September 16, 2006: Sakhi’s first ever Community Mela happens in Richmond Hill, Queens
“A mela? What’s that?” asked Trevolta Karran, an emcee at Sakhi’s first-ever community mela held on Saturday, September 16th in Richmond Hill, Queens. “You don’t know what a mela is?! A mela is a fair where people get together and celebrate!” responded Shivana Jorawar, the other emcee and one of the organizers of this extraordinary event that transformed the Indo-Caribbean and South Asian neighborhood on 133rd street between 105th and 107th Avenues in Queens. Their banter and celebratory tone matched the spirit of the more than 750 people who walked through the residential blocks to learn about services available to them and enjoy the day of performances.
July 31st: “Interrogations” yields answers – and more questions
On July 31st, Sakhi hosted a staged reading of the play “Interrogations” by S. Karthick Ramakrishnan and Jyoti Thottam. Read by prominent South Asian actors including Sarita Choudhury and Aasif Mandvi, the play visibly moved the audience of over 160, and generated an honest and intimate discussion on domestic violence, family and community dynamics. The event also raised nearly $5,000 to support Sakhi’s work to end violence against women. We thank the director, playwrights and all the actors for their fine work as well as Leela Lounge for the delicious refreshments.
After a nearly sold-out staged play reading featuring a cast of stellar South Asian actors including Sarita Choudhury and Aasif Mandvi, more than 160 community members participated in a unique, forthright discussion on abuse and ending domestic violence.
Held at the Barrow Street Theater on July 31st and hosted by Sakhi for South Asian Women, the staged reading of “Interrogations” depicted one family’s struggle with domestic violence, a friend circle unable to respond, and the tragic murder/suicide which ensues. Playwrights S. Karthick Ramakrishnan and Jyoti Thottam based the play on a real incident of a Boston-area doctor who killed his family and himself.
In writing this play, Thottam drew upon her experience working as a crime reporter in Queens. “There were so many stories about women who were victims of domestic violence. The police and everyone know about it, but nobody understands why it’s so common,” she stated.
Audience member Dr. Anil Shah expressed the play had a profound impact, stating, “Interrogations was a chilling performance about the different levels of abuse that exist in South Asian society. These ranges of abuse were brought to the forefront by this splendid play.”
According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics Crime Data Brief covering intimate partner violence from 1993-2001, on average more than 3 women are murdered by their husbands or boyfriends in the U.S. every day. Furthermore, in 2000, intimate partner homicides constituted one-third of women who were murdered. In her data collection on domestic homicides in the U.S. South Asian community, Shamita Das Dasgupta discovered that on average nearly 4 South Asians per year are murdered or commit suicide.
Sakhi Executive Director Purvi Shah remarked on the rising community need for domestic violence services. “Over the past 5 years, our call volume for new requests for assistance has more than tripled from 201 to 701,” observed Shah. “Despite this fact, we know that the most vulnerable population includes women who never access services.”
The post-reading discussion, moderated by Purvi Shah, served as an opportunity for the actors to discuss their experiences with the play and for the audience to respond. One core query of the evening was how to recognize different types of abuse. Actor Manu Narayan spoke of feeling affiliation with abused women due to the emasculation faced by minority males. Displaying a genuine concern on how to understand what constitutes verbal abuse, Narayan posed, “What is the line between abuse and two people arguing and saying the wrong things? Where should I draw the line and take responsibility for something?”
Director Paul Knox articulated complicity, the counterpart to taking responsibility, as a central theme in the play’s sequence of events. Actress Deepa Purohit elaborated that complicity emerges out of a natural desire for a minority community to protect itself.
Purohit, who played one of the abused woman’s friends in the cast, spoke of the struggle to safeguard a vision of a model minority family. She commented, “Cover-up is really a big tool in keeping the cycle of violence going. It’s due to the immigrant’s feeling of shame and the need to save face for the whole community. It’s not malicious.”
Actor Thaddeus Daniels spoke of how domestic violence cuts across communities and the need to expand our understanding of who is affected beyond types such as the stereotypical poor, uneducated, submissive female. “Domestic violence does not just occur to someone who is fragile,” he shared. “I have watched family members and thought when we were growing up that domestic violence could never happen to them. But everyone can be worn down. There is no type. It can happen to anyone.”
Both audience members and actors found the dialogue after the play illuminating. Dr. Shah commented, “I hope that we as South Asians can work together to prevent such grievances from occurring, not just in our community, but in the world at large. The discussion afterward served as a springboard to connect the issues that prevailed throughout the play to the issues in our society.”
Actress Anamika Sarkar underscored that the play and discussion offered a forum for broaching important questions. She noted, “I thought the conversation that took place afterward was very honest. I am sure everyone recognised the ‘problem’ well enough and also realised that there is not a simple answer to this problem.”
The dialogue prompted questions as well as methods for individual and community response. Actor Bobby Abid ventured, “I have an answer for you: start with yourself.” Abid encouraged community members to donate or volunteer suggesting, “You should be able to change yourself in small pieces.”
Playwright Thottam echoed this call to the community to move beyond complicity to action, saying, “I hope that more people will understand that domestic violence is not a problem that just affects the one family. There’s a role all of us play.”
Narration – Kiran Khalid
Detective Mike Samuels – Thaddeus Daniels
Detective Jan O’Bryan – Giuliana Santini
Dr. Narayan Reddy – Aasif Mandvi
Usha Reddy – Sarita Choudhury
Deepa Reddy – Taniya Sen
Ranjana Menon – Deepa Purohit
Shanti Menon – Neera Islam
Suresh Menon – Bobby Abid
Pushpa – Geeta Citygirl
Chitra – Ragini Jain
Savitri – Anamika Sarkar
Bob Arnold – Thaddeus Daniels
Roger Khanna – Manu Narayan
Susie – Giuliana Santini
Interrogations Photos by Preston Merchant
June 10th: Summer Economic Empowerment workshops kick-off!
