were already vulnerable have been most directly impacted by the pandemic - whether due to their immi­gra­tion sta­tus, their expe­ri­ences with domes­tic vio­lence, liv­ing with under­ly­ing health con­di­tions, or unsafe work­ing envi­ron­ments. Every inter­vie­wee shared that, as a result, com­mu­ni­ty mem­bers are expe­ri­enc­ing men­tal health chal­lenges.
  • Data on COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations, and deaths are currently incomplete as sta­tis­tics are under count­ed in South Asian Amer­i­can com­mu­ni­ties, often labeled as “oth­er Asian” or “unknown” race cat­e­gories. 
  • South Asians are at high risk if they contract COVID-19; they are four times more like­ly than the gen­er­al pop­u­la­tion of hav­ing heart dis­ease or dia­betes, putting them at greater risk of coro­n­avirus-caused death. Oth­er com­pound­ing risk fac­tors include mul­ti-gen­er­a­tional hous­ing, lack of lan­guage acces­si­ble pub­lic health mate­ri­als and gov­ern­ment resources, and insuf­fi­cient pro­tec­tions based on employ­ment or immi­gra­tion sta­tus. 
  • Every survivor-support organization SAALT interviewed explicitly named a drastic increase in gender-based domestic violence.
  •  Government agencies have neglected to provide Limited English Proficient (LEP) community members with culturally appropriate services and language accessible information, imped­ing access to gov­ern­ment ser­vices and relief funds.
  • 85% of respondents to SAALT’s community survey are worried about immigration - specif­i­cal­ly being able to trav­el out­side of the U.S., as well as anx­i­ety over recent exec­u­tive orders tar­get­ing green cards, H‑1B work visas, and stu­dent visas.
  • South Asian American community organizations are filling in the gaps in access to health, food, hous­ing, and employ­ment as a rem­e­dy to fail­ing gov­ern­ment social infra­struc­ture. 

Lak­sh­mi Sri­daran, SAALT’s Exec­u­tive Direc­tor, said “One of the most impor­tant lessons from water­shed moments of cri­sis, like 9/11, the 2016 pres­i­den­tial elec­tion, and now the COVID-19 pan­dem­ic, is that South Asian Amer­i­can com­mu­ni­ties have deeply divid­ed expe­ri­ences. The South Asian pop­u­la­tions in the U.S. who were pri­mar­i­ly tar­get­ed after 9/11, most impact­ed by this Admin­is­tra­tion’s racist poli­cies, and most vul­ner­a­ble to COVID-19 are also the pop­u­la­tions most mar­gin­al­ized with­in our own com­mu­ni­ties because of immi­gra­tion sta­tus, class, caste, reli­gion, and LGBT + iden­ti­ty. While devel­op­ing a shared nar­ra­tive across these dif­fer­ences is valu­able for build­ing col­lec­tive pow­er, only by cen­ter­ing the expe­ri­ences of these pop­u­la­tions do we tru­ly under­stand the mag­ni­tude and range of impact of these crises.”

In Pursuit of the “Dream”: We Reflect and Recommit

IMG_0484

Pho­to Cred­it: Bao Lor, SEARAC

Today marks the 50th Anniver­sary of the March on Wash­ing­ton and Mar­tin Luther King Jr.’s famous, “I Have a Dream” speech. This past week­end, to com­mem­o­rate this impor­tant occa­sion, Asian Amer­i­can orga­ni­za­tions joined thou­sands of peo­ple who gath­ered in the nation’s cap­i­tal to par­tic­i­pate in a march and ral­ly titled, “Nation­al Action to Real­ize the Dream March”.. The pur­pose of this march and ral­ly was not just to remem­ber the lega­cy of Dr. King and the progress since his speech over 50 years ago, but to show that even today in 2013, inequal­i­ty per­sists.

South Asian Americans Leading Together (SAALT)

SAALT staff ral­ly­ing in sol­i­dar­i­ty

Among the Asian Amer­i­can orga­ni­za­tions present at the March were rep­re­sen­ta­tives from SAALT, Sikh Amer­i­can Legal Defense and Edu­ca­tion Fund (SALDEF) and Desis Ris­ing Up and Mov­ing (DRUM). And as part of the pro­gram on Sat­ur­day, Jasjit Singh, Exec­u­tive Direc­tor of SALDEF spoke and shared the stage along with oth­er civ­il rights lead­ers.

