Civic Group Seeks to Give South Asians One Voice

BY LUIS GRONDA
Staff Writer

A civic leader has recently started a new group to bring a louder voice to the South Asian population in Queens.

The South Asians for Empowerment (SAFE) aims to bring people from every country in the South Asian area, including India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Nepal and more, according to its executive director, Jagajit Singh.

Singh said that with the new administration taking office, there is more of an opportunity for people of South Asian ethnicity to join together and make their voices heard. He said there is a need for elder South Asian people, who were born elsewhere and immigrated to this country as teenagers or adults.

“There has to be some larger umbrella, which acts as a bridge for everybody to come together. That is how I see the role of South Asians for Empowerment,” he said. “In a democracy, the louder the voice, the more you are heard. If everybody gets together and shouts, we will be heard.”

Singh came to the United States from India in 2001, just nine days before the Sept. 11 attacks. He was involved politically in his home country, but came stateside to learn about nonprofits and how to run an organization that focuses more on helping people rather than making money. Singh said, unlike the United States, they do not have nonprofit organizations in India.

He first lived in Brooklyn and formed a group similar to SAFE over there. Now a resident of Bellerose, he has focused his efforts on growing the South Asian community in southern Queens.

The group will have a town hall meeting on Sunday, Jan. 26, at the Sikh Cultural Center in Richmond Hill.
Singh said the meeting will allow residents of the area to vocalize the problems and concerns that need to be addressed.

Singh said he was concerned about the lack of open space for community events, senior centers and after-school problems in the neighborhood.

He said that, with a new Mayor in place, they hope to have more open communication with this administration compared to former mayor Michael Bloomberg.

Other programs that SAFE is currently offering include English as a Second Language classes and a Health and Wellness expo in April.

Next week’s meeting will begin at 11:30 a.m. The Cultural Center is located at 96-30 118th St. in Richmond Hill.

Reach Luis Gronda at (718) 357-7400, Ext. 127, lgronda@queenstribune.com, or @luisgronda.