Sakhi’s summer session of computer classes kicked off on Saturday, June 10th! The workshops are part of the Economic Empowerment series on job preparedness. The summer sessions build on the classes held during the spring and will provide attendees the opportunity to practice skills they have acquired as well as perfect their proficiency in Microsoft Word! Coordinated by Pinki Shah, Part-Time Economic Empowerment & Women’s Health Initiative Assistant, the classes are facilitated by her, Sakhi volunteers and external facilitators. Women who have attended the classes in the past requested more classes like this and are also seeking computers. If you know of anyone who may be able to donate working computers and/or licensed software to individual women, please contact our Economic Empowerment Coordinator.
June 12th – 27th: V-Day organizes “Until the Violence Stops NYC”
Sakhi was thrilled to be a community partner with V-Day in the 2-week campaign UNTIL THE VIOLENCE STOPS: NYC to MAKE NYC THE SAFEST PLACE ON EARTH FOR WOMEN AND GIRLS. A range of events – from block parties to screenings to spoken word slams to historic performances – held between June 12th and June 27th across the five boroughs focused on violence against women in its myriad forms. We thank all of you who attended, participated and even hosted events to make NYC the safest place in the world. But as you know, the work does not end here. We hope with the raised level of awareness in the city, there will also be more action and more prevention – starting with each one of us.
June 29th: General Volunteer Meeting – over 20 volunteers attend
On Thursday, June 29th we were very happy to meet with 20+ Sakhi volunteers – some of whom trained as recently as April 2006 and others who have been involved with Sakhi for over 10 years. At the meeting, we discussed the very special roles of volunteers with Sakhi as we go forward – including fund-raising and community engagement. The meeting was a lovely opportunity to re-connect as well as, for some, interact for the first time. And we hope that it leads to greater involvement in the Sakhi volunteer community.
May 21st: Sakhi presents at National Judicial Interpreters and Translators Conference in Texas
Sakhi recently had the opportunity to further our campaign to enhance court interpretation. Along with representatives from Safe Horizon and Sanctuary for Families, Sakhi staff Purvi Shah and Saveen Kaushal presented on the impact of court interpretation for survivors of violence to 45 attendees of the annual National Judicial Interpreters and Translators conference on May 21. The session provided information on domestic violence and enabled interpreters to speak about barriers they face in the courtroom. Not only did the session help to raise awareness and a much-needed dialogue but it also built an important partnership between advocates and interpreters. Furthermore, 30 interpreters completed a survey that will help Sakhi and our partners to better assess the challenges interpreters face in doing their jobs effectively. With more research and information-sharing, Sakhi hopes to ensure all survivors of violence are able to access justice!
May 6th: 1st series of clinical support groups completed
From March to May 2006, we at Sakhi conducted our monthly support group as a three-part series of clinical support groups. Led by Archana Arora from Sanctuary for Families and Saveen Kaushal, the sessions covered various topics.
In the March session (where 8 survivors joined us) we went over the power and control wheel and how our actions are led by feelings which we may or may not be able to identify. Everyone discussed how accurately the power and control reflected their experiences. A few survivors shared in detail their traumas and a couple actually spoke about the healing process.
In the April session (only 3 survivors were able to join us due to the weather), we discussed difference between healthy and unhealthy behaviors in relationships and how to identify unhealthy habits.
In the final session in May (6 survivors attended), the group discussed how self-esteem affects self image and vice versa. We also spoke at length how to work on improving one’s self -image and self esteem. Overall the sessions promoted great feedback and discussion!
And last in May, we’re delighted to feature some “hair-raising” young community members!
Students from NYU Medical School recently attended a presentation on domestic violence by Sakhi. Some of them – Amar Bansal, Amer Assal, Manesh Dagli, Varun Sharma, and Sayone Thihalolipavan – were so eager to support Sakhi that they didn’t wait till after their exams to help raise funds. Instead, they grew their hair (yes, you read correctly) and used it as a unique way to get friends and family to contribute while studying. In two short weeks, their growing hair raised us $690! Check out their incredible idea at www.firstgiving.com/sayone. We thank them for their support, innovativeness, and for making us smile! Thank you guys!
Apr 5th: “Are we Talking the Talk?” – A public forum on interpretation in the courts
On Wednesday April 5th, over one hundred lawyers, judges, social service providers, and interpreters gathered for “Are we Talking the Talk”, the first public forum on interpretation on the courts. Organized by the Task Force on Women in the Courts of the New York City Bar Association, the forum featured Honorable Johnathan Lippman Chief Administrative Judge of the New York State Unified Court System as the speaker. The panelists who included Purvi Shah, Executive Director of Sakhi, praised a new workplan released by the Office of Court Administration to improve court interpretation in New York State, but also pinpointed out critical needs remaining to be addressed. We at Sakhi are particularly delighted because this forum brought to light the issue of court interpretation which we have been working on since 1995, particularly through media coverage of the issue.
Apr 18th: A Perfect Tuesday Night – Screening of Water and Q&A with director Deepa Mehta
On April 18th, Sakhi held its spring reception at the Imaginasian Theater, an event featuring light fare and drink, a screening of Sakhi’s P.S.A. and Deepa Mehta’s Water, and Q&A with the Director. The event was sold out with 285 community members in attendance! We thank all our supporters who attended and participated in a wonderful conversation with Deepa Mehta on women’s rights and the making of her beautiful film.