The work still con­tin­ues, espe­cial­ly with­in the South Asian, Mus­lim and Sikh com­mu­ni­ties when it comes to decreas­ing hate crimes, dis­crim­i­na­tion, harass­ment and racial pro­fil­ing fol­low­ing 9/11, and the tremen­dous dis­par­i­ties with­in South Asian com­mu­ni­ties from the stand­point of access to edu­ca­tion­al equi­ty, jobs, and health care.

SAALT Pro­grams Intern and recent grad­u­ate of the Uni­ver­si­ty of Mary­land, Col­lege Park, Vic­to­ria Meaney, reflect­ed on the sig­nif­i­cance of the March, “Attend­ing the 50th Anniver­sary March on Wash­ing­ton was mon­u­men­tal to me as a South Asian Amer­i­can. My abil­i­ty to par­tic­i­pate, in col­lab­o­ra­tion with SAALT real­ly exem­pli­fies the progress that has been made, based on the work of indi­vid­u­als such as Mar­tin Luther King, Jr. and Mahat­ma Gand­hi. Their exam­ples show the impor­tance of the indi­vid­u­al’s voice, and, by ally­ing with oth­ers, the steps to a just soci­ety are pos­si­ble. My hope is that future march­es to come will have an even greater rep­re­sen­ta­tion of South Asians and Asian Pacif­ic Amer­i­cans, because civ­il rights belong to all, but we will not be heard if we do not advo­cate for our­selves.”

We marched and ral­lied in sol­i­dar­i­ty for jobs, jus­tice, peace and equal­i­ty along with Amer­i­cans of all races, faith and back­grounds.

Desis Rising Up and Moving (DRUM)

Desis Ris­ing Up and Mov­ing (DRUM)

In giv­ing her rea­sons for the impor­tance of this March, Roksana Mun a DRUM Youth Orga­niz­er reflect­ed on the theme of the March in 1963, which was “the need for jobs and the ever grow­ing eco­nom­ic and social inequal­i­ty between peo­ple of col­or com­mu­ni­ties and white com­mu­ni­ties”. And today she notes, “…we’re liv­ing at a time when the same exact issues of work­ing-class, peo­ple of col­or are strug­gling to find jobs, decent pay (or in many cas­es any pay), increased cuts to edu­ca­tion, health care and social ser­vice sys­tems still per­sist. The Poor People’s March is still need­ed”

We showed that even though 50 years has passed since Dr. King’s speech call­ing for equal­i­ty and jus­tice we still have yet to pur­sue that dream.

As Fahd Ahmed, Legal and Pol­i­cy Direc­tor of DRUM states, “It was impor­tant for DRUM to have a pres­ence at the 50th Anniver­sary of the March on Wash­ing­ton because we have direct­ly ben­e­fit­ed from gains made by the Civ­il Rights move­ment. Both in terms of actu­al rights, won, such as the Immi­gra­tion and Nation­al­i­ty Act of 1965, but also in hav­ing learned strate­gies and tac­tics. Our cur­rent strug­gles for immi­grant rights, racial jus­tice, and worker’s rights, are a con­tin­u­a­tion of that lega­cy.”

Let us reflect and recom­mit as SAALT Exec­u­tive Direc­tor, Deepa Iyer, notes “South Asians are indebt­ed to the civ­il rights move­ment and the African Amer­i­can lead­ers and com­mu­ni­ty mem­bers who marched today 50 years ago. The piv­otal anti-dis­crim­i­na­tion and immi­gra­tion laws that were enact­ed in 1965 have pre­served the rights of mil­lions of peo­ple of col­or and immi­grants. Now, 50 years lat­er, South Asians must con­tin­ue to be a crit­i­cal and vis­i­ble con­stituen­cy in the ongo­ing strug­gle for equi­ty.”

