RAISING OUR VOICES DOCUMENTARY
- NEWS RELEASE
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
For More Information: Contact Deepa Iyer (saaltcampaign@...)
Activists Launch National Campaign To Counter Hate Crimes Targeting South
Asian American Community
RAISING OUR VOICES
Features New Educational Video Profiling South Asian American Hate Crime
Victims and Community Leaders
(NEW YORK � Jan 30) -- A South Asian American advocacy organization has
launched an aggressive national initiative to raise awareness about the
disturbing rise of bias-motivated crimes targeting South Asian Americans.
At a press event and screening in New York City, leaders of South Asian
American Leaders of Tomorrow (SAALT) unveiled Raising Our Voices, a national
campaign featuring an advocacy video and activist guide.
�As the number of reported crimes by South Asians grew over the past few
years, we realized that hate violence is an ugly reality that we cannot
afford to ignore,� said Jeet Bindra, Chair of the Board of SAALT. �Our
campaign is motivated by the belief that in order to stop the violence that
hate breeds, we must be informed, activate our communities and most
importantly, advocate for ourselves.�
The campaign, Raising Our Voices: South Asian Americans Address Hate,
features a new educational advocacy video that profiles survivors of hate
crimes and features messages from community leaders. The 25-minute video
will be used with a companion resource activist guide in community trainings
and workshops around the country. The resource guide provides background
information on what constitutes a hate crime, outlines the enormous
demographic growth of various South Asian American ethnic communities, and
includes specific advocacy resources for community organizers and campus
�The importance of addressing bias-motivated incidents became even more
pressing during the backlash against South Asians and others after 9/11,�
said Deepa Iyer, Board Member of SAALT and coordinator of the awareness
campaign. �We hope that these tools will spur not only discussion but the
establishment of community infrastructures in schools, neighborhoods and law
enforcement to effectively counter violence motivated by hate.�
To date, screenings of the video and workshops are planned in the following
cities: Los Angeles, CA; San Francisco, CA; Washington, DC; Chicago, IL;
Ann Arbor, Michigan; New Jersey; New York City, NY; Cleveland, OH; Houston,
TX; and, Charlottesville, VA. The activist trainings are being funded in
part by a generous grant from the Tides Foundation.
Iyer and panelists expressed hope that as word of the campaign spreads,
communities interested in learning more about this growing problem would
request the Raising Our Voices: South Asians Address Hate educational video
and activist guide.
Produced by Omusha Communications, a company that specializes in advocacy
based filmmaking, the Raising Our Voices educational video marks the first
time that survivors of hate crimes and activists from the South Asian
American community have documented their stories to heighten awareness about
bias motivated crimes.
Among those profiled is Attar Singh Bhatia, an elderly Sikh man who was
beaten with nail-studded baseball bats on his way home from a 9/11 prayer
service at a local gurudwara (Sikh house of worship).
�Using powerful images and music, we sought to humanize a problem that often
is reduced to numbers,� said Aashish Kumar, the video producer of Omusha
Communications. �The personal stories of survivors evoke a sense of
compassion and urgency that we hope will provoke thoughtful discussion and
action in the South Asian American community.�
The video and resource guide provide a historical overview of what many
describe as a silent problem in a community typically highlighted for its
achievements. Community leaders emphasize the importance of educating
viewers that hate crimes targeting South Asian Americans is not simply a
backlash phenomenon since 9/11 but a problem that began decades ago.
In the video, civil rights attorney Rita Sethi explains how the
�Dotbusters,� a gang in Jersey City, NJ, targeted South Asians declaring in
the local papers that they would attack Indians living in the region. Sethi
describes in vivid detail the wave of violence and destruction that led to
the murder of Navroze Mody, a resident of Jersey City.
The incidents in Jersey City were unfortunately not isolated occurrences.
In 1998 and 1999, the National Asian Pacific American Legal Consortium, an
organization that compiles data on anti-Asian violence, reported that South
Asians comprised the Asian ethnic group with the highest number of reported
incidents of violence.
Following the screening, Asian and South Asian American community leaders
and activists addressed the issue of hate crimes before and after September
11th, discussed community responses, and focused on the need to bridge
differences within the South Asian community to effectively combat the
effects of hate violence.
Panelists included: Debasish Mishra, Board Member of SAALT; Tito Sinha,
Board Member of South Asian Youth Action!; Aashish Kumar, Producer for
Omusha Communications; Seema Agnani, Managing Director for Chhaya CDC; and,
Sin Yen Ling, Staff Attorney at the Asian American Legal Defense and
During the panel discussion, Mishra cited the findings from American
Backlash, a report produced by SAALT documenting the wave of hate crimes
that occurred in the week following the 9/11 attacks. He noted that 645
incidents of bias or violence against South Asians and Arab Americans were
reported in the one week after September 11th and that South Asians were
involved in 81% of the reported incidents.
This message was echoed by Hamid Khan, Executive Director of the South Asian
Network in Artesia, California. In the advocacy video, Khan notes that
although one group may be the intended target, such distinctions are often
meaningless when assailants actually pick their targets.
The screening and community forum was co-sponsored by the Asian Pacific
American Studies Program of New York University and was attended by a
gathering of community leaders, activists and students from the region. For
more information on the campaign, interested individuals should contact
SAALT by email at saaltcampaign@....
NOTE TO EDITORS: Pictures from the event and the Raising Our Voices activist
resource guide will be available in electronic format online at
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