BY MIKE LEE
With colorful dance, music and fanfare, the union’s Asian Heritage Committee kicked off its annual celebration at union headquarters before a packed house on May 20.
The theme of the event was “Culture Moving Across the Boundaries,” a subject stressed by committee chair, Maf Misbah Uddin, DC 37 treasurer and president of Local 1407, in his welcoming address to the gathering.
Highlighting the growth of the Asian American community in the last few decades and their vital contributions to U.S. society and the business community, Uddin said, “We have some of the most sophisticated physicians, engineers, mathematicians and computer scientists in the entire world. We own businesses, educate our children and provide the United States with an outstanding number of talented individuals in all professions.”
Later, Uddin referred to the presumptive Republican presidential nominee, Donald Trump, who rode a wave of xenophobic anti-immigrant sentiment to the cusp of the GOP nomination.
“We are here to stay,” Uddin said. “There is a presidential election. There is a man named Donald Trump running for president. He hates immigrants because we are immigrants! What he says is immigrants are why this country is going down. But I say that we are why this country is doing better than ever before.”
“In the election this November, we will stand together to defeat Donald Trump,” he said.
Speaking on behalf of DC 37 Executive Director Henry Garrido, DC 37 Associate Director Oliver Gray spoke of the contributions Asian Americans have made to the labor movement.
“We appreciate our Asian American members for their dedication and loyalty, which has been pivotal in winning many of our struggles and helping us become a stronger and more effective union,” he said.
The committee presented awards to individuals cited for the contributions to the country and their prominence in the local Asian American community.
New Jersey Assembly member Raj Mukherji, of Jersey City, the first South Asian elected to that state’s assembly, also spoke of the challenges ahead. After thanking the committee for the honor, he said, “Some will have you believe that xenophobia is the order of the day, but we know that this is not true. We should all remember we are not to be divided by subgroups, because the ties that bind us are far stronger than any lines that divide us.”
Also receiving citations from the committee were NYPD Detective Suk Too for her community relations work and Shokwat Khan, president of the Alliance of South Asian American Labor’s Queens chapter. The committee cited Khan’s service as the national director of the group’s job seminar project, which has created work opportunities for new immigrants in the New York City area, thus increasing the number of union members amongst Asian Americans.
Keynote speaker, the Hon. Judge Dorothy Chin-Brandt, the first Asian American woman elected to the New York Supreme Court, also spoke, as did local activist Don Lee, chair of Homecrest Community Services and a former DC 37 member.
The audience was entertained by performances of popular Indonesian dance by Surabaya and, afterward, Bangladeshi musical dances by the ADC dance group, which did renditions of both traditional and South Asian film music. The audience also enjoyed performances by Japanese solo dancers and Chinese folk dancers.