Chhaya hosts a Town Hall to reflect on the year and how we move forward as a community

Jackson Heights, NY – On Saturday, December 16th, 2017, Chhaya Community Development Corporation hosted a Town Hall & Function at the Renaissance Charter School in Jackson Heights, to discuss immigration legislation, family safety (hate crimes, Islamophobia, xenophobia), and how the new tax plan could impact individuals and families’ financial well-being. The event was not only an information session, but also an opportunity for community members to come together and celebrate the diversity that is New York City. The space where panel speakers sat was first “made sacred” by Bharatanatyam dance artist, Malini Srinivasan, who danced a piece entitled the Pushpanjali (flower offering).

“In light of all the challenges we face in today’s civil society, from hateful rhetoric, disdain for immigrants, and crippling policy initiatives for low-income people, it’s imperative that we create space for community members to come together and celebrate our humanity.”
Annetta Seecharran, Chhaya Community Development Corporation.

In early December, the US Supreme Court ruled that President Trump’s third version of a travel ban on six mainly Muslim countries can go into full effect. The decision has left community members in a state of anxiety. The steady stream of divisive rhetoric coming from the highest office of the land, is further exacerbated by last week’s New York City subway bombing by a Bangladeshi national. Community attendees expressed fear of being targeted and even fear of going into public spaces.

“As much as we are against any form of extremist violence in our cities, we are equally against ongoing attempts to politicize extremist acts to stigmatize entire immigrant, minority, and religious communities.

With the majority of terrorist attacks in our country perpetrated by right-wing extremists, it would be absolutely wrong for people, especially politicians, to scapegoat Muslim Americans or immigrants, because it would only make us less safe from extremism. We are better than that, and we must hold ourselves, each other, and our elected officials accountable to be better than that.” John Park, Co-Director, Minkwon Center for Community Action

“Engaging with each other is important during these times;” said Will Depoo from Desis Rising Up & Moving (DRUM), “engaging with both impacted and non-impacted communities is critical to creating a sense of community.”

Low-to-moderate income, middle class families, and small businesses will likely suffer disproportionately under the new tax plan. Generous tax cuts will be given to corporations and the wealthiest Americans, while middle and low-income will receive smaller. The bill is expected to add billions to the nation’s mounting debt, leaving parents concerned that we are robbing future generations.

“Regardless of what the final bill looks like, Congressional Republicans made clear their priorities for tax reform: large cuts for the wealthiest individuals and corporations, while providing no incentives for low and moderate-income families to build wealth and get ahead.” Jeremie Greer, Vice President, Policy & Research, Prosperity Now

Participants who attended the Town Hall were invited to reflect on the challenges of the past year since the presidential election in break out groups divided by language, and were asked to share what changes they would like to see in their community.

Participating Organizations: Desis Rising Up & Moving (DRUM), Minkwon Center for Community Action, Prosperity Now

Chhaya Community Development Corporation is an anti-poverty non-profit organization based in Jackson Heights, Queens, New York.  Founded in 2000, Chhaya is committed to breaking down the barriers to the economic, social, and political advancement of low income South Asians. Chhaya – a Sanskrit word meaning “shelter or shade” – aims to protect and promote affordable housing in New York City. Chhaya has helped prevent hundreds of foreclosures; assisted first-time homebuyers in obtaining thousands of dollars in down-payment assistance; played a critical role in the ongoing effort to legalize basement apartments to expand the pool of safe and affordable housing; provided individuals with key immigration services to better navigate daily life; empowered families with financial management tools and skills; and fostered the civic engagement of thousands of South Asian New Yorkers.

Media Contact: Kay Grigar,