Speaker of the New York City Council, Adrienne E. Adams, on Nov. 1, extended greetings, and welcomed a large group of colorfully dressed nationals to City Hall Chambers to host the first ever commemoration of Diwali, the festival of lights.
The politician partnered with City Council Members Amanda Farias, James F. Gennaro, Shekar Krishnan, Gale A. Brewer, Linda Lee, Carlina Rivera, Lynn Schulman, Sandra Ung, Rita Joseph, Natasha Williams and Julie Won to host the event.
Several leaders were honored with Proclamations for their exceptional work in the community. They are Falguni Shah, Raghbir Singh, Ram Halder and Pushpa Shah, MD.
Adams was decked out in Indian regalia, matched with a colorful garland, and surrounded by members of the Queens community including Dr. Neeta Jain, Democratic District Leader, NYS 25th Assembly District.
After a lamp lighting ceremony to observe the Hindu festival, Adams expressed how wonderful it was to be celebrating Diwali, and to be back in-person, after the pandemic.
“Happy Diwali, welcome to the people’s house. It is an absolute honor to host you this evening inside of the Council chambers for a Diwali celebration. I am so proud to be joined by my council member colleagues. Tonight’s event is just the second cultural event hosted in these chambers since the pandemic, and we are so excited to be back,” said the speaker of the New York City Council.
Noting that there was a fantastic Hispanic event a month before, with music, dance, and cultural performances, Adams said, “Tonight’s Diwali will be just as special. It is an opportunity for our communities to showcase their incredible talents and traditions. Diwali, the beautiful festival of lights symbolizes the triumph of light over darkness, and good over evil. It is a meaningful holiday celebrated by our Hindu, Jade, and Sikh communities.”
Adams said such a festival was important and as such she joined Mayor Eric Adams, and other elected officials in calling for the festival to become a holiday. “I strongly support efforts to officially place Diwali on the public-school calendar. We must include it, along with Eid, Lunar New Year, and other important holidays, because our students should not have to choose between their faith and culture, and education,” said Adams.
“I am hopeful that our partners in state government would act, proper action, overdue action, to make Diwali a school holiday, and fill a shared goal, that is so long overdue, as we continue to advocate to keep highlighting what makes our city the diverse community that is so vibrant, and so unique. That is what tonight’s celebration is all about. I am so proud to host it here in the people’s house,” she said.
Adams concluded by thanking the City Council staff, whom she said worked so hard to facilitate the program, singling out Dr. Neeta Jain, who dressed her for the festivities.
The speaker of the House, then presented Falguni Shah with a Proclamation. She is a singer, whose music blends ancient classical Indian melodies with contemporary western sounds.
The celebration that opened with a Peace Prayer by Pandit Dixit, the singing of the National Anthem by Mrs. Amrita Guah, and invocation dance by Kashmiraa Pandit, garnered loud applause from the packed audience, who cheered on exciting dance choreographies performed by Venita Kothari, the Bharati Dance Academy, and closed with a magnificent multicultural, multiethnic performance by Masal Bhangra Dancers.
In closing remarks, NYC Council Member Shekar Krishnan, District 25, Jackson Heights and Elmhurst, Queens, the first Indian American ever elected to the City Council in NYC history, spoke about community and togetherness, and thanked all who participated.