Recently, the members of the esteemed organization Cultural Association of Bengal (CAB) has been flooded with letters, emails and phone calls regarding the upcoming election of its executive committee members. CAB is one of the oldest Bengali Associations in USA and its primary contribution to all of us Bengalis living in North America (as well as those in other countries including India and Bangladesh) is the annual North America Bengali Conference (NABC) held every year in one of the major cities of USA or Canada. Although the conference each year is hosted by a local organization who work quite autonomously, CAB own the franchise rights and maintains some degree of control over the proceedings. This activity alone has given CAB a national (as well as international) visibility that brings with it some greater opportunities as well as responsibilities. As far as opportunities are concerned, such a broad visibility can permit CAB to transform itself to a truly “North American” organization representing Bengalis all over USA and Canada, serving as an umbrella organization. And this is not an easy task and it calls for leadership and vision that can motivate the members to be a part of a larger community serving a larger cause. This where the responsibility factor comes in. The leadership and the executive team of CAB needs to be inclusive and open its arms to all those who want to participate irrespective of their social, economical or geographical status. CAB should rethink its activities and put more emphasis on those that can reach out a larger membership body spread around the country. For example,
1. CAB should start a national membership drive, both individual members as well as organizational members. Each member organization should be allowed to have one representative to the larger policy making body of CAB.
2. CAB can also initiate local chapters in each state. These chapters can not only organize their won activities but also help the other local organizations with their activities.
3. CAB should use their magazine “Sangbad Bichitra” to the fullest extent to help bring the people together. It should publish more local news that is of interest to us, publish local events and happenings, interviews of people around us, classified columns etc. In the age of internet and satellite TV, cut and paste of old news from our homeland does not carry that impact anymore. News and stories should have relevance to our lives and must be current. The CAB committee should really think about reinventing this wonderful tool they have at their disposal to reach out to people.
4. CAB does not have a decent website. This is almost unthinkable in this day and age. When millions of dollars are spent on NABC activities and to bring in artistes from India, I do not understand why a minimum amount is not spent on an website. The size of the executive committee is quite large, and it should not be an issue to assign one or two members for this activity alone.
5. Give something to the members that increases the value of their membership. “Sangabad Bichitra” is indeed a valuable product to offer the members, but there can be others too. For example, negotiate with the local businesses to offer discounts to the CAB members. If the CAB membership grows, I am sure many businesses will be happy to offer discounts to the members if they patronize.
These are just some of my thoughts, and I know that it is easy to think but quite difficult to implement. But I guess that is what the executive members are for. Elections are great and any democratic organization should go through such a process. However, I don’t think it is necessary to create cliques, subgroups, panels and rosters within the organization and create divisiveness. In organizations like this, people should be willing to work with each other – we should be inclusive. We may have difference of opinions, but after all our objectives (as a member) are same. We all live in this adopted homeland of ours, and we should be willing to stand by each other at all times.