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Chhaya 2023 Gala: Architects of Change

Gala Postponement Announcement

These are trying and painful times, and after careful deliberation and thoughtful discussions among Chhaya staff, board, and allies, we have made the difficult decision to postpone our gala this week.  The violence in the Middle East, and the ripple effects closer to home, have hit our communities hard. The idea of coming together in celebration seemed incongruous and especially challenging. Our aim is to reschedule the gala in the new year, at a time—we hope—when there is less violence in the world and we can gather in a true spirit of joy to celebrate Chhaya’s work.

We at Chhaya have been bearing witness to what is happening in Israel and Palestine with heartbreak and worry. We stand with our allies and community members in calling for peace in the region, the return of Israeli hostages, an immediate ceasefire, and the flow of humanitarian aid to Gaza.

The rise of Islamophobia and anti-Semitism adds to our unease and anxiety. We are reminded of the climate after September 11th when so many of our community members faced targeted violence and discrimination in housing, schools and workplaces.

We know we must counter this rising tide of hate. We also know that—consistent with Chhaya’s mission—building unity starts at the community level.  And so, while we may not be gathering in celebration on Thursday, we remain steadfastly committed to our mission and to the communities we serve.  After all, that sense of community is what gives us the strength, in the face of the profound challenges confronting us, to imagine—and build—a better world.

We thank you if you had planned to attend our gala, and look forward to seeing you when it is rescheduled next year. In the meantime, we would like to offer you a refund if you purchased a ticket, or we would welcome it if you choose to make it a general contribution.  Regardless of what you choose, we are forever grateful to you for supporting the work we do.

In Community,
Chhaya CDC

Event Details

  • Time:
  • Venue: Sound River Studios, 4-40 44th Dr, Queens, NY 11101
  • Dress Code: Festive attire; Cultural clothing is encouraged

Since its founding in the year 2000 as the first South Asian community development corporation in the nation, Chhaya has been dedicated to helping New York’s South Asian and Indo-Caribbean communities overcome the constraints of poverty, obtain economic stability, and build community leadership. We are proud to say that some 200,000 New Yorkers have been touched by Chhaya’s work, which has helped them buy their own home, obtain citizenship, learn English, know their rights as tenants, immigrants, and New Yorkers, and engage in civic life as community leaders and voters.

Our Architects of Change award gala is a celebration of those who uplift their South Asian/Indo-Caribbean heritage, promote equity and inclusion, and embody the values Chhaya stands for: intersectionality, representation, and community.

Buy Your Ticket Now!

Ticketing Information

  • Chhaya Supporter: $1,000
  • Chhaya Friend: $500
  • Individual Ticket: $300


Meet Our Honorees!

Queens Borough President Donovan Richards, Jr.

Donovan Richards Jr., a lifelong resident of Southeast Queens, was elected Borough President in November 2020 and sworn in one month later.

As a child, he attended Jamaica High School and Redemption Christian Academy before studying communications, radio, and TV at Nyack College. He later received a degree in Aviation Management from Vaughn College in East Elmhurst.

Following the tragic killing of a close friend during his teenage years, the Borough President got involved in his community and the fight against gun violence, holding numerous positions in the City Council before being elected in 2013 to represent District 31, serving Southeast Queens and the eastern Rockaway Peninsula. As a Council Member, he chaired influential committees on Environmental Protection and Public Safety, while also leading the Subcommittee on Zoning and Franchises, resulting in historic citywide investments in affordable housing, police oversight, clean energy and infrastructure — including a $2 billion investment in new sewer and water infrastructure to alleviate chronic flooding issues across Southeast Queens.

 As Queens Borough President, he has been a tireless advocate for The World’s Borough. Over the course of his administration, Borough President Richards has allocated more than $100 million dollars across Queens’ schools, cultural institutions, hospitals, libraries, parks and more. 

 In the wake of Hurricane Ida, the Borough President formed Operation Urban Sustainability to combat climate change, while continuing to push for the installation of new grey and green infrastructure to make Queens a more resilient borough.

