Meet Syed Ali Rizvi: Running for IAGB President

BURLINGTON, MA—On Sunday, Oct.8, members of the India Association of Greater Boston will elect new officers and board of directors, including president of the organization for a two-year term.

Given the importance of elections of the IAGB, one of the oldest Indian-American community organizations in the United States, INDIA New England News sent the same set of questions to two presidential candidates: Syed Ali Rizvi and Aditi Taylor. Here the unedited answers from Ms. Taylor.

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INDIA New England News: Why do you want to be the president of IAGB?

SYED ALI RIZVI: I want to become president to bring people together to create synergies in the community, provide a platform for our young adults, and improve IAGB visibility in the greater Boston area including state and local government organizations. I have the required experience and leadership skills acquired through years of volunteering and heading various charity organizations to achieve this vision…

Syed Ali Rizvi

As you know, IAGB is a 55 years old Indian-American organization – one of the oldest in the greater Boston area.   I am fortunate enough to be working with this historic organization for the past four years as an Executive Committee member.  In the past two years, IAGB had taken a major turn in revising its mission, vision and the ways it is engages with the Indian Community it serves in the Greater Boston Area.  As I believe in bringing together, uniting all community sectors together, I have contributed heavily in the past four years ensuring that this IAGB’s new vision is accomplished to bring us together.

IAGB has a true potential to represent the entire Indian community in the Greater Boston and the New England area on a single platform. The organization potential to harness the talent, knowledge, wisdom and creativity of the people, specifically our young adults, in our community. I am dedicated to work with people in the area to achieve this goal.

INE: How long and in what capacity you have been involved with IAGB?

SAR: I have served as Executive Committee member for the past 4 years.

My major contribution to IAGB and to the community encompasses not only as a performer (emcee, poetry, participation in stage performances) but also as

Co-chairs on major committees namely Community Collaboration and Community Services.   As a community collaboration and services committee Co-chair, I was instrumental in connecting IAGB to various India-centric organizations and started forging a long lasting relationships with them.

In addition to the above Co-chairs responsibilities, I participated in fund raising activities.  I am proud to say that I have, for the past two years, single handedly raised over 30% of the funds required for sustaining IAGB expenses.  This included getting tables/booths and ads for brochures and getting major donors and corporate sponsorships like Harvard Pilgrim HealthCare, Adam Travels, Turkish Airlines, Qatar Airlines, Emirates Airlines, and other associations.  I am very proud to inform that it is the first time in IAGB history that Department of Justice (DOJ) has attended IAGB’s RD2016 event to network with Indian Community.  This attests to IAGB’s growing popularity and visibility.

I also took upon the major responsibility and worked closely with the president in organizing IAGB’s  first ever formal complimentary luncheon in December 2016.  This event was attended by more than 120 people which included  community leaders, IAGB sponsors, members, past presidents, and media partners.

I am also an administrator for the IAGB Facebook and I make sure that current news are posted on time.

INE: What are the three things you wish to accomplish as president of IAGB?

SAR: In my opinion, the president must align his accomplishments with the organization’s mission and goals.  Listed below is my vision which is in 100% agreement of IAGB’s mission and goals for which our Board and EC will work together.

(a)          Reach out to other India-centric organizations to and collaborate with them to work on the common platforms, interests, and support common causes there by establishing a robust communication network and method to reach mass Indian and non-Indians in the greater Boston Area. There is strength in numbers which will attract attention of our Towns, Cities, and State governments on national and international level to address our community needs. We will foster appreciation and support for each other.

(b)          Have a more visible role for IAGB in the New England Area by creating events/activities to educate our next generation and the local population about the arts, history and culture of India including the contemporary life and culture in India.

(c)           Engage with young professional organizations to attract second generation Indian Americans to work with IAGB. Be inclusive and welcome all sections of Indian community in IAGB fold.  I plan to initiate a dialogue with our young adults of 2nd generation to understand each other’s needs, responsibilities and find ways to work together.

INE: There is an outside perception that there is often infighting within the organization which hampers it from moving forward with its goals. If that is true, how do you plan deal with this?

SAR: When several committed, well-meaning people work together, there bound to be some healthy discussions, opinions and disagreements.  IAGB is no exception to this rule. One thing we forget is that we need to agree to disagree on issues without taking it personally and everyone has a right to their own opinion.  My goal is to provide equal opportunity to all for presenting their opinions and moderate the discussion by keeping IAGB’s mission and goal at the forefront.

INE: It seems IAGB is still stuck in the past and the new Indian-American generation, especially those born here in the United States, have not been actively recruited to lead the organization. How can any organization move forward and energize the community when it fails to get younger generation involved?

SAR: I already spoke about this topic earlier.  I want to engage our young adults in all the IAGB activities.  We will create a platform where we can actively seek out our young adults and professionals like doctors, lawyers and scientists and encourage to participate in IAGB activities.   We will open a dialogue with this sector of our community to understand each other needs and how we can collaborate and strengthen the Indian American community.

INE: Do you agree that 50 percent of the IAGB executive committee members should be first generation Indian-Americans? If yes, how do you plan to recruit them during your two-year term?

SAR: I am not sure what the percentage should be.  However, I completely agree with you that we need to get our young adults involved with IAGB.  As mentioned earlier, I would like to open a dialogue with our young adults to understand their needs and how to implement them in IAGB’s mission and goals.

INE: With tremendous growth in Indian-American population in recent years, especially given the rise of regional and ethnic Indian-American community organizations, what should be the main task or mission of IAGB?

SAR: I have touched upon this earlier -We must be all inclusive and encourage participation through various events.  Every member of the community and every organization should be approached and encouraged to participate, collaborate, and engage. Diversity is essential for IAGB’s success and growth.

INE: Since the 1990s, IAGB has been trying to get all other Indian-American organizations under a loose banner or as a joint forum, but has so far failed to achieve this goal. Do you want to continue working on this seemingly-impossible mission or launch a new initiative to unite these groups?

SAR: My philosophy is to never give up and keep focus on target. I would not leave any stone unturned to bring unity, community and sense of belonging.  Our plan is to collaborate with leaders of all India centric organizations to establish a robust communication to reach every Indian-American in the Greater Boston area in a matter of hours and solicit their timely response.

INE: Why should an IAGB member vote for you?

SAR: IAGB members should vote for me because of my demonstrated experience in serving organizations such as VisionAid, OMANE, Hindi Manch, and as an elected  Town Meeting member in Lexington. I enjoy working with the interested groups and well-wishers, volunteers to achieve the organisational goals.  As you can see, I have the skill set and have vast charity work experience in non-profit and community organizations.  I have a track record of working successfully with all sectors of our community (gender, race, religion, nationality, political affiliation,   etc.).  My experience and knowledge makes me a very credible and strong candidate to serve as IAGB president.  I urge all the voters to cast their vote for me because I can accomplish the goals set for IAGB.  I promise to work hard with our communities to form a coalition so that we can be counted as a unified force.  Thank you.

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