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=>

How the Economic Downturn is Affecting Nonprofits

In times of eco­nom­ic cri­sis, non-prof­it orga­ni­za­tions often see an increase in the need for ser­vices. SAALT’s part­ners who pro­vide ser­vices to South Asian com­mu­ni­ty mem­bers are observ­ing an increased need for hous­ing, job train­ing, and ben­e­fits due to lay­offs, lack of jobs, and the down­turn in the econ­o­my.  At the same time, non-prof­its too are fac­ing the bur­den of the eco­nom­ic cri­sis and are hav­ing to lay off staff, reduce pro­gram­ming, and dip into reserve funds.

As Daniel Gross, a finan­cial edi­tor at Newsweek, point­ed out as ear­ly as June of 2008, dona­tions from indi­vid­ual donors are down from what they used to be. And with 80 per­cent of sup­port to non-prof­its com­ing from 20 per­cent of the peo­ple in Amer­i­ca, any reduc­tion in giv­ing can have a sig­nif­i­cant impact on non-prof­it groups.

How can South Asians who are able to give sup­port the non-prof­its that are so crit­i­cal in our local com­mu­ni­ties? Why give at all? Read an excerpt from a post from Sayu Bho­jwani (for­mer Exec­u­tive Direc­tor of South Asian Youth Action and former Commissioner of Immigrant Affairs for New York City on the South Asian Philanthropy Project blog about the importance of strategic giving within the South Asian community:

South Asian phil­an­thropy has until recent­ly meant con­tribut­ing to caus­es in the home coun­try and to region­al and reli­gious asso­ci­a­tions here in the U.S. As the com­mu­ni­ty matures, accu­mu­lates wealth, and increas­es in num­ber, more South Asian Amer­i­cans are con­tribut­ing to insti­tu­tions in the Unit­ed States, tar­get­ing resources to issues of con­cern in the com­mu­ni­ty. Strate­gi­cal­ly uti­lized, the “brown dol­lar” can boost the capac­i­ty of fledg­ling orga­ni­za­tions that serve the needs of minor­i­ty com­mu­ni­ties across the U.S. and can play a crit­i­cal role in shap­ing per­spec­tives about South Asians in the broad­er Amer­i­can com­mu­ni­ty.

In the fif­teen years or so that I have been work­ing in the South Asian com­mu­ni­ty and in phil­an­thropy, I have been frus­trat­ed by the piece­meal approach that peo­ple often take to phil­an­thropy. South Asians who give, whether they are wealthy or not, are like most oth­ers who give—responsive to a per­son­al­ized request from a friend or col­league, drawn by a per­son­al con­nec­tion to an issue or orga­ni­za­tion, or moti­vat­ed by the need to meet a cer­tain end-of-year lev­el of giv­ing

Read more here <http://southasianphilanthropy.org/2009/02/02/sapp-blog-forum-sayu-bhojwani/>

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!