Luna Ranjit, E.D. of Adhikaar featured in the NY Daily News

Check out this glow­ing pro­file of Luna Ran­jit, Exec­u­tive Direc­tor and co-founder of Adhikaar, in the New York Dai­ly News. Adhikaar is based in Queens and works to empow­er the Nepali com­mu­ni­ty through a vari­ety of activ­i­ties. We want to con­grat­u­late our fel­low Nation­al Coali­tion of South Asian Orga­ni­za­tions part­ner on their con­tin­ued suc­cess and this great expo­sure.

Check the full arti­cle out at: http://www.nydailynews.com/ny_local/bronx/2008/12/12/2008–12-12_a_helping_hand_for_nepali_women_new_to_n.html?page=0

A Loss of Life, A Community’s Responsibility

Please read this op-ed writ­ten by mem­bers of the Nation­al Coali­tion of South Asian Orga­ni­za­tions (Rak­sha, Nari­ka, Man­avi, Maitri) on the recent mur­der of Resh­ma James in New Jer­sey

A Loss of Life, A Community’s Responsibility

As rep­re­sen­ta­tives of South Asian com­mu­ni­ty-based orga­ni­za­tions work­ing to end vio­lence against women, we are sad­dened by the recent mur­der of Resh­ma James, a 24-year old South Asian woman, just days before Thanks­giv­ing.  The trag­ic shoot­ing death of Resh­ma James at the St. Thomas Syr­i­an Ortho­dox Knanaya Church in Clifton by her estranged hus­band has stunned the entire South Asian com­mu­ni­ty. In addi­tion to Ms. James, two oth­er indi­vid­u­als were injured, one of whom also died.

This act of vio­lence — the last in a his­to­ry of abuse per­pe­trat­ed by Ms. James’ estranged hus­band — has affect­ed indi­vid­u­als and the jus­tice sys­tems of three states: Cal­i­for­nia (where the abuse occurred); New Jer­sey (where the mur­der occurred); and Geor­gia (where the mur­der­er was appre­hend­ed).    

As com­mu­ni­ty mem­bers deal with the trau­ma and grief of this inci­dent, it is impor­tant to broad­en our lens to under­stand the epi­dem­ic of domes­tic vio­lence that affects fam­i­lies around the coun­try from all back­grounds.   

The mur­der of Resh­ma James is one inci­dent among many that affect South Asians and oth­er women in the Unit­ed States.  In fact, accord­ing to the Nation­al Net­work to End Domes­tic Vio­lence (NNEDV), inti­mate part­ner vio­lence claims the lives of three women each day in the U.S., and guns are the weapon of choice.    

Through our direct ser­vice and advo­ca­cy work with South Asian sur­vivors of vio­lence, we know all too well that domes­tic vio­lence can affect all fam­i­lies regard­less of reli­gion, race, socio-eco­nom­ic sta­tus, sex­u­al ori­en­ta­tion, age, or immi­gra­tion sta­tus.  Maitri, Man­avi, Nari­ka and Rak­sha are orga­ni­za­tions that address domes­tic vio­lence in the San Fran­cis­co Bay Area, New Jer­sey and Atlanta.  Col­lec­tive­ly our agen­cies receive over 4,000 calls annu­al­ly from women seek­ing legal and health assis­tance, social ser­vices, basic infor­ma­tion about their rights, and refer­rals.  

Yet, the mes­sages that we often hear from with­in the South Asian com­mu­ni­ty are the same: that domes­tic vio­lence does not hap­pen in our com­mu­ni­ty; that it does not hap­pen with­in edu­cat­ed fam­i­lies; and that it is not an impor­tant issue for an entire com­mu­ni­ty to address.   From non-South Asians, we often hear that domes­tic vio­lence must some­how be unique to South Asian com­mu­ni­ties, giv­en our cus­toms, beliefs, and famil­ial rela­tion­ships, or that it does not occur based on false stereo­types they have about South Asians.

Women are bat­tered in every cul­ture, and the com­mon fac­tor is the social sanc­tion of vio­lence against women, across cul­tures. Our col­lec­tive work as a soci­ety then is to build safe com­mu­ni­ties where every­one can live free of fear.   We must bear the col­lec­tive respon­si­bil­i­ty of keep­ing every­one safe.  And that work can­not be done in iso­la­tion, by a few com­mu­ni­ty based orga­ni­za­tions such as ours. It has to be done by all of us, work­ing togeth­er.   