 To better support the more than 1 million immigrants who call The World’s Borough home, he created the Immigrant Welcome Center at Queens Borough Hall in 2021, which has served hundreds of individuals over its first two years. To help rebuild the Queens economy, Borough President Richards created the Queens Small Business Grant program to connect Queens entrepreneurs impacted by COVID-19 with more than $15 million in no-strings grants, while also securing a commitment from JetBlue to keep its headquarters in Queens and overseeing the massive redevelopments of both LaGuardia and Kennedy airports.

 The Borough President has also empowered numerous historically disadvantaged communities through initiatives such as the Youth and Young Adult Council, Downtown Jamaica Improvement Council, the Queens Tech + Innovation Challenge and Borough Hall on Your Block, as well as task forces to support the communities of Corona and College Point.

 Borough President Richards lives in Rosedale with his wife, Tameeka, and his son, Donovan III.

For his courageous leadership and being a champion for our communities, Chhaya is thrilled to present the Borough President with our Architects of Change Award.


Sarah Sukumaran

Sarah Sukumaran is the founder and CEO of Lilith NYC, a size inclusive, global luxury footwear brand for women and femmes. She was born and raised in Elmhurst, Queens, the daughter of Tamil refugees who arrived stateside in the early 1980s.

From a young age, Sarah observed the disparity of how the footwear industry approached male consumers in comparison to the one-dimensional view of how women were to show up in sneaker culture – as tomboys. The overwhelmingly hyper-masculine nature of the industry motivated the creation of Lilith NYC, a lifestyle brand that empowers women and femmes to explore and express their style, gender, and sexuality across a full spectrum of individuality.

Sarah’s professional career spans 15 years in the tech and analytics space where she was most recently Director of Product at Nike, overseeing the design and development of a predictive analytics platform. Prior to Nike, Sarah was Head of Product at Jirafe, an e-commerce analytics startup that was acquired by SAP in 2016. Sarah holds a BS in Business Management from Babson College. 

For rocking her Queens identity and phenomenal style, and for building a shoe company around the idea of empowering women and femmes, Chhaya is thrilled to present her with our Architects of Change Award.


Reshma Patel

Reshma Patel is a public finance expert with nearly 20 years of experience working on infrastructure financings across the United States. She has structured over $40 billion of municipal bond issues, and has also worked in micro-finance, private equity, data analytics, and e-commerce.  

She is a dedicated community leader, serving as Chair of the Manhattan Community Board 6 Budget and Governmental Affairs Committee, as a member of CB6 Environment and Parks Committee, and as an elected District Leader serving New York’s 74th Assembly District Part D. In this capacity she works with local elected officials to address community issues, leads voter outreach efforts and helps with the selection of judges in New York County.  

Passionate about the arts, Reshma serves on the board of Dance/NYC. Committed to the South Asian community, she has been a long-time board member (and current co-chair) of Chhaya; has volunteered with Sakhi for South Asian Women, where she spearheaded the creation of a scholarship program for survivors of domestic violence; and, as a graduate of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, serves as president of the MIT South Asian Alumni Association.  

For all her varied efforts to build community, support women’s empowerment, promote the arts, and strengthen municipalities, Reshma is a more than worthy honoree of Chhaya’s Architects of Change award. We couldn’t be prouder or more grateful.


DJ Rekha

DJ Rekha (born Rekha Malhotra) is a DJ, producer, curator, and educator. Their dynamic dub and hip-hop informed DJ sets often incorporate South Asian Diasporic dance music with ears to a global sound that resonates with dancefloors across the planet. They have shared the stage with many artists including AR Rahman, Yoko Ono, the Roots, M.I.A and have performed in festivals, clubs, and community spaces worldwide including the inaugural Women’s March and Obama’s White House, London Mela, 5X Fest, SXSW, Sundance.

