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Brooklynites celebrate Asian American, Native Hawaiian & Pacific Islander Heritage Month

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Brooklynites celebrated Asian American, Native Hawaiian, and Pacific Islander Heritage Month with a joyous musical celebration at Brooklyn Borough Hall on Thursday.

Kings County is home to the second-largest Asian population in New York City, according to the 2020 census, and the celebration — headed by Brooklyn Borough President Antonio Reynoso — reflected the enormous diversity of AANHPI cultures found in the borough, with a special tribute to Southeast Asian culture.

“Everything we can dream up for our city’s future is inspired by the stories and cultures that live within the people who call it home,” Reynoso said in a statement. “I’m so excited that this month is all about celebrating our Asian American, Native Hawaiian, and Pacific Islander neighbors’ heritage and vision for Brooklyn. This borough is at its best when we come together in appreciation of what makes us special and in recognition of what binds us as one: our love for Brooklyn.”

Borough President Antonio Reynoso speaks at the Asian American, Native Hawaiian, & Pacific Islander Heritage Month celebration.Photo courtesy of the Borough President’s Office

The lively celebration kicked off with a performance by violinists Trina Basu and Arun Ramamurthy of the Brooklyn Raga Massive, a South Asian musical collective. Basu and Ramamurthy blended classical South Indian tunes with Western chamber music and even a little jazz. 

Their performance was followed by a song-and-dance number by first graders from P.S. 153 in Homecrest, and a duo from the Bangladesh Institute of Performing Arts closed out the evening with a dance set to the Bangla song “Anodo Dhara.” 

The final dance explored themes of eternal bliss and the deep connection between humans and nature, and the ties between individuals, the universe, and the divine.

“It is important to note our City, our Borough of Brooklyn has long served as a beacon of hope for immigrants and marginalized communities who are looking for a safe haven and a land of new opportunities,” said Damaris Bergas-Misarti, assistant vice president and community affairs manager at Ponce Bank, which sponsored the event. “Our AAPI neighbors make us stronger, more resilient and more innovative and we at Ponce Bank believe that this month brings great joy across Brooklyn, our City our State and nationwide in celebration of the rich heritage Asian Americans and Pacific Islander Americans have achieved and contributed.”

Reynoso also recognized the contributions of local community organizations, awarding proclamations to the APNA Brooklyn Community Center and Bangladeshi American Community Development and Youth Services.

Ashley Huang, director of the School-Age Child Care Center at P.S. 153, received a special citation for her work in connecting immigrant and low-income families with necessary, hard-to-reach resources.

Borough President Reynoso presents a proclamation to Ashley Huang,  the Director of the School-Age Child Care Center at P.S. 153.Borough President Reynoso presents a proclamation to Ashley Huang, the Director of the School-Age Child Care Center at P.S. 153.Photo courtesy of the Borough President’s Office

After awards and speeches, it was time to eat — Jalsa Grill & Gravy in Little Pakistan and SweetTalk in Gowanus served up their respective Indian and Hawaiian cuisines, laying out samosas, butter chicken, naan, Spam musubi and kalua pork. 

“With these values held firmly within us, we can ensure our neighborhoods remain safe homes for all, free of hate and judgement and instead full of celebration and respect. Thank you to the many incredible artists, performers, students, local businesses, sponsors, and other partners who have made this evening possible,” Reynoso said.