We ask you to sup­port the work of end­ing vio­lence against women and chil­dren in our com­mu­ni­ties.   We ask that you lis­ten to and empow­er sur­vivors in your com­mu­ni­ty.  We ask that you look at leg­is­la­tion that com­pro­mis­es sur­vivor safe­ty and speak out against it and to advo­cate for laws and poli­cies that pro­tect sur­vivors and pro­vide them with lin­guis­tic and cul­tur­al access to the jus­tice sys­tem, law enforce­ment, and shel­ters.

 The 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.  We ask you to reach out to some­one who needs your sup­port.  Only as a com­mu­ni­ty can we pre­vent the mur­ders of women like Resh­ma James. 

Maitri, Man­avi, Nari­ka, Rak­sha – com­mu­ni­ty-based orga­ni­za­tions work­ing to end vio­lence against South Asian women – are all mem­bers of the Nation­al Coali­tion of South Asian Orga­ni­za­tions.  

Aparna Bhat­tacharyya, Rak­sha (Atlanta)       1.866.725.7423          www.raksha.org

Atashi Chakravar­ty, Nari­ka (Bay Area)         1.800.215.7308           www.narika.org

Manee­sha Kelkar, Man­avi    (New Jer­sey)     732. 435.1414             www.manavi.org

Sarah Khan, Maitri               (Bay Area)         1.800.799.SAFE         www.maitri.org

What you need to know before you buy a home …

Have you thought about buy­ing a home? Do you know what home equi­ty is? Are you won­der­ing what your cred­it score is? I have to con­fess that I know very lit­tle about the process of buy­ing a home and have been intim­i­dat­ed by it because all that I heard from fam­i­ly mem­bers and friends was about how stress­ful it was!

For­tu­nate­ly, when I was in Queens, NY last week, I was lucky enough to par­tic­i­pate in work­shop pre­sent­ed by Chhaya CDC called “The Road to Home­own­er­ship: Your Rights, Risks, and Rewards.” This very empow­er­ing and acces­si­ble work­shop demys­ti­fied what it means to buy a home and how you go about doing it. Right then and there, my ques­tions were answered and the process was bro­ken down for me. This work­shop is a part of a series that cov­ers var­i­ous relat­ed top­ics such as whether home­own­er­ship is right for you, finan­cial and cred­it basics, ana­lyz­ing whether you can afford a mort­gage, and how to avoid preda­to­ry lenders. These work­shops are par­tic­u­lar­ly time­ly, giv­en the recent fore­clo­sure cri­sis that has affect­ed many Amer­i­cans and has brought up ques­tions about how exact­ly the home­buy­ing process works in the U.S. If you’re in the New York City area and inter­est­ed in attend­ing one of these work­shops, vis­it Chhaya CDC’s web­site or email them at info@chhayacdc.org.

Chhaya CDC is an orga­ni­za­tion based in Queens that address­es and advo­cates for the hous­ing and com­mu­ni­ty devel­op­ment needs of South Asian Amer­i­cans in New York City. They pro­vide indi­vid­u­al­ized home­own­er­ship and finan­cial coun­sel­ing, work on ten­ants’ rights issues, and engage in com­mu­ni­ty out­reach on hous­ing and com­mu­ni­ty devel­op­ment issues. They also devel­op “know your rights” brochures for the com­mu­ni­ty, includ­ing fact­sheet on how to avoid fore­clo­sure res­cue scams (avail­able in Eng­lish and Bangla).

SAALT and Community Partners Issue Statement Regarding Recent Bias Crimes Targeting South Asians in New Jersey

You may be sur­prised to learn that near­ly 200,000 South Asians reside in the state of New Jer­sey.  SAALT’s New Jer­sey Com­mu­ni­ty Empow­er­ment Project devel­oped from a series of meet­ings in 2004 with South Asian orga­ni­za­tions in New Jer­sey, allies, and con­cerned South Asian indi­vid­u­als.  Through these dia­logues, it became clear that South Asian com­mu­ni­ties in New Jer­sey are under­served and large­ly voice­less in pol­i­cy debates. To learn more about the New Jer­sey Com­mu­ni­ty Empow­er­ment Project, or to read our report high­light­ing key issues affect­ing the South Asian com­mu­ni­ty in New Jer­sey, “A Com­mu­ni­ty of Con­trasts: South Asians in New Jer­sey,” please check out SAALT’s local ini­tia­tives page.