They founded Basement Bhangra, in 1997, one of NYC’s longest-running club nights. Their debut album “DJ Rekha presents Basement Bhangra” (featuring a track with Wyclef Jean) won much critical acclaim and was nominated for best DJ album by the 2008 Plug Awards. They are the founder of Basement Bhangra™, Bollywood Disco, Lipstick Optional, and co-founder of Mutiny (with Vivek Bald) and Ronak (with Atif Ateeq) club nights.

As a sound designer and producer Rekha worked for the TONY award-winning Broadway Show, “Bridge and Tunnel,” and received a Drama Desk Award nomination for their work on the play “Rafta Rafta.” Rekha was the associate producer for the NPR Radio Documentary, “A Feet in Two Worlds.” They created the opening theme (with Raj Makhija and David Sharma) for Padma Lakshmi’s Hulu show, “Taste the Nation.” They have done remixes for artists that range from Meredith Monk to Major Lazer.

DJ Rekha was NYU’s A/P/A Artist-in-Residence for 2006-2007. They have received numerous community awards and in 2009 were inducted into the New York City’s Peoples’ Hall of Fame. DJ Rekha was the first intern for Sakhi for South Asian Women, a board member at Chhaya CDC., and a founding member of South Asian Youth Action. They have curated music and events for Celebrate Brooklyn, Central Park Summerstage, South Asian Lodge at Sundance, DJ City, and Sona Restaurant. DJ Rekha was a Grand Marshall of the 9th Annual NYC Dance Parade in 2015. They hold a BA in Urban Studies from Queens College and a Master’s of Science in Comparative Media Studies from MIT.

Roshni Samlal

Roshni Samlal is a New York-based, Trinidadian tabla player who has studied within the Farrukhabad, Benares and Punjab gharanas or schools of Indian classical percussion. Born in Trinidad, she was introduced to the tabla by her vocalist father, Mukund Samlal who was an eminent singer and harmonium player in the renaissance of South Asian ancestral arts that swept through 1960’s Trinidad, pioneered by H.S. Adesh. Roshni is now a prolific local teacher and performer, both in traditional, soloist repertoire, as a classical accompanist(Pt. Krishna Bhatt, Steve Gorn, Sobroto Roy Chowdhury) as well as within a variety of jazz, experimental and chamber ensembles(In D Ensemble, Arkinetics, Orakel.) Roshni also explores creating sound design landscapes and Ableton beat production as a narratorial context for tabla solos, incorporating poetry and sound collages that speak to topics of indentureship, post-colonial Caribbean identity, migration. She is the co-curator and producer of the Ragini Festival which focuses on spotlighting the work of artists engaged in traditional folk and innovative arts within the further reaches of the South Asian diaspora, focusing on Indo-Caribbean heritage. Roshni also crafts DJ sets influenced by her heritage and experiences as an immigrant during the 90’s.

Sponsorship Information

Becoming a sponsor for the Chhaya CDC 2023 Gala: Architects of Change provides a great opportunity to connect with and make a lasting impact on the South Asian & Indo-Caribbean community. Each level of sponsorship comes with its own benefits and recognition opportunities.

  • Community Visionary (Co-Chairs): $25,000
  • Community Leader: $15,000
  • Community Partner: $10,000
  • Community Advocate: $5,000

Please read our full sponsorship package and contact Jyothi Nair, Senior Manager of Development & Communications, at jyothi@chhayacdc.org with any questions!

Digital Advertisements

We are also offering digital advertising for sale: For $1,000, your business will be featured on the event’s digital program and have a slot on a looped slideshow during the event. For $500, your business will be featured on the digital program. 

Please contact Raunaq Zamal, Development & Communications Associate, at raunaq@chhayacdc.org for more information or with any questions!


Sponsored By

Community Leader


Community Advocates


Main Office:
37-43 77th St, 2nd Floor, Jackson Heights, NY 11372
Contact: 718.478.3848; info@chhayacdc.org

Richmond Hill Center:
121-18 Liberty Avenue, 2nd Floor, Richmond Hill, NY 11419
Contact: 718.374.3371; info@chhayacdc.org


Copyright 2022 by Chhaya Community Development Corporation. All rights reserved. Chhaya CDC is a 501(c)3 non-profit organization.