So today, on the actu­al date of the March on Wash­ing­ton, as we com­mem­o­rate Dr. King, his lega­cy and the strug­gles that were endured to defend our civ­il rights, let us not for­get that prob­lems still per­sists and that we are still in pur­suit of the “Dream”.
**********

Auri­a­Joy Asaria
Com­mu­ni­ca­tions and Admin Assis­tant
South Asian Amer­i­cans Lead­ing Togeth­er, SAALT

DJ Rekha @ the Black Cat

On Fri­day night, myself and oth­er SAALT staff mem­bers attend­ed DJ Rekha’s show at the Black Cat.  First off, I have to say: What an amaz­ing show!! I have always been a fan of DJ Rekha’s beats, but see­ing her live was fan­tas­tic.  I also want to thank Rekha and the Black Cat for let­ting SAALT table at the show.  It was refresh­ing to see many famil­iar faces and to know that so many Desis in D.C. already know about SAALT’s work.  I am a fan of Rekha, not only because she is a tal­ent­ed artist, but because she uses her music as a tool for social change.  While it is inspir­ing to see artists like Rekha get­ting involved in the South Asian move­ment, you don’t have to be a DJ to work for change for your com­mu­ni­ty.  Vol­un­teer for Be the Change, orga­nize an event in your local com­mu­ni­ty, or if you haven’t already, become a mem­ber of SAALT.  Thanks again to DJ Rekha for her con­tin­ued sup­port of SAALT and involve­ment in our work!

Anjali Chaudhry is the Mary­land Out­reach Coor­di­na­tor for SAALT.  To learn more about SAALT’s Mary­land Com­mu­ni­ty Empow­er­ment Project and ways you can get involved, email anjali@saalt.org.

Aadi­ti Dubale, SAALT Fel­low (left) and myself (right) tabling at the Black Cat.

9/11 Eight Years Later: A Message from South Asian Organizations

NCSO sepia

9/11 Eight Years Lat­er:  A Mes­sage From South Asian Orga­ni­za­tions
This state­ment is issued by the fol­low­ing mem­bers of the Nation­al Coali­tion of South Asian Orga­ni­za­tions.
Today, mem­bers of the Nation­al Coali­tion of South Asian Orga­ni­za­tions (NCSO) join the coun­try in mark­ing the  eighth anniver­sary of the tragedies of Sep­tem­ber 11th, 2001. We solemn­ly remem­ber and hon­or those who lost their lives or loved ones that day.

Like every­one in Amer­i­ca, South Asians in the Unit­ed States were deeply affect­ed by the events on and after Sep­tem­ber 11th. From the days and months after the tragedy to now, our orga­ni­za­tions have addressed a range of issues in our com­mu­ni­ties relat­ed to the post-Sep­tem­ber 11th envi­ron­ment — from help­ing indi­vid­u­als who lost fam­i­ly mem­bers or their liveli­hoods to advo­cat­ing on behalf of those who faced dis­crim­i­na­tion, hate crimes, pro­fil­ing, and arbi­trary deten­tions and inter­ro­ga­tions.

Although it has been eight years since 9/11, many of the poli­cies imple­ment­ed in its after­math con­tin­ue to affect South Asians, such as spe­cial reg­is­tra­tion, bor­der and air­port pro­fil­ing, and arbi­trary deten­tions and depor­ta­tions.

Today, we encour­age all South Asians to hon­or the mem­o­ry of Sep­tem­ber 11th through reflec­tion, ser­vice, and a renewed com­mit­ment to pre­serve jus­tice and equal­i­ty for all.

For more infor­ma­tion about the Nation­al Coali­tion of South Asian Orga­ni­za­tions, please vis­it the NCSO web­page here or con­tact saalt@saalt.org or 301.270.1855.

Addi­tion­al Resources and Infor­ma­tion:

Dispatch from New Jersey: Town Hall and Legislative Visits!

In an effort to get the local South Asian com­mu­ni­ty engaged around immi­gra­tion reform, SAALT-NJ, along with com­mu­ni­ty part­ners, held a  ‘Town Hall for South Asians on Immi­gra­tion & Civ­il Rights’ in Jer­sey City on July 27th at the Five Cor­ners Library.   The event, part of the One Com­mu­ni­ty Unit­ed cam­paign, was the sec­ond in a series of com­mu­ni­ty forums that will be held nation­wide as a part of the cam­paign.

