Cecil Angel, Detroit Free Press, April 27, 2009
A Bangladeshi American has become the first Asian American to head an NAACP chapter in Michigan, breathing new life into the Hamtramck chapter that had officially been inactive until earlier this year.
Asm Rahman said he joined the NAACP in 2003 after hearing reports about racial profiling and other forms of discrimination experienced by some Hamtramck residents of Bangladeshi and Middle Eastern descent following the 2001 terrorist attacks.
Six years later, he was elected president of the Hamtramck NAACP chapter.
Yvonne White, president of the Michigan State Conference NAACP, said immigrants from Bangladesh and the Middle East account for almost half the 68 members of the Hamtramck chapter, which became active again in February. The chapter, which is at least 30 years old, was inactive for about two years.
Chris Fleming, spokesman for the national NAACP, said that the NAACP does not track the ethnicity of its members and can’t say how many non-African Americans are members of the group, which is celebrating its 100th anniversary this year.
There have been other non-African Americans who have served in leadership posts at NAACP chapters, including Peter Leung, a Chinese American who served as the president of the Corvalis, Ore., branch, and Nilakantan Nagarajan, an Indian immigrant who served as state treasurer for the NAACP Delaware State Conference of Branches.
Census figures show that 18.3% of Hamtramck’s 20,485 residents have Asian roots.
Ahmed Alammari, 41, a Yemeni American who works in Hamtramck for the Arab American Chaldean Council, joined the local NAACP two months ago.