Amita Swadhin keynotes the 2019 Ek Shaam Raksha Ke Naam fundraiser gala
(Left) Keynote speaker and survivor, Amita Swadhin. (Photography by Vinod)
“I am Raksha ki Beti,” (“I am the daughter of Raksha”)—it was the voice of a domestic violence survivor who embraced the organization as her mother, and it summarized the noteworthy contribution of Raksha, Inc., to society. Raksha is the only Atlanta-based nonprofit that works toward healing, justice, and empowerment for survivors of violence in the South Asian community. Many such survivors found their platform to share their needs and realities at Raksha’s annual event “Ek Shaam Raksha Ke Naam” themed “Together We Can Heal,” held on November 9, 2019 at the Westin Perimeter. Community members who, in their own unique ways, have served the organization’s mission of a stronger and healthier South Asian community were also recognized for their contributions.
Moksha dancers. (Photography by Vinod)
The evening opened with a reception welcoming Raksha’s supporters, friends, families, sponsors, members of the media, and dignitaries to enjoy hors d'oeuvres and cocktails while mingling and browsing the strikingly curated silent auction items on display. Spectacular pieces of original art, gorgeous sarees and jewelry from local merchants, privately prepared dinners, and vacation getaways awaited patrons to claim as their own. A flashy surprise awaited the audience as they were ushered into the ballroom when several Raksha staff and board members led by Moksha, an Atlanta-based multicultural dance company, broke into an impromptu “flash mob” dance sequence, which marked the beginning of promising evening yet to unfold.
(Right) Drs. Arun and Deepti Munjal, recipients of the “Seeds of Change” award. (Photography by Vinod)
The emcee of the night, child and adolescent psychiatrist, and author of A Moment of Insight: Universal Lessons Learned from a Psychiatrist’s Couch, Dr. Suvrat Bhargave, officially welcomed the guests and proceeded with the night’s first of three awards: the “Seeds of Change” award, which was presented to Drs. Arun and Deepti Munjal. Dr Arun Munjal specializes in Child & Adolescent Psychiatry, Neurology, and Psychiatry and consistently provides pro bono and timely services to Raksha’s clients, meeting their needs in a culturally competent manner. Dr. Deepti Munjal, a board-certified physician in medical oncology and internal medicine, has always been a strong Raksha supporter and offers to assist clients as needed.
A Raksha client, who choose to protect her identity, but not her odyssey of trials, tribulations, and the eventual triumph as a survivor and a mother under the “Raksha”(protection) and guidance of the organization, was fittingly awarded the “Himmat” (or Courage) award. Identifying herself as “Raksha ki Beti,” the domestic violence survivor chose to share her story in a moving presentation detailing her heartbreaking and inspirational journey of tears and cheers.
Dr. Suvrat Bhargave, emcee and awardee, flanked by Raksha Executive Director Aparna Bhattacharyya and Ramesh and Vijaya Bakshi. (Photography by Vinod)
Dr. Suvrat Bhargave was awarded the “Ramesh and Vijaya Bakshi Community Change award” for his constant service to numerous community entities in the greater Atlanta area and creating conversations about mental health, which is often not addressed in our community. His involvement and compassionate approach to providing support in various ways comes from insight as a fellow traveler trying to help another traveler cope with complicated emotions. He lectures nationally on a wide range of topics including personal growth, relationship fulfillment, and effective parenting. Suvrat talked about his own experiences of being a survivor and focused on how each survivor of abuse is resilient. He spoke about support systems and pledged to listen without judgement to those who approach him. The Bakshis are long time Raksha supporters and part of the founding Ek Shaam team.
“Sexual abuse and domestic violence are a universal phenomenon,” stated keynote speaker for the night, Amita Swadhin, an educator, storyteller, activist, and consultant, dedicated to fighting interpersonal and institutional violence against young people. Amita, with “they, them, their” pronouns, approaches their work from their experiences as a gender queer, femme queer woman of color, daughter of immigrants, and years of abuse by their parents, including eight years of child sexual abuse by their father.
“Sexual violence is a learned behavior,” noted Amita, speaking from their own experience where their father was abused as a child. Unsurprisingly, their address was personal, provocative, and compelling, but their message also included a call-to-action for every member in the audience to change rape culture by teaching kids about consent, even in simple acts of asking them permission to hug them. They asked the audience to also look at the systems and to reflect upon governmental actions that continue to support rape culture and other types of oppression. They also asked to ponder about actions that create situations where minority groups flee and seek asylum and how the likelihood of sexual assault is high for asylum and refugee seekers.
“Let us create a new culture. Hold on to your traditions, but do not replicate rape culture,” urged Amita in their passionate closing lines.
(Right) GAPABA presents a check to Raksha.
The Georgia Asian Pacific American Bar Association (GAPABA)’s Law Foundation presented Raksha with a $10,000 check to support Raksha clients with some of the legal needs they may have. “Raksha’s staff and board are greatly appreciative of the generous support from community members and sponsors and of the time and energy from volunteers … The evening is dedicated to all who utilize Rakha’s services; their strength and courage is inspiring! On behalf of the clients we serve, we are thankful to you, our supporters, for helping to make the lives of our clients better, both in tangible and intangible ways,” said Aparna Bhattacharya, Executive Director, Raksha. She invited the community to continue to be part of the healing process for so many survivors.
(Left) Singer Purnima Mathur. (Photography by Vinod)
A thoughtfully choreographed three-piece dance presentation titled “Liberate,” “Empower,” and “Transform” by Moksha aligned perfectly with the theme of the night and the vision of Raksha.
A delightful spread of delicacies prepared by the Westin’s own Chef Dinesh awaited the attendees, who were also treated to mellifluous performances by accomplished singer Purnima Mathur, founder and director of Malhaar Music Academy. The night ended on a high note with DJ Sahib keeping attendees dancing for the rest of the shaam (evening), Raksha ke naam, of course.
Website Bonus Feature
“Raksha Ki Beti (Raksha's Daughter)”
Nov 26, 2019
Raksha honored one of our clients with the Himmat (Courage)Award this year. She chose to be anonymous but named herself Raksha Ki Beti and told her story and journey with Raksha.
Hear Raksha Ki Beti's testimonial about her journey with Raksha.
Raksha is grateful for the support of our sponsors for helping make this evening celebrating survivors and those that support them possible. Thanks to our Gold Sponsors: Kore, Patel Brothers, Sheth Family Foundation, UPS; Silver Sponsors: 27th Investments, American CyberSystems, Kumar, Prabhu, Patel & Banerjee, Delta Air Lines, The Pranan Foundation, Premier Kings of Georgia, Redwood Wealth Management; Bronze Sponsors: Ace Bookkeeping, Allstate (Massie Hundal), Antonini and Cohen, Asians Americans Advancing Justice- Atlanta, Atlanta Hand Specialists, Atlanticus, Bhavya Chaudhary and Associates, Boardwalk Development Group, Chugh Firm, East Marietta Dentistry, First Medical Care, GCFID, Gokare Law Firm, Dr. Jayanthi Srinivasiah, Klinke Immigration, Kuck Baxter, Madras Mantra, Metro Medical Associates, Morgan Stanley (Sid Ganju), One Path Legal, Pyramid Consulting, Shah Law Firm, and Vision Hospitality Group. We are grateful for our media and in-kind sponsors: Atlanta Dunia, Desi Express, Divinity AV Productions, DJ Sahib (GTB Productions), Khabar, NRI Pulse, Photography by Vinod, TV Asia, and Wownow.com.
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