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Forest Hills Honors Its Asian American And Pacific Islander Heritage

The first Asian American Pacific Islander Heritage Celebration kicked off this week at Russel Sage Junior High

Tuesday night, residents of Forest Hills gathered at for Asian American Heritage month. In order to commemorate this month, Council Member Karen Koslowitz, D-Forest Hills, and the host committees collaborated to create the first of many events bringing awareness for the Asian American culture.

“We have a very diverse community and it’s nice that we bring everyone together. Since queens is the most diverse borough, it’s nice for people to mingle [that are] from different nationalities and difference places that they were born,” Koslowtiz said.

Some of the leaders of the host committees that assisted with the event included, Richard Lee of the Asian Americans for Equality organization, Udai Tambar of the South Asian Youth Action and Sheebani Patel of the Coalition for Asian American Children and Families.

The night kicked off with an introduction from Council Member Peter Koo, D-Flushing.

“This month we recognize the generations of Asian American and Pacific Islanders that have helped the world [even] when faced with tremendous cultural obstacles," Koo said. "However despite these difficulties, Asian American and Pacific Islanders struggle, sacrifice and persevere to give a better life to their children and Americans. Today Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders have a profound impact on our society as leaders in all aspects of American  life, in public servants, entrepreneurs and artists.”

Koslowitz followed Koo, saying “it is wonderful to share everyone’s culture” and “this is my first [event] but it is certainly not my last.”

Shortly after, the two big attractions of the night were introduced. The first was a performance by a group called SAYA! West Indian Dance youth. They put on a ten-minute dance routine to Indian music.

The second performance was by the NY Hung Sing Kwoon organization. They performed a Chinese inspired routine with three Chinese dragons dancing to traditional Chinese drums and cymbals. This group wowed the audience with their precise movements and acrobatic jumps.

Garture Li, who played the cymbals during the performance, described his experience with Asian American awareness. “We hold leadership positions in the Asian clubs [within our schools] and do different dance performances all over the place.”

After the performances ended, Koslowitz introduced the guest speaker for night, New York City Comptroller John Liu. Liu described his experience in the council, and being one of the first Asian Americans to serve in the city council back in 2002. He proceeded to discuss his role as Comptroller.

“I find some of the fraud and abuse that goes on in city government, free up that money and put it back into the city treasury so that the council members can do their best with that money” commented Liu.

Afterward Liu and Koslowitz made two honorary presentations. The first was to Dr. Madhulika Khandelwal. Dr Khandelwal is the director of the Asian American Center at Queens College. She proudly announced that starting this fall, there will be a new course available to all students called “Asian American Community Studies” that will educated student on the culture of Asian Americans.

Khandelwal said, “We want more and more people, especially young people to know their communities and the ones who are not Asian Americans to know about [the culture] as well.”

Also honored was Arvind Mahankali, age 11. Mahankali was presented a citation  for his achievement as the local spelling bee champion. Next week he will travel to Washington, D.C. to compete in the national spelling bee. “I’m fascinated with words and they reveal so much about the human culture and history. I feel proud to bring championship to the community. I will try my best to make Forest Hills and New York City proud next week,” he said.

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