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Colors Of The Commonwealth: A Panel Discussion On Building Alliances To Combat Hate

Ranjani Saigal
05/11/2017

(This article is sponsored by Masala Art)

The Massachusetts Chapter of the Indian American Forum for Political Education (IAFPE-MA) and Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) MIT-India program with the support of 34 community organizations held a panel discussion to address local racism Saturday, May 6, 2017 at the MIT Wong Auditorium in Cambridge, MA. The event was attended by over 200 people and supported by 34 community organizations.  

The Colors of the Commonwealth event program featured Boston Police Department Commissioner William Evans, Attorney General’s Office Civil Rights Division Chief Genevieve Nadeau, Islamic Society of Boston Cultural Center Community Outreach Lead Kashif Syed, New England Anti Defamation League Executive Director Robert Trestan, Harvard Business School Professor of Marketing and co-chair of the Social Enterprise Initiative, MIT professor and documentary filmmaker Vivek Bald, Harvard Business School Malcolm P. McNair Professor of Marketing Dr. V. Kasturi Rangan and MIT Political Scientist Dr. Kenneth Oye who covered ways to ensure hate crimes against anyone in the Commonwealth can be properly tracked, discussed and what models exist to support awareness and solutions against these crimes.

"The number of community organizations that came together for the program was inspiring and itself a motivating call to action. It was an honor to have the two MIT faculty Kenneth Oye and Vivek Bald frame the panel with a reminder of the South Asian and East Asian immigrant history and highlight patterns of hate crimes and public policy against not only Asian Americans, but other communities of color. We must understand the history and the political context of the current climate as we try to connect beyond the Indian and Indian American community. We must look to partner across religious, national, ethnic, class, race, sexual orientation, gender, and generational differences in-order to build a powerful coalition against hate. I am excited to bring the MIT-South Asian community and network into this discussion," said MIT-India, Managing Director, Mala Ghosh.

The event was the culmination of several weeks of efforts by a core team of concerned Indian Americans who came together in the immediate aftermath of the tragic death of Srinivas Kuchibotla in Kansas. "I felt such a sense of outrage, and felt we needed to do something to prevent hate crimes." said Eva Ghosh, a member of the core team.   

The idea for the colors of the commonwealth event germinated out of a conversation between Ranjani Saigal and Vithal Deshpande who felt impelled to act to create resources to oppose hate crimes.  They reached out to several community members and the core team of Vithal Deshpande, Ramesh Advani, Rita Advani, Melanie Mala Ghosh, Raj Melville, Anu Chitrapu, Ranjani Saigal, Eva Gosh, Sonali Lappin, Anil Saigal and Jonjy Ananth came together to craft the event.  

"As Chistiane Amanpour said, ‘Bad things happen when good people do nothing’. It is time we all unite to find common ground to address the many forms of bias and grievance that get directed against the “other”. Indian Americans have made rich contributions to our nation of many colors and to this Commonwealth and should now step up to address these issues by working with all communities," said IAFPE Board of Trustees Chair Ramesh Advani.

The rendition of “This land is my land” led by Kumkum Dilwali at the end of the event captured the essence of the event beautifully. 

At the reception that followed the event, there was much discussions  for follow-up actions.  The core team that put the event together hoped that the event would motivate communities to work together and build alliances to combat hate. 





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