Close to 3,000 people came to enjoy food and entertainment at the Boishakhi Mela organized by the New AmericanWomen’s Forum of New York April 15. organization holds Boishakhi mela in Queens, N.Y.
Held at Public School 131, on 84th Ave. in Jamaica, Queens, from 2 pm to 11 pm, people, many of Bangladeshi descent, celebrated the Bangla New Year, serving up much-loved home cooking, with maach jhaal (fish curry), rice, alu bhaate (mashed potatoes), and numerous other delicacies seldom found in restaurants.
Vendors with clothing, jewelry and gift items and food set up stalls. Several government services booths distributed information on issues of interest to new immigrants, including legal help, housing, seniors services, and women’s issues. Local Bangladeshi artists and children from the Shorolipi Cultural Group performed. There was a fashion show and Bangla band music to liven up the atmosphere.
Hundreds lined up for the one-hour food service. “The food line was humongous stretching out to the street,” Rokeya Akhter, one of the organizers with NAWFNY, told Desi Talk.
The NAWFNY was formed in 2014 to help empower South Asian women, particularly those of Bangladeshi origin. It works with other local organizations, the state and local administration as well as with elected officials, to address needs of new immigrants.
“Through these melas we want to make our community more visible,more connected with the mainstream so that our issues can be addressed,” said Rubaiya Rahman, executive vice president of NAWFNY. “We have domestic violence issues, immigration problems with the rise in rhetoric, and even other domestic issues like autism,” said Rahman, who is also the executive director of Autism Society Habilitation Association or ASHA.
The chief guest at the Boishakhi Mela was Queens Borough President Melinda Katz who spoke about the growth of NAWFNY over the years and the work it does among South Asians; Also attending was U.S. Rep. Gregory Meeks, D-N.Y..
From Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s office were Hersh Parekh, community outreach coordinator, Jenifer Rajkumar, recently appointed head of the Governor’s Office of Immigrant Affairs; a representative from Public Advocate Letitia James’ office; and from Comptroller Scott Stringer’s office.
“If anybody wants to be a member of NAWFNY, they can join for just $5 a month,” Akhter said.