Jackson Heights Merchants Association Holds 32nd Diwali Celebrations

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New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, addressing a huge gathering at the Jackson Heights Merchants Association Diwali event in Queens, N.Y., Oct. 10, 2021. Photo: ITV Gold

In a sign of the importance of Indian-American businesses in Queens and New York City as a whole, several high-profile elected officials attended the Diwali celebrations Oct. 10, 2021, hosted by the Jackson Heights Merchants Association. This was the 32nd year that such a celebration was being held.

Dance groups performing at the Oct. 10, 2021, Diwali festival organized by the Jackson Heights Merchants Association. Photo: ITV Gold

A large crowd gathered at 74th Street and 37th Ave. Several local popular dance groups and singers regaled the crowd with Bollywood, classical and bhangra dances, as well as songs. Awards were also bestowed on members of the community. The crowd at the event was a mix of Indians and non-Indians, in what was a joyous occasion after a year of isolation and tragedies during the one and a half years of pandemic regulations. Even at the event many attendees continued to wear masks.

Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer, addressing a huge gathering at the Jackson Heights Merchants Association Diwali event in Queens, N.Y., Oct. 10, 2021. Photo: ITV Gold

‘Diwali Mubarak’ declared United States Senator Charles Schumer, D-NY, who currently holds the powerful position of  Senate Majority Leader on Capitol Hill. He praised Shiv Das, president of JHMA, and the organization for making 74th Street in Jackson Heights “tick so well.”

“I love the Indian community. And I worked hard to change our immigration laws so that more people from India can come to Queens, to Jackson Heights, to New York, and to America,” Schumer said. However, he added, anti-immigration and anti-Asian sentiments had surfaced during the last administration.

“In this country there has always been a degree of bigotry against people of color, including Asian Americans,” Schumer said. “But we always tried, all of the leaders, Democrats and Republicans, tried to push it down, to combat it. That’s not only what Barack Obama or Bill Clinton did, but also Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush, and George W. Bush did.”

“The values of this (Indian-American) community, as we celebrate Diwali, are American values,” Schumer maintained, such as values of family, education, and hard work. “And when Indians come, and people from all of South Asia come to America, they work hard, they get a better life for their families, for their children, but also for Jackson Heights, for Queens, and for the United States of America,” Schumer said.

Padma Shri Dr. Sudhir Parikh, chairman of Parikh Worldwide Media and ITV Gold, speaking on stage with Sen. Charles Schumer,at the Oct. 10, 2021, Jackson Heights Merchants Association Diwali event. Photo: ITV Gold

Padma Shri Dr. Sudhir Parikh, chairman of Parikh Worldwide Media and ITV Gold, as well as the Center for Asthma & Allergy, who followed Sen. Schumer, described him as one of the “most popular” elected officials, and thanked him “for all his service to the country as well as specifically for Indian American community.” Wishing him Happy Diwali, Dr. Parikh said, “This is like forgetting the pandemic, putting it behind us, and moving forward.”

From left, Indian Deputy Consul General Varun Jeffs, community leader Kanu Chauhan, and U.S. Senator Charles Schumer, D-New York, at the Oct. 10, 2021, Diwali celebrations hosted by the Jackson Heights Merchants Association. Photo: ITV Gold

In his address to the crowd, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio said the Indian community represents all that is good about the Big Apple. After 8 years as Mayor and having traveled all over the city, de Blasio said, “I see the extraordinary contributions you make in public service, in arts and culture, in business, you name it. The communities we celebrate today have made New York City great, have sustained us in the most difficult moment in our history.”

A section of the crowd enjoying the Diwali celebrations Oct. 10, 2021, organized by Jackson Heights
Merchants Association. Photo: ITV Gold

Calling the crowd ‘heroes’ who brought the city out of the pandemic, Mayor de Blasio said it was fitting to discuss Diwali as it symbolized the triumph of good over evil and light over darkness. He extended special wishes to the Sikh community during its celebration of Bandi Chhor Divas (Day of Liberation) which commemorates Guru Hargobind’s release from Gwalior Fort during the reign of Emperor Jahangir.

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio with leaders of the Jackson Heights Merchants Association, and other special guests on stage at the Diwali festival organized by Jackson Heights Merchants Association, held Oct. 10, 2021. Photo: ITV Gold

Mayor de Blasio noted how during the pandemic, nobody asked each other what nationality or religion they belonged to. And how healthcare workers and ordinary people came to each other’s aid. “We have a mission ahead – to keep building that society for everyone; to keep building that mutual respect,” no matter the forces against it.

New York City Council Member Daniel Dromm described, “The Indian community in Jackson Heights, which is known worldwide because of the men and women who are here with me on the stage, who made 74th Street in Jackson Heights what it is today.” He applauded the work of JHMA.

Dance groups and popular singers, performed at the Oct. 10, 2021, Jackson Heights Merchants Association Diwali event. Photo: ITV Gold

“Diwali is the holiday of light, and we are going to make sure that this community continues to light up New York City, to lift up New York City, and to say that New York City is a great place because of the Indian, the Jain, the Hindu and the Sikh communities that live here in this neighborhood, in Jackson Heights, the most diverse community in the whole world,” Dromm said, adding he was proud to represent it as an elected official.

India’s Deputy Consul General Varun Jeffs, also spoke, saying people-to-people relations were the bedrock of the strong Indian and U.S. relationship. He wished those present a happy upcoming festival season.

Attorney Ravi Batra, in a brief interview with ITV Gold, said Jackson Heights was a symbol of America. “This is the American Dream we see Live every day.”

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