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!”

SAALT E.D., Deepa Iyer, profiled in Takoma Voice

Check out this pro­file of SAALT’s own Exec­u­tive Direc­tor (and proud Tako­ma Park res­i­dent) Deepa Iyer pub­lished in the Tako­ma Voice. The arti­cle was writ­ten by Paree­sha Narag, a stu­dent at the Uni­ver­si­ty of Mary­land and a past stu­dent of Deep­a’s.

Check out the full arti­cle here: http://www.silverspringvoice.com/archives/pdfs/2008/1208pdfs/023_mn_dec08.pdf

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

Have you seen “Raising Our Voices”?

In Jan­u­ary 2001, SAALT began work on a 26-minute doc­u­men­tary enti­tled “Rais­ing Our Voic­es: South Asian Amer­i­cans Address Hate.” Pro­duced by Omusha Com­mu­ni­ca­tions and guid­ed by SAALT Board mem­bers and vol­un­teers, the doc­u­men­tary set out to raise aware­ness about the increas­ing hate crimes and bias inci­dents affect­ing South Asian com­mu­ni­ties, espe­cial­ly in the late 1990s. In fact, in 1997 and 1998, South Asians were report­ing the high­est inci­dences of bias-moti­vat­ed crimes in the broad­er Asian Amer­i­can com­mu­ni­ty.

The doc­u­men­tary fea­tures South Asian sur­vivors of hate crimes and their fam­i­lies in Queens, New Jer­sey, Pitts­burgh and Los Ange­les, as well as orga­niz­ers, lawyers and com­mu­ni­ty advo­cates who mobi­lized the South Asian com­mu­ni­ty and demand­ed jus­tice.  When the film was com­plet­ed two weeks before Sep­tem­ber 11th, 2001, lit­tle did we know how the land­scape of the South Asian com­mu­ni­ty in the Unit­ed States would change.  With the alarm­ing increase of hate crimes, bias inci­dents, and pro­fil­ing that South Asians, espe­cial­ly those who are Sikh and Mus­lim, endured in the days and months after 9/11, SAALT re-envi­sioned the doc­u­men­tary and shot addi­tion­al footage.

The doc­u­men­tary has been out since 2002, but you may not have seen it in its entire­ty yet. It has been used in class­rooms and town­halls around the coun­try and we encour­age you to engage with it, com­ment on it, and if pos­si­ble, to share it with friends, fam­i­ly, cowork­ers and com­mu­ni­ty mem­bers.

You can view it here:

Part 1

Part 2 Please email us at saalt@saalt.org with your feed­back, reac­tions, and com­ments. Feel free to use this doc­u­men­tary in your com­mu­ni­ty, uni­ver­si­ty, or your per­son­al net­work of col­leagues and friends.