Advocacy Day in Trenton, NJ–South Asian Style!

Poon­am Patel, an intern at SAALT was in atten­dance for South Asian Advo­ca­cy Day in Tren­ton, NJ on March 16th. She shares her expe­ri­ence below. If you want to read more about the South Asian Advo­ca­cy Day, check out this great blog post by Son­ny Singh at the Sikh Coali­tion blog!

On Mon­day, March 16th, I had the oppor­tu­ni­ty to attend the first South Asian Advo­ca­cy Day in Tren­ton, New Jersey–an inspir­ing expe­ri­ence, to say the least. Grow­ing up in a tra­di­tion­al Indi­an fam­i­ly with the stig­ma that speak­ing to elect­ed offi­cials at any lev­el is fruit­less, it was reas­sur­ing to see leg­is­la­tors not only respon­sive to the issues dis­cussed but also will­ing to take action—research new means of solv­ing fun­da­men­tal prob­lems whether that involved sup­port­ing exist­ing leg­is­la­tion or intro­duc­ing new ideas.

One of the advo­cates talked about a project their orga­ni­za­tion had developed—grading pub­lic schools in a report card for­mat based on their cul­tur­al com­pe­ten­cy. The leg­is­la­tor that was pre­sent­ed with this idea not only agreed that it was a very effec­tive way of cre­at­ing aware­ness, but also asked for spe­cif­ic details so that the pro­gram could poten­tial­ly be imple­ment­ed in her dis­trict. While I was lis­ten­ing to this exchange take place, it became clear that inno­v­a­tive projects devel­oped by experts in their own fields com­bined with the gov­ern­ment resources can tru­ly have an affect on the com­mu­ni­ty at large.

Fur­ther­more, to see so many com­mu­ni­ty mem­bers, advo­cates, and stu­dents col­lec­tive­ly dis­cuss the issues most rel­e­vant to the South Asian com­mu­ni­ty shed light to the fact that they cross bound­aries of all sorts–gender, age, and nation­al ori­gin to name a few.  Even though the South Asian com­mu­ni­ty is so diverse in a num­ber of ways, there are sev­er­al issues we can all relate to such as devel­op­ing com­pre­hen­sive immi­gra­tion reform or cre­at­ing cul­tur­al com­pe­tent resources for com­mu­ni­ty mem­bers. This is what was at the heart of Tren­ton Advo­ca­cy Day. It wasn’t about each indi­vid­ual advo­cat­ing some­thing unique, but a strong, col­lec­tive voice that caught the ears of state leg­is­la­tors.

SAALT briefing on South Asians in New Jersey covered in the New Jersey Star-Ledger

Check out a great arti­cle from the New Jer­sey Star Ledger about the Octo­ber 1st brief­ing on the South Asian com­mu­ni­ty in New Jer­sey. The brief­ing includ­ed Assem­bly­man Upen­dra Chivuku­la and Com­mis­sion­er of the New Jer­sey Depart­ment of Trans­porta­tion, Kris Kol­luri. The pan­el fea­tured speak­ers from the Sikh Coali­tion, Man­avi and CAIR-NJ and was mod­er­at­ed by SAALT Pol­i­cy Direc­tor, Priya Murthy. You can read the arti­cles here <http://www.nj.com/news/index.ssf/2008/10/njs_growing_south_asian_commun.html>

To read SAALT resources about the South Asian com­mu­ni­ty in New Jer­sey, click here <http://www.saalt.org/pages/Local-Initiatives%3A-New-Jersey.html>

Watch a clip of Assem­bly­man Chivuku­la (the first South Asian to be elect­ed to the New Jer­sey state Assem­bly) speak­ing about the New Jer­sey South Asian com­mu­ni­ty. To his left is Kris Kol­luri, the Com­mis­sion­er of the New Jer­sey Depart­ment of Trans­porta­tion and to his right is Mark Mur­phy from the Fund for New Jer­sey. Mod­er­at­ing the dis­cus­sion is Deepa Iyer, Exec­u­tive Direc­tor of SAALT.

SAALT Oct. brief­ing in Tren­ton, NJ