To celebrate the new year, or Pohela Boishakh, the Jackson Heights Bangladesh Club hosted a festival including a cultural show, blood drive, and parade on 37th Avenue.
During the parade, musicians played traditional instruments and marchers held colorful masks and banners. In the cultural program, young girls danced to Bengali folk songs and singers performed famous Bengali folk and traditional songs.
“In Bangladesh, we celebrate Pohela Boishakh in a grand manner,” said Kumu Ishrat, wearing a traditional white sari with red border on it. “Today we gathered here to find the same essence of that day,”
People from all over New York City joined the festival, which fell on April 14, the first day of the year based on the Hindu Vedic solar calendar. For Bengali people, the day is one of cultural harmony without any distinction between class, race and religious affiliations.
“I am enjoying the festival with my community people,” said Minara Akter. “We get to get together once in a year. You see all these people at once it is amazing.”
Jackson Heights Bangladesh Club member and coordinator of the festival, Sams Ziaus worked hard to make the festival happened.
“We miss our home and childhood, so we feel to do something for Bengali people to celebrate Bengali New Year here,” said Sams Ziaus, club member and event coordinator. “Everyone is so busy here, we asked them to take one day off from their work and celebrate the Pohela Boishakh collectively. We also want the new generation to experience and learn Bengali culture.”
The blood drive was an important part of the festival. “Today, I am getting a huge response from people and already 81 people responded,” said organizer Mohammed Alam.
Poly Islam and her husband brought their four-year-old daughter to the festival to introduce her to Bengali culture. “I know much about my culture, but I want my kids to learn the culture,” said Islam.
But it was not just the Bengali community celebrating. S.P. Singh from Delhi, India, came to enjoy the festival.
“I am feeling so good to be with my own people from my neighboring country,” he said. “I do not understand the language, but I do understand the music, and the vibrant culture.”
Amanda Rahn came from Louisiana with her family and friends to experience her first Bengali New Year. “It is very exciting,” she said. “Everyone looks beautiful and the music is great.”