In response to recent bias-crimes tar­get­ed towards the South Asian com­mu­ni­ty in New Jer­sey, SAALT, along with sev­er­al South Asian com­mu­ni­ty part­ners — Man­avi; South Asian Men­tal Health Aware­ness in Jer­sey (SAMHAJ); the Coun­cil on Amer­i­can Islam­ic Rela­tions (CAIR-NJ); UNITED SIKHS; and the Sikh Coali­tion issued a joint state­ment con­demn­ing all bias crimes.  Read the state­ment below:

“We come togeth­er, as orga­ni­za­tions serv­ing South Asian com­mu­ni­ties here in New Jer­sey, to denounce the recent hate crimes and bias inci­dents that have tak­en place in our state.  The South Asian com­mu­ni­ty in New Jer­sey, with a grow­ing pop­u­la­tion of 200,000, has long con­front­ed bias and dis­crim­i­na­tion, begin­ning in the 1980’s with the attacks per­pe­trat­ed by the ‘Dot­busters’ and the post‑9/11 back­lash.  In addi­tion, our orga­ni­za­tions — Man­avi; the Sikh Coali­tion; the Coun­cil on Amer­i­can Islam­ic Rela­tions (CAIR-NJ); South Asian Men­tal Health Aware­ness in Jer­sey (SAMHAJ); and UNITED SIKHS — have observed a rise in New Jer­sey, which we believe has fos­tered an envi­ron­ment where bias inci­dents and hate crimes can occur.

Today, we stand in sol­i­dar­i­ty not only with the Gre­w­al fam­i­ly — vic­tims of a cross-burn­ing out­side their home; Mr. Ajit Singh Chi­ma — an elder­ly Sikh man who, on Octo­ber 30th, in Wayne, New Jer­sey, was vio­lent­ly punched and kicked in the face sev­er­al times by an uniden­ti­fied man, and as a result suf­fered sev­er­al frac­tures around his eyes and jaw; Gan­gadeep Singh — a fifth grade stu­dent who, on Octo­ber 8th, was attacked in Carteret, New Jer­sey while walk­ing home from school by an uniden­ti­fied masked assailant that threw him on the ground and cut off his hair — but with all sur­vivors of bias and hate crimes.

We stand togeth­er now because we must say no to any act of bias and intol­er­ance when it hap­pens.  We stand togeth­er to ask our elect­ed offi­cials and law enforce­ment agen­cies to pro­tect sur­vivors of hate crimes and to join us in con­demn­ing them.  As a vibrant seg­ment of New Jer­sey’s neigh­bor­hoods, schools, busi­ness­es, and non-prof­it sec­tors, South Asians raise our voic­es to call for jus­tice and equal­i­ty for all.”

Please join us for a march and ral­ly in sup­port of the Gre­w­al fam­i­ly on Sat­ur­day, Novem­ber 15th at 3PM in Hard­wick, New Jer­sey.  The ‘Uni­ty for the Com­mu­ni­ty’ March will start at the Munic­i­pal Build­ing and end at the Gre­w­al res­i­dence with a ral­ly. 

Satur­day, Novem­ber 5th, 3PM
Hard­wick Munic­i­pal Build­ing
40 Spring Val­ley Road
Hard­wick, NJ 07825
If you’d like to attend but do not have a ride, please con­tact Qudsia:
(qudsia@saalt.org) or call (201) 850‑3333.

Addi­tion­al­ly, if you’d like to learn more about bias and hate crimes, check out a new resource by SAALT:  “Know Your Rights Resource Address­ing Hate Crimes”

South Asians in the 2008 elections

How have South Asians been get­ting involved in the 2008 elec­tions? How have the ways that South Asians been involved in the civic and polit­i­cal process changed or evolved? What kind of vot­er turnout can we expect from the South Asian com­mu­ni­ty on Elec­tion Day? What’s at stake for South Asians in this elec­tion?



Hear the answers to these ques­tions and more in “South Asians in the 2008 elec­tions,” SAALT’s pre-elec­tion webi­nar. We were joined by Vijay Prashad (Trin­i­ty Col­lege Pro­fes­sor of Inter­na­tion­al Stud­ies and the author of Kar­ma of Brown Folk among oth­er works), Karthick Ramakr­ish­nan (one of the main col­lab­o­ra­tors in the Nation­al Asian Amer­i­can Sur­vey), Seema Agnani (Exec­u­tive Direc­tor of Chhaya CDC, a com­mu­ni­ty devel­op­ment non­prof­it based in Queens, New York), Ali Naj­mi (Co-founder of Desis Vote in New York) and Aparna Shar­ma and Tina Bha­ga Yoko­ta (Mem­bers of South Asian Pro­gres­sive Action Col­lec­tive in Chica­go). The full video of the webi­nar is here<http://www.saalt.org/categories/South-Asians-in-the-2008-Elections-Online-Webinar-/>. Stay tuned for SAALT’s post-elec­tion webi­nar, dur­ing which guests will dis­sect the elec­tion results, report the find­ings of mul­ti­lin­gual exit polling and look for­ward to the tran­si­tion to the new Admin­stra­tion and Con­gress.

