IAPAC Hosts Northern California Nowruz Celebration
San Francisco, CA - IAPAC’s 2008 Northern California Nowruz Celebration, “Honoring the Accomplishments of Iranian Americans,” was a night of high spirits, passionate speeches, community cohesion, and appreciation for the outstanding individuals who represent Iranian Americans in their everyday work. The event, held on March 9, 2008 at the Ritz Carlton in San Francisco, showcased how far the Iranian American community has come in investing in and lauding the efforts of individuals who speak for, work for, and make strides for Iranian Americans.
Comedian and actor Maz Jobrani emceed the sold out event, inserting the right amount of humor at every juncture, and ultimately closing the evening with a stand up routine. The focus of the evening though was the line up of presenters and award recipients who moved the crowd with their inspirational messages about the need to work together as an immigrant community and to ensure that our communal voice is heard in government, media, and in the general public.
Congressman Michael Honda (D-15th/CA) set the tone for the night’s awards, by presenting Certificates of Appreciation to three Iranian Americans who have made significant contributions to American society: Banafsheh Akhlaghi, Human Rights Attorney and founder of National Legal Sanctuary for Community Advancement, California Superior Court Judge Susan Etezadi, and Actor and Writer Rosie Malek-Yonan (who could not be present to receive her award). In acknowledging their respective work, Congressman Honda took note of legislative accomplishments, like House Resolution 476, which have helped provide constitutional protections to civil rights, and community campaigns like the Iranian American Know Your Rights Campaign, which have helped educate the public on their civil rights. Congressman Honda emphasized the need for authentic leadership, and congratulated the Iranian American community for establishing an organization that speaks for the voices within the community.
The power of Iranian Americans in San Francisco government evidenced itself as well. San Francisco Supervisor Ross Mirkarimi (District 5), the first Iranian American elected to office in San Francisco, addressed the audience, remarking that actions taken on the national level have consequences both abroad and here at home. Supervisor Mirkarimi, who is seeking reelection this year, commented on the swift action he and the city of San Francisco took in responding to the detainment of SUTA members who had traveled to the United States for SUTA’s annual reunion. Ahsha Safai, candidate for the San Francisco Board of Supervisors (District 11) spoke to the crowd about his appreciation for his Iranian culture and for the community’s support of him, telling the crowd, “I’m proud to be Iranian tonight.”
After performances by the Beshkan Dance Academy and Hekmat Ensemble, IAPAC representatives updated the attendees on the progress the organization has made and on the goals hoped to be achieved this year. They cited IAPAC’s legislative achievements, its relationships with the Iranian American community and federal lawmakers, and its ranking in the top 20% of all PACs in terms of funds raised during the 2004 and 2006 Election Cycles.
The evening closed with IAPAC presenting an artistic replica of Cyrus the Great’s Cylinder, the first universal declaration of human rights, made by renowned Iranian artist Nasser Ovissi, to Ms. Akhlaghi, Judge Etezadi, and Ms. Malek-Yonan. Judge Etezadi thanked IAPAC and the Iranian American community for supporting her campaign in 2006, and generously used her time at the podium to encourage the same support for Susan Amini, an Iranian American candidate for Superior Court Judge in Seattle, Washington. When receiving her award for her contributions to the area of human rights and specifically to the Iranian American community, Ms. Akhlaghi said that the work she and others are doing now to protect human rights must be done, so that generations after will not have to. Moved by her words, the audience gave Ms. Akhlaghi a standing ovation, an appropriate closure to an evening of appreciation.