By Kia Makarechi
April 13, 2011, New York, NY– The 8th Annual Persian Day Parade went off without a hitch in New York City on April 10th, thanks to the hard work of the Persian Parade planning committee (www.nypp.org) and the myriad participants who enlivened Madison Avenue with the riches of Persian culture.
A number of PAAIA Tri-State New York members marched in the parade alongside colleagues from the Iranian American Bar Association (www.iaba.us). Among those present was Shaheen Ensanyat, the NexGen co-leader for PAAIA Tri-State New York. Ensanyat described the event as a milestone for the Iranian American community, as “a unique cultural event to the New York area for uniting Iranian Americans in celebration of our rich and diverse Persian heritage.” He describes the parade as “an occasion that transcends any religious and political divisions within our community, and the overwhelming support and massive attendance are both testaments to how united and proud we really are as Iranian Americans.”
Many noted the sense of unity that pervaded the procession, which included multiple religious and ethnic groups but came together to herald the arrival of Spring and lay aside any political or social tensions. At a concert and fair at the parade’s terminus in Madison Square Park, strangers, family and friends alike danced while snacking on kabobs and checking out the different booths of various organizations.
At PAAIA’s booth, a busy group of volunteers explained the organization’s mission to eager passersby. Their hard work (and t-shirt disseminating) paid off: PAAIA collected enough membership cards to increase its Tri-State rolls by nearly 25 percent.
The parade itself was a great success. Persian Parade President Kambiz Mofrad estimated that 40-50,000 people lined the avenue for the afternoon of pride and culture. It was a distinctly mixed crowd, with Iranians from nearby areas, children, senior citizens, and even some who happened to be visiting from Iran.
As Joelle Keypour, PAAIA Intern, who manned the PAAIA booth for much of the duration of the event puts it, “It was great to see the genuine interest shown among the various generations in the community, which I think reflects PAAIA’s goals and activities perfectly. There were those of an older generation who only spoke Farsi looking for a way to connect with other Persians, parents trying to get their children involved in Persian arts and culture, professionals seeking networking opportunities, and students excited to hear about PAAIA’s NextGen and mentorship programs.”
She sums up the spirit of the day best when she noted, “the community really came together, left issues about religion and politics behind, and just celebrated our culture.”
The benefits of such events are two-fold; not only do Iranian Americans get an opportunity to strengthen ties to their culture and each other, the general public gains a view of Iranian Americans that is unfiltered by stereotype and the gaze of the media.
While it’s true that Chararshanbeh Suri and Sizdah Be-dar have been practiced throughout the United States for many years, these events are internal and often huddled. The Persian Day Parade and organizations such as PAAIA do well to bring an awareness of Iranians (personified through a recent campaign to get Iranians to self-identify in the 2010 Census) to the public at large.
The jubilant jaunt down Madison Avenue in Manhattan’s Flatiron District was marked by a number of touching moments but perhaps none more so than the sight of NYPD officers carrying an Iranian flag. It was a picture of hope for greater cooperation between the Iranian American community and the civil servants and leaders of the United States, a vignette of the very work that PAAIA is proud to support.
Kia Makarechi is an editor and writer for the Huffington Post and AOL. He lives in New York. Adapted from: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/kia-makarechi/iranians-on-madison-avenu_b_847712.html.