The town hall brought togeth­er not only a diverse group of folks with­in the com­mu­ni­ty, but also a diverse coali­tion of local com­mu­ni­ty part­ners, includ­ing: Amer­i­can Friends Ser­vice Com­mit­tee, Andolan, Asian Amer­i­can Legal Defense and Edu­ca­tion Fund, the Coun­cil on Amer­i­can-Islam­ic Rela­tions (CAIR-NJ), Govin­da San­skar Tem­ple, Man­avi, New Jer­sey Immi­grant Pol­i­cy Net­work, and the Sikh Coali­tion.

Although the focus of the dis­cus­sion at large was around immi­gra­tion reform, the con­ver­sa­tion cov­ered a vari­ety of issues, such as the effects of visa lim­i­ta­tions and back­logs on low-income work­ers and women fac­ing vio­lence in the home; and deten­tion cen­ters and the grow­ing num­ber of detained immi­grants. The con­ver­sa­tion was at once chal­leng­ing and emo­tion­al, as par­tic­i­pants shared per­son­al sto­ries illus­trat­ing how immi­gra­tion laws have neg­a­tive­ly impact­ed their lives and the lives of their loved ones.   Nev­er­the­less, the con­ver­sa­tion end­ed on a pos­i­tive note with ways to stay involved with the cam­paign, and to get more civi­cal­ly engaged around the immi­gra­tion reform con­ver­sa­tion.

In fact, on August 19th, SAALT mem­bers, along with coali­tion mem­bers from NJIPN and New Labor, con­duct­ed an in-dis­trict meet­ing with Rep­re­sen­ta­tive Don­ald Payne’s office in Newark, New Jer­sey.  Par­tic­i­pants met with a senior staff mem­ber at the Rep­re­sen­ta­tive’s office to dis­cuss issues around immi­gra­tion and health­care reform.

The del­e­ga­tion high­light­ed key con­cerns to both the South Asian com­mu­ni­ty and the immi­grant com­mu­ni­ty at large, such as (1) the increase in deten­tion and depor­ta­tions post 9–11 and its impact on immi­grant fam­i­lies in the US; (2) fam­i­ly- and employ­ment-based visa back­logs and the need for just and humane immi­gra­tion reform to pre­vent fam­i­lies from being torn apart in the process; and  (3) more con­crete mea­sures in place for immi­grant inte­gra­tion to address issues such as lin­guis­tic and cul­tur­al bar­ri­ers in access­ing ser­vices, and, as a result, becom­ing active and par­tic­i­pat­ing mem­bers of the com­mu­ni­ty.

The meet­ing was a great expe­ri­ence – it illus­trat­ed to the mem­bers present the sig­nif­i­cance of civic engage­ment, and how impor­tant it is to reach out to our respec­tive rep­re­sen­ta­tives about issues con­cern­ing us. In a polit­i­cal and eco­nom­ic cli­mate that seems so anti-immi­grant, it was cer­tain­ly refresh­ing to be able to sit down with the Rep­re­sen­ta­tive’s office to active­ly advo­cate for issues that deeply impact the immi­grant com­mu­ni­ty.  I look for­ward to meet­ing with oth­er local offices in the com­ing month and encour­age oth­ers to try to sched­ule meet­ings with your respec­tive Rep­re­sen­ta­tives while they are home for August recess.

To learn more about SAALT-NJ’s work, please email qudsia@saalt.org

Look­ing for ways to get involved? Here are some ideas:

• Call your mem­ber of Con­gress to express your sup­port for immi­gra­tion reform and strong civ­il rights poli­cies. Find out who your mem­ber of Con­gress is by vis­it­ing www.house.gov and www.senate.gov.

• The Cam­paign to Reform Immi­gra­tion for Amer­i­ca has launched a text mes­sag­ing cam­paign that sends alerts to par­tic­i­pants when a call to action, such as call­ing your Congressman/woman, is urgent­ly need­ed. To receive text mes­sage alerts, sim­ply text ‘jus­tice’ to 69866.

• Stay in touch with local and nation­al orga­ni­za­tions that work with the South Asian com­mu­ni­ty.

• Share your immi­gra­tion or civ­il rights sto­ry with SAALT by fill­ing out this form or send­ing an email to saalt@saalt.org.

