As debates on budget cuts rage, about 150 people rallied to urge fair funding for the Asian Pacific American community.
Sakhi’s Executive Director, Purvi Shah, elicited heartfelt chants of “Yes!” at the rally as she posed questions about whether the Asian American community made New York City strong.
“As residents of New York City, we are all facing challenging times right now. Yet, in our work serving survivors of domestic violence, we at Sakhi for South Asian Women have a first-hand view of how women’s lives and families have been adversely and disproportionately impacted this past year,” Purvi noted. “In the last half of 2008, we witnessed a nearly 16% increase in new requests for support when compared to that same period in 2007. We at Sakhi seek to sustain our vital services and keep open the doors to safety and self-sufficiency. Now, especially in this time where difficult decisions must be made, we are counting on our City and State leaders to support our unique services and ensure that a prosperous society begins with valuing safe homes and strong communities.”
Asian Pacific Americans are the fastest-growing group in New York City, comprising nearly 12% of the city population and numbering close to one million. However, the community receives only 0.24% of the City’s social service contract dollars and only 0.38% of the City’s foundation grant dollars. Largely foreign-born (73%), Asian Pacific Americans have the highest rate (28%) of linguistic isolation and the second-highest rate of poverty (25.9%).
These inequities fueled the formation of the 12% and Growing Coalition, the grouping of more than 30 Asian American community-based organizations that led the rally. Among these are: Asian Americans for Equality, South Asian Youth Action!, Greater Chinatown Community Association, Hamilton Madison House, and Indochina Sino-American Community Center.
Speakers from several organizations spoke about the need for a fair share of the city resources during these tough times, noting that any cuts to the City budget will have a direct and disproportionate impact on Asian Pacific Americans.
Richard Lee, Advocacy Associate of Asian Americans for Equality, observed, “We all have to be vigilant about protecting the most vulnerable New Yorkers during these difficult times. City services are lifelines for so many poor and working individuals and families. As government programs are reduced because of budget constraints, many community organizations, like AAFE, are bearing the extra brunt without the resources we need to provide services. We have to come together to find solutions that safeguard those without financial safety nets and safeguard vital services for the health and welfare of our community.”
As the rally ended, a participating student from Hunter College commented, “This was a big turnout, but we need an even bigger turnout next time to spread the awareness because the community is still underrepresented.”