One “Be the Change” Volunteer’s Experience Registering Voters in NY

Read this post from Parth Savla, Be the Change Vol­un­teer in New York City:

On Oct 4, I had the plea­sure of par­tic­i­pat­ing in SAALT’s Be The Change event by vol­un­teer­ing with Chhaya CDC, locat­ed in Queens, NY on their Vot­er Reg­is­tra­tion dri­ve.  It was a great a expe­ri­ence street can­vass­ing – going up to South Asians and ask­ing them to reg­is­ter to vote.  I was real­ly sur­prised by how many peo­ple were com­pelled to vote for the first time in their lives.  In addi­tion to spread­ing the word about the impor­tance of vot­ing, we were also edu­cat­ing peo­ple on the pub­lic advo­ca­cy work that Chhaya does – pro­vid­ing every­thing from legal ser­vices to grass­roots com­mu­ni­ty devel­op­ment.


Sup­port­ing the vot­er reg­is­tra­tion, I believe, impact­ed the com­mu­ni­ty on a vari­ety of lev­els.  It enabled those who want to make a dif­fer­ence but don’t know where to go, by pro­vid­ing them access to do so.  Deep down, every­one wants to make a dif­fer­ence and sup­port each oth­er, but are often sti­fled by a lack of knowl­edge in how to do so.  By being out there, it pro­vid­ed greater acces­si­bil­i­ty to folks while help­ing them real­ize that they have cham­pi­ons stand­ing for them. 


Street can­vass­ing, I recall fight­ing my reser­va­tions about going up to one passer­by and say­ing:

“Uncle, have you reg­is­tered to vote for this year’s elec­tion?”

 

“No, I have nev­er vot­ed.  Why would it mat­ter?  I’m only one per­son” he replied in his bro­ken accent.

“Do you have chil­dren, uncle?  Are they in school or look­ing for a good pay­ing job or look­ing to get a loan for a house?”

        “Yes.” 

“Uncle, vot­ing in this year’s elec­tion will enable you to vote for the poli­cies that will not only affect their abil­i­ty to do those things, but also to safe­guard your retire­ment.  I can under­stand that you haven’t vot­ed before, nei­ther had my par­ents before this year,” I said empa­thet­i­cal­ly.

“Oh, I did­n’t know it made that much of a dif­fer­ence,” he said as he filled out the vot­er reg­is­tra­tion form.  Once he was done, he took a few more forms to take back to his fam­i­ly.

        “Thank you young man.”

By see­ing you make a dif­fer­ence, they also get inspired to make a dif­fer­ence!  


I want­ed to par­tic­i­pate in “Be the Change” this year because of see­ing the dif­fer­ence that SAALT had made in our col­lab­o­ra­tive efforts dur­ing our YJA (Young Jains of Amer­i­ca – www.yja.org) Con­ven­tion this past July 4th week­end, and being inspired by the pub­lic advo­ca­cy work they’ve done for the South Asian com­mu­ni­ty.  For SAALT’s “Be the Change” efforts this year, they’ve been able to mobi­lize thou­sands of vol­un­teers nation­wide to sup­port count­less projects for the com­mu­ni­ty.  That’s a pret­ty incred­i­ble feat!I was par­tic­u­lar­ly inspired about their Vot­er Reg­is­tra­tion dri­ve, because this the most impor­tant pres­i­den­tial elec­tion of our life­time.  There are many things at stake from our econ­o­my – being able to get loans for col­lege, to get­ting a good job when enter­ing into the job mar­ket – to edu­ca­tion, to retire­ment ben­e­fits for our par­ents.  Being a South Asian Amer­i­can, it was a great oppor­tu­ni­ty to speak to elders in our com­mu­ni­ty about the impor­tance of vot­ing in this year’s elec­tion and enabling their voic­es to be heard.

I knew that being part this event would not only enable me to make a dif­fer­ence but also meet cool peo­ple who shared a sim­i­lar goal to make a dif­fer­ence.  While one per­son can make a impact, many peo­ple who share a col­lec­tive voice and vision can make an expo­nen­tial impact!