‘Our Diversity is Our Strength’
By MOHAMED ALIM HASSIM
NEW YORK — Queens Borough President Melinda Katz on Tuesday hosted her fifth annual Diwali celebration calling for unity at a time when the country is experiencing “extraordinary” difficulties and hateful acts.
“It’s an extraordinarily difficult time that we are living in, in the United States of America,” Katz told the gathering at the Helen Marshall Cultural Center at Queens Borough Hall, referring to recent mass killings and other acts of hate across the country. “But I feel when we get together we show that our diversity is nothing more than our strength,” she stated.
Pointing to the divisive rhetoric out of Washington which she believes contributes to a culture of hate, the Borough President said, “There needs to be an understanding in Washington that words matter; how we talk to each other matters; how we treat each other matters; how our leader speak to the rest of the world matters. Words matters and they lead to acts.”
She thanked the organizing committee of the annual Diwali celebration and the guests for attending the event; and she congratulated the five honorees and lauded them for the work they do for the community.
The honorees were: Nripendra Nath Dhar, Neil Ganesh (Principal of the Richmond Hill High School), Sanjeeta Koirala, Harshad Patel and Neranjohn Rambally.
Assembly Member David Weprin and New York City Council Member Barry Grodenchik, who were among the guests at the event, vowed to work towards making Diwali a public holiday for New York City schools.
“I predict in the near future we will have our public schools recognizing Diwali as a public holiday,” Weprin said.
He congratulated the honorees and singled out Ganesh for praise, for the work he does as principal of the Richmond Hill High School “in turning the school around.” Weprin said the school is now considered one of the top high schools in the city “and a lot of it has to do with Principal Ganesh’s leadership.”
Grodenchik, in his message, noted that Diwali is a perfect antidote to hate.
“It’s a perfect antidote to people who have closed their hearts to their brothers and sisters,” said the council member who is a member of the Jewish community. He thanked the gathering for the love and support following the recent killings at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh, PA.
The council member promised to work towards making Diwali a school holiday. “We are going to make Diwali, by hook or crook, a school holiday. I am committed to that. Other members of the city council are committed to that. Our borough president is committed to that. So we just have to convince our mayor and somehow we are going to do that.”
Community Affairs Coordinator of the Queens Borough President’s Office, Dr. Mohamed Hack, urged the gathering to continue the vigil, in the wake of the recent killings. “Let’s all stand together to rid our society of hate…always…not only when an incident like what happened in Pittsburgh, happens.”
A packed auditorium at the Helen Marshall Cultural Center was treated to an evening of prayers, messages, entertainment and refreshments.