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South Asian Organizing Center

November/December 2014 Newsletter

Dear DRUM Ally,  


Last Friday, DRUM organized a community speak out in response to the non-indictments of the officers responsible for the killings of Mike Brown in Ferguson and for Eric Garner in NYC. As an organization born out of the police accountability movements in NYC in the late 1990's, and with a core tenet to building solidarity across communities, our members felt that it was not only important to take action, but that it was also necessary to have difficult and open discussions on issues of race and policing in the United States, as well as the role of immigrant communities. The speak out was followed by a powerful direct action, taking to the streets, to the local precinct, and deeper into our communities.

Rather than issuing a solidarity statement, we thought it would be more useful for us to share the questions that our members, members from ally organizations, and community residents discussed, and the questions we were left with at the end of the gathering.

The Roles of Immigrant Communities 

  • As an organization with over half of our membership being and organizing as undocumented immigrants, what does citizenship/legalization mean when such status doesn't guarantee any value to black lives? Do we win freedom or justice once we get papers?
  • As South Asian immigrants fighting against surveillance and racial profiling of our own communities, how do we perpetuate and sustain white supremacy and anti-black racism within our own struggles, and how can we combat anti-black racism within our own communities?
  • How are our demands, messaging, and efforts for immigrant justice exclusive of people within our own communities, by deeming some as worthy and others as non-deserving?
  • As we acknowledge black communities as a whole bearing the brunt of state violence, what members of our communities do we invisibilize due to multiple systems of oppression in our societies?
  • As immigrant movements, how do we address both the legacies of slavery, and the manifestations of modern slavery as they impact black and immigrant communities

Building Power for the Long-Term 

  • In a city with a mayor elected on a progressive platform of police accountability, how do we hold such elected officials accountable when they promote the deeply and inherently discriminatory policies of Broken Windows, and economic polices that cause forced displacement? How do we respond when the mayor appoints William Bratton, the architect of such discriminatory policies, as NYPD commissioner, and in fact promotes him as "a strong, proven change agent" for reform?
  • To what extent can abuses and injustices of policing and courts be reformed, and to what extent do we need to build towards deeper systemic changes?
  • In light of the massacre of 43 students in Ayotzinapa in Mexico, and the cross-trainings between police forces in the US and Mexico, how do we make links and build solidarity across our movements?
  • Given the immensely positive response we received through our community speak out and during the march in the streets of Jackson Heights, it begged the question: In NYC, with multiple actions taking place in Manhattan every day, are we bringing engagement on these struggles deep enough into our communities? How much time and effort are we spending cultivating power with community members, who are not yet organized, and especially those bearing the brunt of state violence?
  • Are our expressions of solidarity reflected deep within our communities and bases, or just at the grasstops leadership?
  • The current momentum and energy is spectacular, but this kind of mobilizing is not sustainable in the long-term. Are we working to shift, recruit and train the people on the streets from mobilizing into sustained organizing?

We came up with answers to some of these questions in our community speak out, but we think different communities could approach these questions, and other questions, with answers that are responsive to the particular context and conditions of their own communities.

In the end though, we hope that we shift our communities and our struggles from just standing in solidarity to actually organizing in solidarity. This is a critical moment and opportunity for our movements to build real power for the long-term struggle.


Onwards and forward!

Racial and Immigrant Justice Program 


Administrative Relief Announcement and DRUM's Response

DRUM members, who have been organizing for administrative relief over the past year, gathered to listen to President Obama's announcement on the new program for undocumented immigrants. Some members celebrated for benefitting from the program and many members grieved for being excluded. Through discussion, all member made a commitment to fight for relief for all, and decided to launch a community defense campaign. 

The next day, DRUM members organized and launched a Community Education and Defense Campaign to acknowledge that the gain came out of the years of organizing by undocumented immigrants, and to highlight the voices of those who benefit and those who are excluded from the program. They also began the first steps of community education by flyering basic information about the relief program to counteract the rumors and scams springing up around this issue, and continue to build a strong base to consolidate gains and fight for everyone affected by the prison/immigration detention system. 

Community Speakout and Action On Policing and Anti-Black Racism

In light of the refusal of grand juries to indict the officers who killed Mike Brown in Ferguson, and who killed Eric Garner in NYC, DRUM members joined the city-wide mobilizations condemning police violence and racism.

In order to bring the conversation back into our communities, DRUM organized a speak out, with over 100 people, to discuss issues of race and policing, and combating anti-black racism in society and within immigrant communities. Youth leader Jensine Raihan highlighted the importance of being in solidarity with black communities: "we are not free until we are all free". Through personal narrative, DRUM leader Shahina Parveen spoke about the similarities and differences in the ways policing affect immigrant and black communities: "My son was targeted and entrapped by an NYPD informant in a manufactured terrorism case, and sentenced to 30 years. Though utterly heartbroken, I still get to see and touch my son once a month. I wonder about the black mothers
parents who will never see their children again."

The community speakout was followed by a march through Jackson Heights, where immigrants, community residents, and activists held a moment of silence in front of the police precinct, and then marched to the heart of Jackson Heights to engage with other community members, and to get them involved in current movements.

For more information on the RIJ program, please email Kazi Fouzia at kazi@drumnyc.org  

Undocumented Power March 2014
Supporting an event organized by the NYS Youth Leadership Council and RAISE (Revolutionizing Asian Immigrant Stories on the East Coast), DRUM youth leaders mobilized with undocumented students and allies from across New York City to hold Governor Cuomo accountable to his promise to make the NY DREAM Act a reality. Students marched from Hunter College to Governor Cuomo's office in Manhattan, where DRUM youth leader Manny Yusuf spoke and reminded the Governor that "education is not a compromise; it is a human right!" 

For more information on YouthPower!, please contact Rishi Singh at rishi@drumnyc.org

Upcoming Events
#ThisStopsToday: 11 Days of Action
DRUM members will be participating in the events, and organizing their own actions, as a part of #ThisStopsToday, a series of 11 days of city-wide actions demanding police reform and accountability. For more information on the events, please check here.

For more information about upcoming events, please contact Kazi Fouzia at kazi@drumnyc.org 
Thank You
Your continued support for human rights for all communities drives our work. 

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