SAALT ChangeMaker Award Recipient, Asm Rahman, Profiled in Detroit Free Press

SAALT ChangeMaker Award recipient, Asm Rahman

SAALT Change­Mak­er Award recip­i­ent, Asm Rah­man

Asm Rah­man, one of the recip­i­ents of the inau­gur­al SAALT Change­Mak­er Awards, is pro­filed in the Detroit Free Press. Elect­ed the Pres­i­dent of the Ham­tram­ck NAACP, Rah­man is a life­long sup­port­er of civ­il rights and edu­ca­tion. Check out the arti­cle here <>. I had a chance to talk with Mr. Rah­man about what moti­vat­ed him to take a lead­er­ship role in the NAACP as well as what he envi­sions for the South Asian com­mu­ni­ty nation­al­ly and in the Detroit area.

Q: How did you get involved with the NAACP?

A: After 9/11, I real­ized that many peo­ple in my com­mu­ni­ty were unaware of their civ­il rights. They did not know why they should become cit­i­zens or that many were con­fronting post‑9/11 racism. While Detroit was not affect­ed like some areas with open harass­ment, they did go after many peo­ple, espe­cial­ly Mid­dle East­ern­ers, in a way that seemed relat­ed to race. When I first came to this coun­try, I had learned about Mar­tin Luther King, Jr and Fred­er­ick Dou­glas and such dur­ing Feb­ru­ary, Black His­to­ry Month, at Ham­tram­ck High School. I real­ized that after 9/11, we, as a com­mu­ni­ty, need to learn about and join this move­ment for civ­il rights. For our com­mu­ni­ty, we need to see that free­dom did not come cheap and we have to respect the African Amer­i­can com­mu­ni­ty’s con­tri­bu­tion to our free­dom.

Q: What do you hope for your community, in Detroit and around the country?

A: I hope that the com­mu­ni­ty can come togeth­er and get involved about the issues that we face. That’s why we formed BAPAC (Bangladeshi Amer­i­can Pub­lic Affairs Coun­cil). We saw that there were small­er orga­ni­za­tions pro­vid­ing social ser­vices, but in terms of polit­i­cal engage­ment or civ­il rights, we were behind. Vot­ing and pol­i­tics are dif­fer­ent in South Asia and it is impor­tant to edu­cate our com­mu­ni­ty about how the sys­tem works here. We run work­shops like how to vote where we use a sam­ple bal­lot to help Lim­it­ed Eng­lish Pro­fi­cient or old­er vot­ers nav­i­gate the process. The excite­ment that we saw dur­ing the Pres­i­den­tial elec­tions must be main­tained. This elec­tion was the first time I saw the Bangladeshi com­mu­ni­ty get­ting involved in nation­al pol­i­tics. There was this sense that even if our votes did not count before, this time it will mat­ter. My moth­er was watch­ing the elec­tion like her son was run­ning.

Q: What do you think the community needs in order to become engaged?

A: First­ly, I would say we need edu­ca­tion and I do not mean just aca­d­e­mics. We need to become famil­iar with the pow­er struc­ture. Know­ing that can help us be pre­pared for emer­gen­cies, when peo­ple real­ly need help. For instance, in terms of edu­ca­tion, many immi­grant par­ents do not know how they should get involved. By know­ing what is already in place, com­mu­ni­ty mem­bers can make a big­ger impact on the issues that mat­ter to them. Sec­ond, I would say it is lead­er­ship. This com­mu­ni­ty needs lead­ers who real­ly know what the prob­lems are and how to address them. Ulti­mate­ly, our num­bers do not mat­ter unless the num­bers are doing some­thing.