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RAISING OUR VOICES DOCUMENTARY

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    NEWS RELEASE FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE For More Information: Contact Deepa Iyer (saaltcampaign@saalt.org) Activists Launch National Campaign To Counter Hate Crimes
    Message 1 of 1 , Feb 1, 2002
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      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
      leaders.

      �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
      Education Fund.

      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
      http://www.saalt.org




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