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A Masquerade Ball Unmasks the Stigma

December 2013
A Masquerade Ball Unmasks the Stigma

The Ramesh and Vijaya Bakshi Community Change Award was presented to Sandhya Yellapragda. (Photography by Vinod)


On October 26, 2013, close to 175 community members joined Atlanta-based community organization Raksha as they held their 15th annual fundraiser Ek Shaam Raksha Ke Naam, An Evening in the Name of Raksha.

The night consisted of a masked ball with live singing, dinner, a silent auction, and dancing at Tadka Restaurant. "We wear our masks on one night so we don't have to wear masks for the rest of the year" was Raksha's theme: unmasking the silence and shame around domestic and sexual violence as well as other issues such as mental illness, suicide, bullying, hate crimes, addiction, etc.—all issues that our community is facing and needs to bring to light.

The evening opened with enthusiastic and entertaining Sumon Ray as emcee, followed the very talented Lalita Balakrishnan playing the tabla. A skit performed by Raksha staff and volunteers highlighted how statements made by community members can either burden people when they are in a violent relationship or can uplift them. A powerpoint presentation gave examples: Raksha's clients held signs they wrote highlighting the very actions which helped them and the ones that hurt them in their journey and then provided tips to the community on what they would like to see done.



Amanda Planchard, Director of Victim Assistance, Office of Fulton County Solicitor General, received the Third Annual Himmat Award. (Photography by Vinod)

Executive Director Aparna Bhattacharyya introduced Dr. Jayanthi Srinivasiah as one of the awardees of the Tenth Annual Ramesh and Vijaya Bakshi Community Change Award. Dr. Srinivasiah was recognized for her community service in ensuring that cancer survivors get access to education and healthcare as well as for her support for cultural and social welfare projects. She told an inspiring story of how she helped a woman who was both a cancer and domestic violence survivor. Raksha then honored Amanda Planchard, Director of Victim Assistance, Office of Fulton County Solicitor General, with the Third Annual Himmat Award. In her 15 year career Amanda has been a invaluable resource not only to Raksha but to countless South Asian and other immigrant survivors.

After dinner, Lalita Balakrishan returned, this time with an original rap performance focusing on the plight of a young South Asian woman who struggles as she faces violence from her husband.

The Ramesh and Vijaya Bakshi Community Change Award was then presented to Sandhya Yellapragda for her tireless work with the Telegu community and for her work to highlight women's leadership and youth empowerment. Raksha also recognized Rita Patel Garcia for her outstanding work with Raksha since 1996. Rita began as a volunteer, became Client Services Director and now works part-time as Raksha's child therapist.



Executive Director Aparna Bhattacharyya with Raksha's Board of Directors. (Photography by Vinod)

Raksha's Board of Directors, Meena Dev Sidhu , Mansi Anand, and Shalini Patel talked about the importance and impact of Raksha's work in the community. Mansi read a letter from one of Raksha's clients who is on her path to healing and success. Shalini asked Raksha supporters to do more to financially support Raksha. She highlighted how much work was being done by the 3.5 staff at Raksha and how the community needs to ensure that Raksha continues to have resources for another 18 years.



Lalita Balakrishnan played tabla, rapped, and at the end gave a duet with Faraz Ahmad. (Photography by Vinod)

Lalita and Faraz Ahmad closed the performances with a final duet. The evening concluded with the tunes of DJ Ameet. A silent auction included items donated by many local businesses and local artists. Unlike previous Ek Shaam Raksha Ke Naams, this evening was more focused on Raksha's work due to the intensity of violence occurring in our community locally, nationally, and internationally.

Website Bonus Feature

Sponsors: Raksha is extremely grateful for the support from the community for this event and for the past 18 years.

Gold Sponsors: Kilpatrick Townsend, Delta Air Lines.
Silver Sponsor: Kumar, Prabhu, Patel, and Banerjee.
Bronze Sponsors: Action Bartending and Design, The Chugh Firm, First Medical Care, Kuck Immigration, The Law Offices of Joe Rosen, Metro Medical Associates, Mehta and Mehta, LLC , Rampersad and Parmar Group, and The Sheth Family Foundation.
Media Sponsors: Atlanta Dunia, Khabar Magazine, NRI Pulse, Namaste Bombay, Desi Mojo,TV Asia, and Wownow.com.
Photography: Photography by Vinod.

Contact: If you were not able to attend, please consider making a donation to Raksha at P.O. Box 12337, Atlanta, Ga 30355. The funds raised from Ek Shaam Raksha Ke Naam , help keep Raksha's services available to the community. Raksha's mission is to promote a stronger and healthier South Asian community through confidential support services, education, and advocacy. Raksha provides counseling, support groups, and advocacy to community members who have been impacted by family and sexual violence as well as other crimes. www.raksha.org

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