One Community United Kickoff Town Hall in Atlanta

From Niralee, one of our amaz­ing sum­mer interns:

On Tues­day, June 16th, SAALT’s Exec­u­tive Direc­tor Deepa Iyer, along with NCSO part­ner Rak­sha, Indus Bar, the Amer­i­can Civ­il Lib­er­ties Union of Geor­gia, and Khabar, launched the One Com­mu­ni­ty Unit­ed cam­paign with an inau­gur­al town hall in Atlanta. The event was the first in a series of com­mu­ni­ty forums to be held through­out the coun­try as part of the cam­paign.

The town hall took place at the Glob­al Mall in Atlanta on Tues­day evening, and about forty peo­ple attend­ed the event. The group was very diverse, includ­ing rep­re­sen­ta­tives of South Asian orga­ni­za­tions, local stu­dents and com­mu­ni­ty mem­bers, and mem­bers of local places of wor­ship.

The heart of the dis­cus­sion was immi­gra­tion and human rights. From the very begin­ning, par­tic­i­pants eager­ly engaged in the dis­cus­sion, address­ing issues rang­ing from the rights of immi­grant work­ers, to deten­tion and depor­ta­tion, to the reuni­fi­ca­tion of fam­i­lies. Par­tic­i­pants also dis­cussed how the human rights of immi­grants are often vio­lat­ed in this coun­try. The event closed with a call to action, encour­ag­ing par­tic­i­pants to con­tact their rep­re­sen­ta­tives in Con­gress, stay in touch with orga­ni­za­tions work­ing with the South Asian com­mu­ni­ty, and stay up to date on immi­gra­tion issues.

Many who attend­ed walked away feel­ing inspired to take action on immi­gra­tion reform in their com­mu­ni­ties. Van­dana said, “The town hall was extreme­ly eye-open­ing and thought pro­vok­ing… I am going to chalk-out a plan of action… and def­i­nite­ly con­tact some peo­ple that I know will share the same enthu­si­asm for the [Be the Change] project.” Noshin, a rep­re­sen­ta­tive of Refugee Reset­tle­ment and Immi­gra­tion Ser­vices of Atlanta, said he would “keep up with bills intro­duced and con­tact [his] rep­re­sen­ta­tives “ and “share [his] immi­gra­tion sto­ry with SAALT.” Many oth­ers expressed a strong desire to go back to their com­mu­ni­ties and address the issues dis­cussed at the town hall.

SAALT left the event look­ing for­ward to future town halls, to be host­ed in the San Fran­cis­co Bay Area, Chica­go, New Jer­sey, and Wash­ing­ton DC. It was great to see so many Atlanta com­mu­ni­ty mem­bers com­ing togeth­er to express their sup­port for immi­gra­tion reform. Over­all, the event was a very excit­ing kick-off for SAALT’s One Com­mu­ni­ty Unit­ed cam­paign.

For more infor­ma­tion about the One Com­mu­ni­ty Unit­ed cam­paign for Civ­il and Immi­grant Rights, vis­it here <http://www.saalt.org/pages/One-Community-United-Campaign.html>.

More Reflections from Atlanta Town Hall for Civil and Immigrant Rights

Here are more reflec­tion on the kick-off town hall in Atlanta, GA of the Nation­al Coali­tion of South Asian Orga­ni­za­tions’ One Com­mu­ni­ty Unit­ed cam­paign for civ­il and immi­grant rights. This time we’re hear­ing from Nureen Gula­mali, intern at ACLU-Geor­gia  (one of the cospon­sors of the town hall):

I’m lucky to be intern­ing at the Amer­i­can Civ­il Lib­er­ties Union (ACLU) of Geor­gia this sum­mer and was grate­ful to be a part of the SAALT/ACLU forum.  After attend­ing the Immi­gra­tion Forum, my per­spec­tive has been enlight­ened and tru­ly widened.  Immi­gra­tion is a hot top­ic in today’s world – tell me some­thing I don’t know.  But how it affects the actu­al immi­grants is tru­ly the issue at hand.  I’ve heard accounts of the tri­als and tribu­la­tions that so many peo­ple have had to go through in order to get a bet­ter start in this world, and my heart goes out to them.  The forum itself not only pro­vid­ed more infor­ma­tion to the unin­formed, but allowed for a healthy and knowl­edge­able dis­cus­sion for both the informed and unin­formed.  It’s so impor­tant to stand up for what is right and immi­gra­tion rights are, in essence, human rights.  What know­ing indi­vid­ual wouldn’t stand up for human rights?

