Suresh Bodiwala and Dave Vasudevan
CHICAGO: The first of its type, Gandhi King Legacy Roundtable Summit was organized by the U.S. Congressional Multi Advisory Task Force (MEATF) in cooperation with Metropolitan Asian Family Services (MAFS) on Friday February 26 2021 in Naperville, a south side suburb of Chicago.
Ms. VasaviChakka, Commissioner, Naperville Sister Cities Commission moderating the Summit stating that the Summit was being held to Commemorate the Black History Month and Mahatma Gandhi’s73 Death Anniversary with the theme being, “Challenges of the Behavioral Health Crisis during the COVID pandemic.
Dr. Mrs Santosh Kumar, Founder Executive Director of Metropolitan Asian Family Services (MAFS) welcoming the Roundtable Summit stakeholders said that this was the first time a Gandhi King Roundtable Summit is being held in Illinois State She stressed that the Summit sought addressing the important issue of Behavioral Health and how to improve and increase the Behavioral Health Resources in communities around, this being the effective way to continue the legacy of the legends Mahatma Gandhi and Martin Luther King Jr.
Dr. Vijay Prabhakar, Founder Chairman of Multi Ethnic Advisory Task Force in his opening remarks credited India’s Consul General at Chicago Amit Kumar for conceiving this historic Summit to honor Gandhi King’s Legacy. A public health expert, Dr Prabhakar said that America would face the gravest challenge from the behavioral health crisis in 2030 and hence all concerned citizens, elected officials, behavioral healthcare providers and other stakeholders should form a broad framework to work towards addressing this challenges.
Consul General Amit Kumar inaugurating the Summit said the greatest testament of the Gandhi King Legacy is the current strong ties between India, the largest democracy and USA, the Oldest democracy, at the highest levels He recalled the role of India under Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s leadership during the COVID pandemic. The supply of Indian made vaccines to several countries recently is yet another glowing example of India’s Prime Minister Modi’s global leadership. CG Kumar thanked the organizers for hosting the Roundtable Summit and to commemorate the Black History Month.
He recalled that their life, message and philosophy continue to inspire all in that the life of Mahatma was very closely followed in the US, referred to the historic visit of Dr. King to India in 1959 and efforts to spread the legacy of these two leaders. He referred to the Gandhi-King Scholarly Initiative Act passed by the US Congress in 2020 that was initiated by late Congressman John Lewis, another iconic figure in the civil rights movement. He thanked Rep. Danny K Davis, for his strong support to India-US ties, and recalled his initiative to establish the Multi-Ethnic Advisory Task Force a decade ago to empower different ethnic communities in his district.
RepDanny Davis saluted CG Amit Kumar for his vision in conceiving this Summit as a tribute to two great legends. The month of February is officially observed as BLACK HISTORY MONTH throughout USA and Gandhi’s 73rd Death Anniversary (Punyatihi /Shaheed Diwas) was on January 30. U.S. Congressman’s MEATF presented CG Amit Kumar with an Official plaque for his initiative in conceiving this epoch making event. A brief video of Martin Luther King Jr speaking on Mahatma was screened followed by Dr. Sriram Sonty, the Vice President of the Gandhi Memorial, Chicago eloquently describing the GANDH-KING Connection and its relevance to the present day.
CG Amit Kumar along with Consul General of Japan Kenichi Okada at Chicago jointly presented the Gandhi King Legacy Award of Excellence 2021 to Dr. Steve Munsey, Founder, Family Christian Center, Munster, IN for his extraordinary leadership to the underserved communities of Northwest Indiana and the City of Chicago during COVID pandemic from June 2020 to present. Dr. Steve Munsey, Author, Pastor, Creative Director, and Producer giving the Dr. Gandhi King Legacy Oration 2021 urged all the leaders to emulate the virtues of these two great legends by their actions in their day to day lives and implement life transforming programs with purposeful goals. He spoke about the need to make Behavioral Health Care affordable and accessible to all especially the vulnerable sections of the community now.
Marvin Lindsey, CEO, Community Behavioral HealthCare Association of Illinois delivered the Key Note Address. Congressman Raja Krishnamoorthi in his remarks said, “I don’t need to tell you that this is Black History Monthand that we are coming together to celebrate this joint legacy of nonviolence, justice and making sure everyone has a seat at the table. That is what today’s roundtable is all about.”
Rep. Danny K Davis in his presidential addresssaid,“Martin Luther King Jr. was a disciple of Gandhi. A lot of Gandhi’s teachings was put into practice by Martin Luther king Jr. So it is important that our elected leaders and Community leaders adapt and enrich the same partnership between African and Indian communities here in Chicago and beyond.” He applauded leadersfor recognizing the importance of the Gandhi King relationship and for continuing their legacy in this dynamic environment. He pitched for need to strengthen this partnership among ethniccommunities adding, “He would await to hear about the outcomes of this Summit and will work towards supporting the Summit’s recommendations.”
Dr. David Albert, Director, Division of Mental Health, Illinois Department of Human Services gave the Call to Action, addingthe State Of Illinois runs Seven Psychiatric hospitals and funds 207 Community Mental Health Centers in Illinois. During the COVID pandemic, the need for special attention to the Senior Population and the Youth /Students population is engaging the department.
The Summit unanimously resolved to establish a Citizens Action Alliance For Behavioral Healthcare (CAABH) to nurture, enrich and empower behavioral healthcare providers while spreading awareness of behavioral healthcare resources in our communities. It further resolved to launch a monthly publication on behavioral healthcare resources that features op-ed column by elected representatives, showcase community behavioral health programs, informative clinical updates and latest community behavioral health resource tools. The Summit called for monthly town hall meets of elected representatives, community leaders, behavioral healthcare providers and concerned citizens for behavioral healthcare as a constructive follow up.
Dr Vijay Prabhakar, Founder Chairman MEATF named Ms. Twin Green, CEO of THE LINK & OPTION Center, South Holland, IL as C.A.A. B.H.’s Ambassador for Southland of Illinois at the closing session of the Summit.
The Japan CG, Kenichi Okada presented the Congressional MEATF Citations to MAFS Mahatma Gandhi Medal of Excellence 2020 recipients and Dr. Mrs Santosh Kumar, Founder of MAFS honored eight individuals with the MAFS Gandhi Medal of Excellence 2020.
Dr. Sreenivas Reddy, Vice Chair, Illinois Physician Disciplinary Board in his Closing remarks envisaged that this Gandhi King Legacy initiative on Behavioral Healthcare should be implemented globally and thanked the organizers for hosting this historic Summit. He added the presence of Indian CG Amit Kumar and the CG Japan Kenichi Okada signaled the new beginnings for a global cooperation.