PATERSON, NJ- For one group of vocal Paterson residents Tuesday’s National Night Out event hosted by Councilman Shahin Khalique was an opportunity to lend their voices to a global campaign to raise awareness of issues hitting their ancestral homeland of Bangladesh.
The students and young adults, ranging in age from their teens to their late twenties, and members of local non-profit Cycle of Benefits, held signs and cheered peacefully calling for changes to traffic safety laws in Bangladesh, where on July 29 a bus driver hit several students, killing two on the scene. In the time since thousands of students have taken to the streets in the nation’s capital, Dhaka, demanding the same type of traffic calming measures local residents would often call for within the Council Chambers of Paterson City Hall: reduced speeds, street bumps, pedestrian bridges, etc.
After briefly shutting down the media and internet, according to Mohammed Haque, president of Circle of Benefits, the Bangladeshi government has agreed to a nine point plan to prevent further fatalities on the roads there. “We want to make sure those changes are made,” Haque told TAPinto Paterson, “our voices can have a huge influence.”
Those gathered, Haque said, were out to “show the world” that they stood with their fellow demonstrators nearly 8,000 miles away and to highlight the power of “standing up and speaking against something incorrect in the world.”
“We have gathered not as individuals, but as a unified voice of justice, awareness, and safety for our brothers and sisters back in Bangladesh,” Taj Uddin, Cycle of Benefits’ Managing Director of Community Outreach said. “Ask yourselves” he implored to all that could hear him, “how can I help my brothers and sisters?”
While the evening’s gathering was undoubtedly focused on happenings well beyond Paterson’s borders, Haque was quick to point out that the organization is also focused on serving their local community. “We want to help educate our own community on how they can make a difference,” Haque said pointing to park cleanups, sporting events, and SAT prep classes they have hosted since their launch in 2017.
Not one to miss an opportunity to promote his efforts to insure an accurate population count as part of Census 2020 Mayor Andre Sayegh took the microphone briefly on Tuesday evening, and while commending the group for their efforts issued them a challenge asking “will you be with us when it comes time to count in 2020?”
The invitation was enthusiastically accepted with Haque saying later that Cycle of Benefits “has agreed to collaborate and support Mayor Sayegh and his administration to develop a plan to execute his initiative to obtain an accurate count.”
Cycle of Benefits, he concluded, will continue to support programs that will “enrich community awareness and involvement to reach our goals for a better future.”