Annie Dandavati has a proven track record of community service and leadership in the Northern California region, spanning over two decades. A handful of stories are documented herein:
The Mug-Shot Book:
Her activism began over twenty years ago, when the San Jose Police Department in their zeal to fight crime took an action that infringed on the civil rights of certain minority groups. The SJPD was proposing what was loosely referred to as the “mug-shot” book wherein they proposed placing the pictures of ‘Asian’ youth who happened to be around a crime scene, the purpose being to facilitate identification and capture of the criminal. The community reacted strongly, as they should have, creating tension between the affected ethnic groups and the PD. The newly formed Coalition 2001 – Celebration of Unity in Diversity stepped in and mediated between the SJPD and the angry community members, avoiding a clash and leading to a successful and peaceful resolution of the matter.
COALITION 2001 – Celebration of Unity in Diversity:
The ‘mug-shot book’ book incident gave the impetus to a group of young professionals to formally create in the year 2000, a grass roots organization known as ‘Coalition 2001 – Celebration of Unity in Diversity,’ The group successfully took on numerous community issues and by 1993 the San Jose Mercury News referred to them as “the most powerful, civic watchdog group.” “In just a short time, Coalition 2001: Celebration of Unity in Diversity has become an influential organization with a formidable mission: spreading the word that diversity is not only a strength, but a tool for change.”
The Santa Clara County Commission on the Status of Women:
Annie Dandavati served on The Santa Clara County Commission on the Status of Women for five years, one as Vice-Chair and two years as Chairperson. The Commission, working under the authority of the Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors advocated for the rights of women, monitored legislation, did educational seminars and presentations to community groups, organizations, both public and private. They handled issues related to equal pay for equal work, sexual harassment, teenage pregnancy and so on, always advocating for the equal role of women in society. During her time as Chairperson the Commission began its Annual Women’s History Day event which has a large draw to the present day.
Missing Senior Found in Mustard Field:
It took a call to Annie from a friend about the dilemma of a family in San Jose. Their elderly grandfather had left their home early morning in his pajamas and had been missing for a day. Within hours and a flurry of activity, there was a host of volunteers, including community members, business owners, Police Departments from San Jose and neighboring Milpitas. Two days later a man who had seen the posters of the missing man found him weak, malnourished, frightened, but alive in the middle of a mustard field, few miles from his home. What could easily have been a tragic end ended on a positive note.
Missing Physician – Dr. Attari:
Dr. Zehra Attari, a pediatrician who lived in San Jose and worked in Oakland never made it home after a regular work day in her practice where she worked with children from low income families. The call came to Annie Dandavati’s office 24 hours later. The Coalition stepped in with it’s team, pulling together a force of volunteers which included the Attari family’s friends and relatives. How do you find a women who left work to attend a meeting in the City of Alameda before driving home to San Jose, and who disappeared without a trace. What followed was six weeks of intensive search efforts utilizing every source of assistance, community volunteers, friends, police departments, news media extending from CNN to every possible radio and print media. Six weeks later the family got their answer – unfortunately and sadly not the answer they had hoped and prayed for. Dr. Attari had lost her way in the City of Alameda and drove her car down a boat ramp located at the end of the road and into the murky waters of the Estuary. Unhappy as this ending was, the family finally had answers and closure.
Indo-American Senior Center:
Attorney Mohinder Mann and Annie Dandavati founded the first City funded Indo-American Senior Citizen program. This program was unique in that it gave an opportunity to Indo- American seniors to interact with other seniors and to engage in recreational activities. Most of these seniors were very new immigrants, did not speak English, and did not drive. The time at the community center with other seniors, was something that they cherished and which added an extra cheer to their lives, which otherwise comprised largely of babysitting and helping with household chores while the grandchildren were in school and their parents at work.
Programs of Conscience:
Annie Dandavati was an annual speaker in the Programs of Conscience Program where she often participated in different high schools in Alameda County as a speaker and a panelists in discussions on contemporary and often controversial issues facing high school students.
A Bleak Christmas – reversed:
The Martinez family, with four young children under age 5 years, found themselves without electricity, in the freezing cold, just days before Christmas. They approached Annie Dandavati with their troubled story. Mr. Martinez was unemployed, his wife a homemaker, four young children including an infant, no heat, no light,no refrigerator, unable to store milk or to heat milk or food for the family. PG&E had cut off their electricity due to their inability to pay their bill. What made it worse, was that this was days before Christmas. Taking on the cause, it took just two days before the lights were back on, a reasonable payment plan had been put in place and the little Martinez children had tons of Christmas gifts from generous donations from anonymous community members. It was a happy Christmas after all!
United States Congress:
To run or not to run. Starting with a group of ten qualified, potential candidates Annie Dandavati was one of two finalists being considered by the Democratic party to run for the seat vacated by the very popular Congressman Norm Mineta in 1995. The Mercury News (Oct 02, 1995) had the following to say: “Democrats familiar with the interviews said both Dandavati and Estruth are credible candidates. But they said Dandavati, a vocational rehabilitation counselor, struck more chords with the group in an appearance Tuesday. “Jerry didn’t discredit himself,” said one person in the room. “but he hit a single, Annie hit a home run.” Annie finally decided not to run for public office choosing to focus on her responsibilities to her family, and also believing that one does not have to be in public office in order to be a responsible and contributing citizen.
American Leadership Forum:
Annie Dandavati is a senior fellow of the Prestigious American Leadership Forum. This program was founded by the renowned John Gardner and Joe Jaworski.
No Room For Racism:
When a sitting member of the San Jose City Council was caught on video tape making racistcomments about various ethnic groups, theCoalition co-founded by Annie Dandavati did not take the matter lightly. The city councilmember had made racist comments about Asians,Hispanics, gays and lesbians. The Coalitionwould not tolerate racisim from anyone and particularly from an elected government official on public payroll. They quickly put together agroup made up of leaders from various groups. When Ms. Cole refused to publicly apologize to the citizens of San Jose for her comments the Coalition took on the first ever recall election in the City of San Jose and removed her from the office that requires fair and responsible representation of all constituents. The voice of the people prevailed.