So, I sup­pose the more impor­tant ques­tion is, what can we do about it?  Well, real­ly, every­one who was able to make it to the forum has already tak­en the first step – stay informed.  It’s as sim­ple as that.  You can make a dif­fer­ence by stay­ing informed, whether that’s catch­ing up on the cur­rent issues on Google News, or join­ing a human rights advo­ca­cy group (GA Deten­tion Watch, Human Rights Atlanta, Rak­sha, SAALT, etc.).  The more allies we have, the big­ger the impact we can have – not to men­tion strate­gic pull.  So, take ten min­utes a day to read what’s going on in the human rights/immigration front and from there, I swear, it will be plen­ty easy to get involved!

For more infor­ma­tion about the One Com­mu­ni­ty Unit­ed cam­paign for Civ­il and Immi­grant Rights, vis­it here <http://www.saalt.org/pages/One-Community-United-Campaign.html>.

Advocacy Day in Trenton, NJ–South Asian Style!

Poon­am Patel, an intern at SAALT was in atten­dance for South Asian Advo­ca­cy Day in Tren­ton, NJ on March 16th. She shares her expe­ri­ence below. If you want to read more about the South Asian Advo­ca­cy Day, check out this great blog post by Son­ny Singh at the Sikh Coali­tion blog!

On Mon­day, March 16th, I had the oppor­tu­ni­ty to attend the first South Asian Advo­ca­cy Day in Tren­ton, New Jersey–an inspir­ing expe­ri­ence, to say the least. Grow­ing up in a tra­di­tion­al Indi­an fam­i­ly with the stig­ma that speak­ing to elect­ed offi­cials at any lev­el is fruit­less, it was reas­sur­ing to see leg­is­la­tors not only respon­sive to the issues dis­cussed but also will­ing to take action—research new means of solv­ing fun­da­men­tal prob­lems whether that involved sup­port­ing exist­ing leg­is­la­tion or intro­duc­ing new ideas.

One of the advo­cates talked about a project their orga­ni­za­tion had developed—grading pub­lic schools in a report card for­mat based on their cul­tur­al com­pe­ten­cy. The leg­is­la­tor that was pre­sent­ed with this idea not only agreed that it was a very effec­tive way of cre­at­ing aware­ness, but also asked for spe­cif­ic details so that the pro­gram could poten­tial­ly be imple­ment­ed in her dis­trict. While I was lis­ten­ing to this exchange take place, it became clear that inno­v­a­tive projects devel­oped by experts in their own fields com­bined with the gov­ern­ment resources can tru­ly have an affect on the com­mu­ni­ty at large.

Fur­ther­more, to see so many com­mu­ni­ty mem­bers, advo­cates, and stu­dents col­lec­tive­ly dis­cuss the issues most rel­e­vant to the South Asian com­mu­ni­ty shed light to the fact that they cross bound­aries of all sorts–gender, age, and nation­al ori­gin to name a few.  Even though the South Asian com­mu­ni­ty is so diverse in a num­ber of ways, there are sev­er­al issues we can all relate to such as devel­op­ing com­pre­hen­sive immi­gra­tion reform or cre­at­ing cul­tur­al com­pe­tent resources for com­mu­ni­ty mem­bers. This is what was at the heart of Tren­ton Advo­ca­cy Day. It wasn’t about each indi­vid­ual advo­cat­ing some­thing unique, but a strong, col­lec­tive voice that caught the ears of state leg­is­la­tors.

A Call to Action to Address and End Domestic Violence

Please read this state­ment released by the Nation­al Coali­tion of South Asian Orga­ni­za­tions in response to recent domes­tic vio­lence inci­dents includ­ing the trag­ic mur­der of Aasiya Has­san in New York.

February 26th, 2009- As com­mu­ni­ty-based orga­ni­za­tions that pro­vide ser­vices to, advo­cate for, and orga­nize South Asians in the Unit­ed States, we are deeply sad­dened by recent trag­ic inci­dents of domes­tic vio­lence that have affect­ed South Asian fam­i­lies and com­mu­ni­ties over the past six months.

