Personality: Mahmud Chowdhury

Spotlight on chairman of Asian American Society of Central Virginia

4/8/2021, 6 p.m.
At a time of heightened concern for and within the Asian-American community, Mahmud Chowdhury has his hands full.

At a time of heightened concern for and within the Asian-American community, Mahmud Chowdhury has his hands full.

The Henrico County resident has felt in recent weeks that his part-time volunteer position as chairman of the Asian American Society of Central Virginia has expanded into a full-time one in the wake of violence against Asian-Americans across the nation.

Nevertheless, Mr. Chowdhury is committed to serving his community and spreading a message of greater understanding and unity across Greater Richmond.

“Don’t hate Asian-Americans just because we look different,” Mr. Chowdhury says. “We are also human beings just like you are.”

First formed in 1998, AASoCV has worked to represent 18 local Asian-American communities by highlighting their cultures, traditions and rights. The group’s mission also includes charitable activities, fostering cultural exchange and civic participation, and more.

Mr. Chowdhury first joined the group around 2008 through his connections at the U.S. Bangladesh Social Organization, where he served as chairman. Starting out as a member of the AASoCV board, he later became chairman in February 2015. Since then, he has served three consecutive terms, all in order “to make a positive difference for the betterment of Asian-Americans” in the area and to highlight and raise the Asian-American communities’ profile.

“I wanted to contribute in a bigger way to the community,” Mr. Chowdhury notes.

As chairman, Mr. Chowdhury is tasked with setting the vision and curriculum of AASoCV’s work. His chief goal as chairman is to ensure the protection of Asian-American civil and political rights and to protect immigrant communities from exploitation.

To do so, Mr. Chowdhury seeks to bring their concerns to local, state and federal political and civic leaders and to get involved starting from the grassroots levels.

He has seen a lot more interest in this work as a number of local, state and national politicians and organizations have reached out to AASoCV recently about collaborations and community outreach.

As a result, Mr. Chowdhury says he had a 90-minute meeting last week with the police chiefs and commonwealth’s attorneys for the City of Richmond and Henrico and Chesterfield counties. The meeting was the latest in a long line of new connections being formed in the wake of tragedy, he says.

AASoCV’s work has been impacted somewhat during the COVID-19 pandemic. But that hasn’t stopped the group. A Virtual Asian-American Celebration is set for May 22.

Mr. Chowdhury and others are doing everything they can to keep going in trying times.

“Be creative and adapt to the situation presented,” Mr. Chowdhury says. “As it goes, when nature gives you lemons, make lemonade.”

Meet a community advocate and this week’s Personality, Mahmud Chowdhury:

No. 1 volunteer position: Chairman, Asian American Society of Central Virginia, or AASoCV.

Date of birth: Jan. 1

Where I live now: Glen Allen.

Education: Studied electrical engineering at the University of Houston, University Park.

Occupation: Real estate owner/ principal broker, Freedom 1 Realty Inc.

Family: Wife, Ferdoushi “Runu” Chowdhury, and three daughters, Farah, 33, Sera, 26, and Rifah Chowdhury, 22.

Asian American Society of Central Virginia is: An organization representing 18 Asian communities and highlighting Asian cultures, traditions, education and civic rights of these immigrant Asian-American communities.

When and why founded: In 1998, for showcasing cultures and traditions and political/ civil rights of Asian-American communities.

Founders: Lou-Jen Chu, Wilson Goh and Dr. Suwattana Sugg, among others.

Mission: To advance integration of Asian- Americans into the local community, while maintaining ethnic traditions, culture and identity; to stress unity among diverse groups; to initiate charitable activities and foster cultural exchange and civic participation; to advocate equal representation as a minority group; to nurture a non-partisan atmosphere of cooperation; and to strive to secure and uphold civil rights and equal justice under the U.S. Constitution and other laws of the United States for all Americans regardless of race, creed, color, sex, religion, education, profession, disability or national origin.

Brief profile of membership: Leaders of these Asian communities, with a maximum of three people who are selected by their own communities to represent their interests in the umbrella organization AASoCV.

Number of members: 45 currently.

When elected chairman of AASoCV: In February 2015.

Why I accepted position: To make a positive difference for the betterment of Asian-Americans living in the Greater Richmond area and to highlight and raise the profile of Asians living in our area.

Length of term: Two years. I have been re-elected several times.

Previous chairman’s name: Dr. Emanuel Eugenio.

No. 1 goal as AASoCV chairman: To make sure Asian-American civil/political rights are protected and these immigrant communities are not taken advantage of.

Strategy for achieving goals: Raise profile and concerns to local, state and federal political/ civic leaders and get involved starting from the grassroots levels.

How COVID-19 is affecting AASoCV’s mission: It definitely made it harder for us to achieve our goals. Through social media and virtual Zoom meetings, we kept in touch with our communities. We are planning to hold a virtual Asian American celebration May 22.

Lessons AASoCV has learned from the pandemic: In some ways, communities coming together is harder — not impossible, although hard. Be creative and adapt to the situation presented. As it goes, when nature gives you lemons, make lemonade.

AAPI acronym means: Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders.

What does Stop Hate AAPI mean for AASoCV: Don’t hate Asian-Americans just because we look different. We are also human beings just like you are.

Racial equity and AASoCV: Goes hand in hand.

AASoCV partners with: Like-minded organizations and appreciates the sponsors like Dominion Energy, Altria, Capital One, Henrico and Chesterfield counties, Evergreen Groups and Wells Fargo, among others.

Black community and Asian-American communities of Central Virginia: Need to form closer relationships to benefit and learn from each other.

How I start the day: How can I make a positive difference in someone’s life today.

Three words that best describe me: Humble, ambitious and caring.

Best late-night snack: Nuts and yogurts.

How I unwind: Family vacations and through prayers.

What I have learned about myself during the pandemic: Be adaptive, more appreciative to God, as God is there to remind that no one is more powerful than God. God created me and He can take me away in a flash.

Something I love to do that most people would never imagine: Donate anonymously.

Quote that I am most inspired by: “Ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country.” — President John F. Kennedy

At the top of my “to-do” list: To stop Asian hate through education to eradicate ignorance.

Best thing my parents ever taught me: To stay honest and humble.

Person who influenced me the most: Our daughter, Farah Chowdhury (she doesn’t know it but...)

Book that influenced me the most: “Dreams from my Father: A Story of Race and Inheritance” by former President Barack Obama.

What I’m reading now: “Keep Sharp: Build a Better Brain at Any Age” by Dr. Sanjay Gupta.

Next goal: Have grandchildren and spend time with them to complete life cycle.