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SAPP Co-Sponsors “South Asians in the Media” Event with SAJA in Chicago!

February 7, 2011

SAPP was proud to co-sponsor the “South Asians and the Media” Town Hall presented by SAJA on Saturday, January 29th, at Columbia College in Chicago.  The event featured a number of local and national media figures.   You may be asking yourself, “Why would a philanthropy blog (aspiring to be a philanthropy organization) c0-sp0nsor an event about South Asians and the media?”

Well, for a couple of reasons.  First, given the persistent gap of research on the issues, much of what we link to about South Asians and philanthropy comes from news outlets, both mainstream and ethnic.  Understanding the motivation and perspective of those who report on philanthropy is important.  Second, SAJA has been advocating for and organizing the voices of South Asian journalists for almost 17 years, and they’ve been successful.  SAPP has the same goals for South Asians in the area of philanthropy. Below are some key points that came from the conversation and the ways in which we think they tie into the conversation that concerns here at SAPP.

1. South Asians in Chicago (and in the United States generally) still haven’t achieved a level of integration that exists in other parts of North America, such as Toronto. Despite having the status, money, and power required, South Asians still have barriers to break in media. (Ravi Baichwal, Anchor ABC 7, Chicago)

This holds true for South Asians in philanthropy as well.

2.  For example, the Chicago Tribune only has 5-6 South Asian reporters out of several hundred.  Even today, South Asian parents are still telling their sons and daughters that there are only a few “acceptable” career paths.  (Ameet Sachdev, Business Law Reporter, Chicago Tribune)

The inability of many South Asians to look through a new lens prevents the next generation of South Asian leaders from emerging across a variety of endeavors.  While we have been successful as a community, there is a lot more “integrating” we could do.  Risk can equal reward.  This is true in charitable giving as well.  South Asians don’t often give because they’re trying establish security and they don’t trust the old model of “giving money away” that they saw growing up.  Times have changed.  In order to have impact as a community, we’re going to have to change with them.

3.  South Asian communities are often not successful in getting news coverage because the communities tend to break into factions along country, community, or religious lines rather than build broader coalitions.  (Bobby Ghosh, World Editor, Time Magazine and Mitra Kalita, Reporter, Wall Street Journal)

We agree.  The lack of a South Asian identity makes giving more difficult too.  Although there are many organizations in the United States that address the needs of the South Asians here and abroad, people are hesitant to give because they don’t seem themselves as having a responsibility to that broad community.  And so, as a community, our giving doesn’t grow exponentially.  In contrast, the Jewish community has a strong community narrative.  This narrative allows individuals to feel excited about giving, and then allows that giving to more power.

4.  It is important to for South Asians to be represented in media outlets because they have a greater sensitivity and a deeper level of understanding about what’s happening with our communities here and abroad.  (Sree Srinivasan, SAJA Co-founder and Professor of Journalism at Columbia University and Bobby Ghosh)

We also believe its important for South Asians to be represented among those that are philanthropic, particularly among the philanthropic elite.  Ultimately, only the South Asian community is going to be able to support the many organizations that are doing the hard work on issues that affect our community.  And, only when South Asians start to give in large numbers, will we see progress on those issues.

As you can see, we learned a lot from conversation.  And, now, we have a lot to do!  Thanks to one of our team members, Sharmila Rao Thakkar, for inviting us to join SAJA in bringing this event to Chicago.

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