In light of the recent death of George Floyd, acts of police brutality, ensuing protests and civil unrest, Indiaspora held a Civil Rights Town Hall to discuss what this means for race relations in the U.S., how the Indian-American community can show intra-racial solidarity during this time, and how we can become agents to end systemic racism.
We heard from an array of civil rights leaders: Vanita Gupta, President and CEO of The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights; Reverend Carl McCluster, founder of Faith Community Development Corporation; and DJ Patil, Head of technology at Devoted Health. We also heard from different members of our community, including Deepak Raj, Rajmohan Gandhi, Monika Kalra Varma, Shekar Narasimhan, Sridar Iyengar, Shefali Mehta, and more.
Some actionable items that were discussed include:
Listen to her remarks from the town hall here.
Reverend Carl McCluster serves in his 24th year as the Senior Pastor of Shiloh Baptist Church in Bridgeport, Connecticut. He is the Founder of Faith Community Development Corporation, the faith-based Community development Corporation chartered by Shiloh Baptist Church. Pastor McCluster served as the Chairperson of the South End Neighborhood Revitalization Zone in Bridgeport. He also serves as the Managing Director for F.R.E.E.D.O.M. (Faith Restoration Empowerment & Economic Development Outreach Ministries, Inc.) a National consulting firm initiated while at Shiloh, empowering faith-based Organizations, Community Economic Development Corporations and Communities. Their client portfolio includes consulting for FDIC, HUD and The Federal Home Loan Bank as well as myriad national and regional financial institutions.
Watch his video remarks here.
DJ Patil has held a variety of roles in academia, industry, and government. He is Head of Technology for Devoted Health, a healthcare company to provide more personal healthcare, as well as a Senior Fellow at the Belfer Center at the Harvard Kennedy School. Appointed by President Obama to be the first U.S. Chief Data Scientist, his efforts led to the establishment of nearly 40 Chief Data Officer roles across the Federal government. He also established new health care programs including the Precision Medicine Initiative and the Cancer Moonshot, new criminal justice reforms including the Data-Driven Justice and Police Data Initiatives that cover more than 94 million Americans.
Watch his video remarks here.
Reverend Carl McCluster
Deepak Raj, Chairman of the India Philanthropy Alliance and Pratham
Monika Kalra Varma, Executive Director at Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights of the San Francisco Bay Area
Rajmohan Gandhi, grandson of Mahatma Gandhi:
Question and Answer:
Q: What can the Indian community do to collectively make a difference?
A: Supporting education at any level is important. The school-to-prison pipeline is made at the 4th grade education levels. A potential initiative is a joint mentoring partnership with African American communities – there is a powerful journey and message there.
More questions to ask ourselves:
Q: How do we as a community face ourselves?
Q: How do first generation Indian immigrants and those born and raised here bridge the generational and experiential gap?
Q: Every movement has a leader that makes a difference, will there be one for ours?
Q: Is there any opportunity to use technology to make a change in police behavior?
The following are just some of the high-impact organizations doing great work to move racial equity forward:
The following are a few articles submitted to us by our Indiaspora Friends:
Indiaspora Condemns Systemic Racism
Indiaspora is a nonprofit organization of global Indian diaspora leaders from diverse backgrounds and professions that work to build stronger communities with a shared culture of strategic giving and inspiring social change. As part of the Indian diaspora, we have both benefited from the opportunities and faced the challenges that come with living in multiracial societies.
At Indiaspora, we stand strongly and squarely with the African-American community, as we strive together for a more just America. Their struggle is ours too. Indeed, aided by allies from different communities, it needs to be our national purpose.
The Indian-American diaspora is mindful of the fact that had it not been for the civil rights movement and the Immigration and Naturalization Act of 1965, many of us wouldn’t be here today. But the letter of the law does not inevitably or automatically translate into the experience of the people. We too are not immune from racial persecution, as demonstrated by well chronicled events that have occured in the distant and recent past.
So we have more work to do. More to do for George Floyd’s 6-year old daughter, Gianna, who said “daddy changed the world!” Let it truly be so, for we cannot, we must not, disappoint her or betray her conviction. She speaks for all our sons and daughters, who must never be defined by the color of their skin.
Therefore we resolve to work together, hand in hand, with the African-American and other minority communities, until we can all be assured of successfully encashing our collective promissory note, set forth in America’s constitutional declaration that we are all created equal, in the bank of justice. Let us end systemic racism.