First Gandhi-King Legacy Roundtable Summit launched in Naperville, Ill

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Organizers and participants at the first Gandhi – King Legacy Roundtable Summit 2021 held Feb. 26, in Naperville, Illinois. Photo provided by organizers

The First Gandhi King Legacy Roundtable  Summit organized  by the U.S. Congressional  Multi Advisory Task Force (MEATF)  of Congressman Danny K Davis, D-Illinois, in cooperation with Metropolitan Asian Family Services(MAFS) was held on Friday Feb. 26, 2021. It was launched by India’s Consul General in Chicago Amit Kumar.

Vasavi Chakka,  commissioner,  Naperville  Sister Cities Commission, noted that this Summit was being held to commemorate Black History Month and Mahatma Gandhi’s 73rd death anniversary with the theme being, “Challenges of the Behavioral Health Crisis During the COVID pandemic”.

Dr. Santosh Kumar, founder and executive director of MAFS welcomed participants noting that this is the first time a Gandhi King Roundtable Summit was being held in Illinois. In addressing the important issue of ‘Behavioral Health’ and increasing access to it, was the most effective way to continue the legacy of the legends Mahatma Gandhi and Martin Luther King Jr., Dr. Kumar said.

Public health expert Dr. Vijay Prabhakar, founder chairman of Congressman  Davis’s Multi Ethnic Advisory Task Force credited India’s Consul General for conceiving the idea for this historic Summit to honor Gandhi and King’s Legacy. America will 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 seriously addressing the challenges of behavioral healthcare, Dr. Prabhakar warned.

Consul General Kumar, inaugurating the Summit, said the greatest testament of the Gandhi King Legacy is the current strong ties between India, the largest democracy and United States, the oldest democ­racy, at the highest levels and 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 Modi’s global leadership, he added.  He noted that the lives and messages of Gandhi and King continue to inspire people, he said recalling the visit of Rev. King to India in 1959 and continuing efforts to spread the legacy of these two leaders.  He referred to the Gandhi-King Scholarly Initiative Act passed by the U.S. Congress in 2020 that was initiated by late Congressman John Lewis, another iconic figure in the civil rights movement. He thanked Repre­sentative 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.  He also acknowledged the exemplary contributions of Indian-Americans in helping local communities  in several ways during the Covid-19 period.

Congressman Davis’s Multi Ethnic Advisory  Task Force  presented Consul General Kumar with an official plaque for his initiative in conceiving this historic event.

A brief video of Martin Luther King Jr speaking on Mahatma Gandhi was screened.

Dr. Sriram Sonty, eminent ophthalmologist and vice  president  of  The  Gandhi  Memorial,  Chicago    eloquently described the Gandhi-King connection and how it influenced people to the present day.

Consul General 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, Indiana for his extraordinary leadership to the underserved communities of Northwest Indiana and the  City of Chicago during  COVID  pandemic  from  June 2020  to present.

In his speech, Dr. Munsey urged all leaders to emulate the virtues of these two great legends by their actions in their day to day lives and to implement life transforming programs with purposeful goals, as well as 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 keynote address.

Congressman Raja Krishnamoorthi (D-IL) in his remarks said, “I don’t need to tell you that this is Black History Month and this month, we celebrate the legacy of Dr. King  And I don’t need tot ell you that Dr. King was inspired by Mahatma Gandhi of India. Now today, we are coming together to celebrate this joint legacy, one of non violence, one of justice, one of making sure everyone has a seat at the table, and that no one is on the menu. That is what today’s roundtable is all about.”

Congressman Davis in his presidential address  at the Summit  commended India’s  Consul  General for initiating  the Summit  which  he said was most apt and very timely for communities to heal.

“Martin Luther King Jr. was a disciple of Gandhi. A lot of Gandhi’s teachings was put into practice  by Martin Luther king Jr.(sic). 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.”

Davis praised Dr. Prabhakar, founder  of MEATF, along  with  Santosh  Kumar, of MAFS for recognizing the importance of the Gandhi-King relationship and for continuing their legacy.

“We need to strengthen  this partnership among our ethnic communities. I am waiting  to hear  about  the outcomes of this  Summit  and will  work  towards  supporting the  Summit’s recommendations.” Rep. Davis said.

Dr. David Albert, director, Division of Mental Health, Illinois Department of Human Services, gave  the ‘Call to Action’ noting that Illinois runs seven psychiatric hospitals  and funds 207 Community Mental  Health  Centers  and that  during  the COVID  pandemic,  the need  for special attention  to the senior population and the youth /students population was engaging  the department.

Gandhi King Legacy Roundtable Summit 2021unanimously 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.

The Summit further resolved to launch a monthly publication on behavioral healthcare resources that features an op-ed column by elected representatives, showcases com­munity behavioral health programs, includes informative   clinical updates and  latest  community behavioral health resource tools.

The Summit called for monthly town hall meetings of elected  representatives,  community  leaders,  behavioral healthcare providers and concerned citizens for behavioral healthcare as a constructive follow up.

Dr. Prabhakar named 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. He thanked Dr. Terrence Chiramel  of American Association of Multi Ethnic Physicians (AAMEP-USA), Alli Dhanaraj of American Multi Ethnic Coali­tion (AMEC), Charlie Dressner, chief  of Business Development,  MEDSTAR Laboratory, Hillside, IL, Neelam Desai, manager, MAFS Naperville Office, Adam Feldman, senior VP, Ensoftek Inc, and Anil Kumar of The Global Eye, Digital News Magazine, for all their support in organizing the Summit.

Consul  General  Of  Japan  Okada  presented  the Congressional  MEATF Citations  to MAFS Mahatma Gandhi Medal of Excellence 2020 recipients.

Dr. Santosh Kumar honored eight individuals with the MAFS  Gandhi Medal of Excellence 2020. The recipients included Dr. Tariq Butt, president, Chicago Medical Society; Dr David Albert, director, Division of Mental Health, Illinois Department  of Human Services; Donald Dew, president, Habilitative  Systems Institute, Chicago; Professor  Benneth  Lee, founder  National Alliance for the Empowerment  of the Formerly  Incarcerated, (NAEFI ); Arloa Sutter, founder-executive director, Breakthrough Ministries, Chicago; Albert Holmes, founder CEO, Elite House of Sober Living, Chicago Heights, IL; Vinita Gulabani , president, Indian American Cultural Association, Downers Grove, IL; and Luke Tharasri, president, Maximon Behavioral Health, Los Angeles.

Dr. Sreenivas  Reddy, vice chair, Illinois Physician  Disciplinary  Board,  in his closing  remarks  hoped  that this Gandhi King Legacy initiative on Behavioral Healthcare would be implemented globally and thanked the organizers for initiating what he felt is a global collective action on behavioral health.

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