The trag­ic mur­der of Aasiya Has­san, a 37-year-old moth­er, who was bru­tal­ly behead­ed in Buf­fa­lo, New York, is the lat­est in a series of recent vio­lent inci­dents that has received com­mu­ni­ty-wide and pub­lic atten­tion.  Ms. Has­san had obtained an order of pro­tec­tion against her hus­band and filed for divorce before the mur­der, which occurred on Feb­ru­ary 12, 2009.

This inci­dent comes on the heels of anoth­er tragedy that occurred in Clifton, New Jer­sey last Novem­ber, when 24-year old Resh­ma James was mur­dered by her estranged hus­band at the church she attend­ed.  And, it fol­lows two mur­ders of fam­i­ly mem­bers, includ­ing chil­dren: one occur­ring in Novi, Michi­gan, where the bod­ies of 37-year-old Jay­alak­sh­mi Rao and her two chil­dren were found, and the oth­er occur­ring in Sor­rente Pointe, Cal­i­for­nia, where the entire Rajaram fam­i­ly (moth­er-in-law, wife,  three chil­dren, and the sui­cide of the hus­band) was found dead last Octo­ber.

Beyond speak­ing out and con­demn­ing these tragedies, we as com­mu­ni­ty mem­bers and orga­ni­za­tions must strive to do even more.  As mem­bers of the South Asian com­mu­ni­ty, each of us has a role to play in end­ing vio­lence.

Most impor­tant­ly, we must move beyond the ten­den­cy to reduce acts of domes­tic vio­lence to cul­ture or reli­gion, or any such char­ac­ter­is­tic. The epi­dem­ic of domes­tic vio­lence affects fam­i­lies from all back­grounds and reli­gious faiths; in fact, the inci­dents we describe here occurred in Chris­t­ian, Hin­du and Mus­lim com­mu­ni­ties.  We must call domes­tic vio­lence what it is, and work both with­in our com­mu­ni­ty and exter­nal­ly, to cre­ate safe spaces and envi­ron­ments.

And, we must under­stand and empathize with vic­tims and sur­vivors of domes­tic vio­lence.  All vic­tims and sur­vivors of domes­tic vio­lence face sig­nif­i­cant bar­ri­ers in seek­ing and obtain­ing assis­tance, jus­tice, and sup­port. For South Asians, these bar­ri­ers become even more exac­er­bat­ed.  Many South Asians feel uncom­fort­able reach­ing out to those with­in their own com­mu­ni­ty for fear of being judged, ques­tioned, iso­lat­ed, blamed and stig­ma­tized.  When abuse occurs in non-mar­i­tal or same-sex rela­tion­ships, it can become an even more dif­fi­cult top­ic to broach.  More­over, a lack of cul­tur­al and lin­guis­tic sen­si­tiv­i­ty and tan­gi­ble legal pro­tec­tions can make sur­vivors feel that they have lit­tle recourse in exist­ing laws, the jus­tice sys­tem, law enforce­ment and social ser­vice agen­cies.

Final­ly, we must be ready to address domes­tic vio­lence pub­licly.  Around the coun­try, com­mu­ni­ty mem­bers, reli­gious lead­ers and social ser­vice agen­cies must take sig­nif­i­cant steps each day to ensure that vic­tims and sur­vivors of domes­tic vio­lence receive the sup­port and assis­tance they need.  Our entire com­mu­ni­ty must be pre­pared to speak out against vio­lence and address it in our homes, places of wor­ship, cul­tur­al cen­ters, and social ser­vice orga­ni­za­tions.

In light of the recent trag­ic inci­dents of domes­tic vio­lence, we offer three con­crete steps that you can take:  first, cre­ate a safe space to talk about domes­tic vio­lence with your fam­i­ly, friends, and sup­port net­works; sec­ond, encour­age your reli­gious, cul­tur­al and civic lead­ers to address the impact of domes­tic vio­lence in pub­lic state­ments, remarks, prayers and ser­mons, and set­tings; and third, sup­port orga­ni­za­tions that strive to end domes­tic vio­lence in our com­mu­ni­ties.

