Celebrating 5 Years!

It’s been five years since SAALT opened its first staffed office. We want­ed to take this oppor­tu­ni­ty to reflect back on the past five years and look for­ward to many more. I’ll be putting up entries from SAALT staff and Board as well as past interns and staff.

From Deepa Iyer, Exec­u­tive Direc­tor of SAALT:

“Has it been five years already? When we opened our first office in New York City, just a few blocks from Penn Sta­tion, in a rent­ed space at Cit­i­zens NYC, I was hope­ful but unsure about what the first five years would hold.  Thanks to the hard work and ded­i­ca­tion of a num­ber of peo­ple, includ­ing staff (cur­rent and for­mer), Board mem­bers, interns, vol­un­teers, and donors, we have been able to build a strong foun­da­tion for a nation­al orga­ni­za­tion.  When I start­ed at SAALT five years ago, I was very sen­si­tive to the mod­el that we would cre­ate — how could we devel­op a nation­al orga­ni­za­tion that would be informed by the expe­ri­ences of peo­ple who were fac­ing inequity on a dai­ly basis? It took years of trust-build­ing, con­ver­sa­tions, a bit of strug­gle, flex­i­bil­i­ty, and faith for the Nation­al Coali­tion of South Asian Orga­ni­za­tions to emerge, and for SAALT to have a mean­ing­ful pres­ence at pol­i­cy tables.

In many ways, I think of anoth­er anniver­sary that is com­ing up — the ten year anniver­sary of Sep­tem­ber 11th. I remem­ber in the days and months after 9/11, won­der­ing how our com­mu­ni­ty would be able to weath­er the unprece­dent­ed back­lash, immi­gra­tion enforce­ment tac­tics, and pro­fil­ing that we faced.  At that point in time, there was no for­mal net­work, no real ties that orga­ni­za­tions had to one anoth­er. As we approach the ten-year anniver­sary of 9/11, the com­mu­ni­ty feels stronger, more con­nect­ed, a bit more cohe­sive. If SAALT has had a part in that, I think we have achieved quite a lot! Here’s to the next five years!”

Celebrating 5 Years! Take One!

From Aparna Kothary, our for­mer Devel­op­ment and Fundrais­ing VISTA (2007–2009):

“I start­ed work­ing at SAALT right after col­lege and it served as my intro­duc­tion to both the South Asian com­mu­ni­ty and the broad­er social jus­tice move­ment. Along the way I met pas­sion­ate indi­vid­u­als who con­tin­ue to inspire me to remain engaged in this com­mu­ni­ty, the non-prof­it sec­tor, and the move­ment. I see SAALT con­tin­u­ing to serve as a hub for the Souh Asian com­mu­ni­ty through the NCSO, local capac­i­ty-build­ing, and pol­i­cy work. It is also my hope that sup­port from the com­mu­ni­ty increas­es over the next five years through mem­ber­ship and involve­ment.”

From Priya Murthy, our Pol­i­cy Direc­tor:

“I first got involved with SAALT almost four years ago as part of the Be the Change nation­al day of ser­vice. Hand­ing out know your rights brochures to taxi cab dri­vers at Union Sta­tion in Wash­ing­ton, DC, I knew that this was a pro­gres­sive South Asian orga­ni­za­tion that I want­ed to be a part of. Over the past few years, SAALT has made a tremen­dous impact on my life. It has meant con­nect­ing with a diverse and strong South Asian com­mu­ni­ty as we advo­cate for pol­i­cy change. It has meant being inspired by the tire­less work that local orga­ni­za­tions and com­mu­ni­ty lead­ers do every­day. It has meant work­ing with fierce allies from oth­er com­mu­ni­ties as we strive for immi­grant and civ­il rights. As our com­mu­ni­ty grows in the next five years (as I’m sure it will!), I am excit­ed to see where SAALT will go in work­ing with the com­mu­ni­ty and fos­ter­ing a space for South Asian empow­er­ment.”

Celebrating 5 Years! Take Two!

Con­tin­u­ing our series com­mem­o­rat­ing the fifth anniver­sary of the open­ing of SAALT’s first staffed office, let’s hear from two SAALT Board mem­bers, Lavanya Sithanan­dam and Anous­ka Ched­die (respec­tive­ly).

“Five years ago SAALT opened its first office and hired staff in New York City.  In that short time, SAALT has grown tremen­dous­ly.  My involve­ment with SAALT began dur­ing those same five years, and what this orga­ni­za­tion has giv­en me is invalu­able.   SAALT has pro­vid­ed me with the inspi­ra­tion and the tools to speak up as a physi­cian activist, advo­cat­ing on behalf of immi­grants both inside and out­side of my med­ical prac­tice.   I con­tin­ue to be inspired and moti­vat­ed by the hard work of the staff, the ded­i­ca­tion of the NCSO mem­bers, and the vision of the orga­ni­za­tion.  I feel con­fi­dent that SAALT will con­tin­ue its won­der­ful work over the next five years and will become an even stronger voice both with­in and out­side our South Asian com­mu­ni­ty.”

