Queens Borough President Melinda Katz on Oct. 24 welcomed a large gathering of the Hindu community to celebrate the Fourth Annual Diwali Festival, stating she was honored that immigrants from different countries, come yearly to Borough Hall to “allow us to be a small apart of this celebration, to honor the traditions of their parents and their parents’ parents.”
Katz, told nationals in the Helen Marshall Cultural Center — a fitting tribute to the late Borough president of Guyanese parentage — “It is worth repeating at this particular time, when immigrants are being verbally attacked on a national level – that people from all over the world make sacrifices and save and to bring their families to the United States of America, especially Queens, so they can have a better life for their families, the life they never dreamed of having for themselves.”
“I am here to say that we would like you to come to Queens, we have provided a safe and beautiful place for you to raise your families, and to visit any religious temple or religious organization, to speak the language you want to speak, and dress the beautiful way you want to dress from the country you came from,” said Katz.
She called Queens a sanctuary city, adding ‘we are proud of our diversity, and likened Diwili to the Jewish holiday that is celebrated around the same time, noting that her children celebrate all the holidays in the public school system. “It is truly a remarkable honor for my children to have.”
“You are always welcome at Borough Hall to celebrate the festival of lights,” said the politician, who represents the immigrants who help to make-up the 2.4 million residents who live in the borough.
She thanked Guyanese-born, Mohamed Hack, and the Diwali Celebration Committee, among others, who play a significant role in bringing the festival to the government office.
She applauded honorees Dilip Nath, Mahadeo Shivraj, a moviemaker, and Jarnail Singh, owner of Richie Rich Restaurant, who came from Bangladish, Guyana and India, for their outstanding contributions to the borough.
Assemlymember David I. Weprin, who passed a bill for the creation of a postal stamp of the Diwali festival, and other politicians, brought greetings to the gathering.
Barbara Atherly, Guyana’s consul general to New York, in turn, reflected on the spirit of Diwali, and told celebrants the festival “must instill in us a positive resolve to love life, to love our families, to love our communities and to love our dear homeland.”
Greetings from Consul General of Bangladesh, Shameem Ahsan and Consul General of Nepal, Madhu Kumar Marasini, also spoke of the beauty and spirit of Diwali.
Prayers by Pandit Shymal Chakraborty, Pandit Mahesh Joshi and Pandit Tilakdharry Seerattan, blessed the evening of colorful performances by Virendra Banker of the Bruhud NY Seniors, and Anuradha Khanna of the Radha Krishna Govind, who rendered Bhajans — musical interlude, and cultural dance choreography by American Bangali Hindu Foundation and others.
Ladies dressed in beautifully decorated Saris and men in traditional Indian attire, made up the packed audience that enjoyed the festivity, emceed by popular broadcaster of QPTV and 8K Radio Imran Ahmad and Moyouri Bhattacharjee of the American Bangali Hindu Foundation.
NYPD officers, Guyanese-born Khyume Khan and Deodat Urprasad, deputy inspector, commanding officer of the 102nd Precinct of the Desi Society, representing the South-Asian American Police Officers, also attended the commemoration.
Diwali or Deepavali, which is celebrated with food, sweets and gifts, is one of the most widely celebrated festivals by Hindus, Jains, Buddhists and Sikhs worldwide, and commemorates the spiritual awakening of Lord Mahavira, and celebrates light over darkness, and good over evil.