We send this call to action with the hope that com­mu­ni­ty mem­bers, reli­gious, cul­tur­al and civic orga­ni­za­tions, pol­i­cy­mak­ers, allies and media will all take on the task of end­ing domes­tic vio­lence. For our part, we remain com­mit­ted to con­tin­u­ing our efforts to advo­cate against vio­lence in any form, to cre­ate safe spaces for all com­mu­ni­ty mem­bers, and to press for poli­cies that sup­port and empow­er vic­tims and sur­vivors of vio­lence.

The Nation­al Coali­tion of South Asian Orga­ni­za­tions (NCSO), a net­work of com­mu­ni­ty-based orga­ni­za­tions in 12 regions around the Unit­ed States, seeks to ampli­fy a pro­gres­sive voice on pol­i­cy issues affect­ing South Asian com­mu­ni­ties.  For more infor­ma­tion about the NCSO, please con­tact South Asian Amer­i­cans Lead­ing Togeth­er (SAALT) at 301–270-1855 or via email at saalt@saalt.org

Endorsed by:

Adhikaar- New York, NY
Andolan — New York, NY
Apna Ghar - Chica­go, IL
ASHA for Women — Wash­ing­ton DC Area
Chaya - Seat­tle, WA
Chhaya CDC — New York, NY
Coun­cil of Peo­ples Orga­ni­za­tion — New York, NY

Coun­selors Help­ing (South) Asian/Indians — Wash­ing­ton DC Area
Daya — Hous­ton, TX

Ham­dard Cen­ter — Chica­go, IL
Indo-Amer­i­can Cen­ter — Chica­go, IL
Maitri — San Jose, CA
Man­avi — New Brunswick, NJ
Michi­gan Asian Indi­an Fam­i­ly Ser­vices — Livo­nia, MI
Nari­ka — Berke­ley, CA
Rak­sha — Atlanta, GA
Saathi of Rochester — Rochester, NY
Sakhi for South Asian Women — New York, NY
Satrang — Los Ange­les, CA
Sne­ha - West Hart­ford, CT
South Asian Health Ini­tia­tive — New York, NY
Sikh Amer­i­can Legal Defense and Edu­ca­tion Fund — Wash­ing­ton DC
South Asian Amer­i­cans Lead­ing Togeth­er - Wash­ing­ton DC Area

South Asian Youth Action — New York, NY
Trikone NW - Seat­tle, WA
Turn­ing Point for Women and Fam­i­lies — New York, NY

Poverty in the Asian American Community in New York Featuring SAYA!

NewsAs the reces­sion deep­ens and more and more peo­ple around the coun­try find them­selves job­less or stretched thin eco­nom­i­cal­ly, its impor­tant to high­light how dif­fer­ent com­mu­ni­ties are being affect­ed in dif­fer­ent ways. This excel­lent piece from My9 News (New York) reporter Ti Hua Chang. Chang pro­files Asian Amer­i­cans and South Asians liv­ing at or near the pover­ty lev­el in New York. Many work for long hours for low wages and have lit­tle cush­ion as the econ­o­my wors­ens. More­over, few­er Asian Amer­i­cans use gov­ern­ment ser­vices; one of the star­tling facts Chang men­tions is that while Asian Amer­i­cans make up 12% of the city’s pop­u­la­tion, they recieve about 1% of the gov­ern­ment or pri­vate fund­ing. From seniors iso­lat­ed to their apart­ments to the Bangladeshi man work­ing two jobs to build a bet­ter future for his chil­dren, the sto­ries are uni­form­ly heart­break­ing and under­score how these com­mu­ni­ties are suf­fer­ing. The Exec­u­tive Direc­tor of an NCSO part­ner SAYA!, Annet­ta Seecha­ran, speaks to the impor­tance of invest­ing in these com­mu­ni­ties and help­ing them build more secure futures. Check the video out at <http://rs6.net/tn.jsp?et=1102477092076&e=001aIe-v1SY2wJtz3gLloLGdx1EKmzkq4MLylD-QY-vhvtPm4PpNI1fizuFNK7DJ9xNvqE7uIqAHfOuwQFZfhlGgbyZXU4mMQErjoOS5BY3c6v1VRiakPRE5d8nicqHS-RMP1dq69Qg8mw=>