“SAALT is com­mu­ni­ty. It’s about col­lab­o­ra­tion.  SAALT is trust. It’s about par­tic­i­pa­tion.  SAALT is empow­er­ment. It’s about rep­re­sen­ta­tion. SAALT is inclu­sive. It’s about includ­ing the dias­po­ra.

With SAALT, I know that local grass­roots groups have a nation­al orga­ni­za­tion that they can work with to ensure our com­mu­ni­ty has a strong pro­gres­sive voice that is heard in DC and around the coun­try.

This is just the begin­ning.”

Celebrating 5 Years! Take Three!

We have more to come from our series com­mem­o­rat­ing five years since SAALT opened its first staffed office, but I want­ed to put in my two cents:

To me, SAALT is where we come togeth­er as a com­mu­ni­ty and fight for the change we want, both for our­selves but also in sol­i­dar­i­ty with oth­er com­mu­ni­ties-of-strug­gle. SAALT is an open and inclu­sive hub that invites the South Asian com­mu­ni­ty, allies and part­ners to envi­sion a world that is tru­ly free and equi­table. More­over, SAALT is vehi­cle to help indi­vid­u­als make these lofty aspi­ra­tions a real­i­ty. In five years, I see us doing this with ever more empow­ered, engaged peo­ple. This is only the begin­ning!

Celebrating 5 Years! Take Four!

To con­tin­ue our series cel­e­brat­ing five years since SAALT’s first staffed officed, today we fea­ture Mad­hur Bansal, SAALT’s Ameri­corps VISTA Devel­op­ment Assi­tant from 2006 to 2007:

“To me, SAALT rep­re­sents a col­lec­tive and pro­gres­sive voice for South Asians in the US. SAALT offers com­mu­ni­ty mem­bers a way to engage direct­ly in civic life and pub­lic pol­i­cy issues. In the next five years, I hope that SAALT con­tin­ues build­ing sup­port across the coun­try and that it can be the pri­ma­ry nation­al advo­cate for the South Asian com­mu­ni­ty in pub­lic affairs, par­tic­u­lar­ly in the upcom­ing debate over immi­gra­tion reform. I also hope that SAALT can expand by reach­ing even more com­mu­ni­ty mem­bers and get­ting them involved in its work.”

..and from Imrana Khera, for­mer SAALT staff mem­ber:

“I can’t believe it’s been five years already–Congratulations!  SAALT rep­re­sents the very diverse South Asian com­mu­ni­ty liv­ing in the Unit­ed States, a chal­leng­ing job for any orga­ni­za­tion.  SAALT push­es our com­mu­ni­ty for­ward by advo­cat­ing for change with­in a social jus­tice frame­work.  SAALT’s strength is its respect­ful and effec­tive col­lab­o­ra­tion with orga­ni­za­tions that are work­ing with South Asian com­mu­ni­ty at a local lev­el across the coun­try.

My expec­ta­tion is that SAALT will con­tin­ue to grow over the next five years and con­tin­ue to affect change on behalf of our com­mu­ni­ty — through edu­ca­tion, pol­i­cy, and research — like the award-win­ning Rais­ing Our Voic­es DVD, through SAALT townhalls/community forums, and reports like Wash­ing­ton DeSi: South Asians in the Nation’s Cap­i­tal (July 2009).”

Celebrating 5 Years! Take five!

Anoth­er set of reflec­tions about the 5 year anniver­sary of SAALT open­ing its first staffer office. Now we’re hear­ing from Imrana Khera, SAALT’s Pro­gram Man­ag­er from 2004–2005.

“SAALT rep­re­sents the very diverse South Asian com­mu­ni­ty liv­ing in the Unit­ed States, a chal­leng­ing job for any orga­ni­za­tion.  SAALT push­es our com­mu­ni­ty for­ward by advo­cat­ing for change with­in a social jus­tice frame­work.  SAALT’s strength is its respect­ful and effec­tive col­lab­o­ra­tion with orga­ni­za­tions that are work­ing with South Asian com­mu­ni­ty at a local lev­el across the coun­try.

My expec­ta­tion is that SAALT will con­tin­ue to grow over the next five years and con­tin­ue to effect change on behalf of our com­mu­ni­ty — through edu­ca­tion, pol­i­cy, and research — like the award-win­ning Rais­ing Our Voic­es DVD,  through SAALT townhalls/community forums, and reports like Wash­ing­ton DeSi: South Asians in the Nation’s Cap­i­tal (July 2009) .”