PATERSON, NJ – Westside Park came alive on Saturday with the aroma of spices, the sparkle of brightly-colored clothing and the sounds of foot-tapping music.
The scene was part of the Ramadan Celebration hosted by one of Paterson’s major Bengali groups, World Glam Entertainment, an event held one week after the end of the Muslim month of holy fasting.
“This festival displays a part of our culture,” answered 32-year-old Rohel Ahmed, when asked about his feelings regarding the event. “As a community, we have to help each other and support the event.”
“Ramadan is a time where families come together,” said 19-year-old Mala Begum, a biology major at The College of New Jersey in Mercer County. She plans to return to the hectic college life on Sunday and came out to the Ramadan Celebration on Saturday to spend time with her family and friends. “It feels really nice to be here.”
Paterson’s Bengali residents had reason to celebrate as this has been an eventful year for the community.
First, back in the winter, they convinced city officials to allow them to erect a Martyrs’ Monument in Westside Park. The monument is designed to pay tribute to the demonstrators in Bangladesh who were killed in 1952 by Pakistani police during protests against policies banning Bengalis from speaking their language.
Then in May, voters in Paterson’s 2nd Ward elected Mohammed Akhtaruzzaman to the City Council, making him the first Bengali to win public office in North Jersey.
“Although I am from the Bengali backbone, I feel proud to represent both the Bengali community as well as all the other communities in the city,” smiled Aktharuzzaman. “I feel grateful to everyone who has supported me.”
“This festival does in a way celebrate the emergence of the Bengali community in Paterson,” added the councilman.
Even former councilman Aslin Goow’s pending court challenge seeking to oust Akhtaruzzam from office over questions about his residency has become a rallying point for some Bengalis who have created a legal defense fund to help pay the councilman’s attorney fees.
When asked why this event was organized this year, World Glam Entertainment Advisor, Ajmol Ali answered, “Basically, after Eid, there wasn’t any other event, and we wanted to do something for the community.”
“The councilman isn’t influenced by this event, however, the Martyr’s Monument is,” added Ali. “Some of the money we raise today will be used for the Monument.”
World Glam Entertainment played a role in obtaining the approval for the Martyr’s Monument. “My biggest dream was to build a monument to respect the people who sacrificed their lives for the Bangla language,” said Mohammed J. Ahmed, President of World Glam Entertainment.
When asked if the celebration was partly in regards to having a Bengali elected to public office, Ahmed replied, “We are involved in the city elections, county elections, and all elections. Although we are proud to have a Bengali as a councilman, we support all elections.”
“Ramadan is one of the five pillars of Islam and it is worth celebrating,” added Ahmed.
Saturday’s festival was also sponsored by US Mortgage Corporation
Most people define Ramadan as a month of fasting, where Muslims do not drink water or eat food from sunrise to sundown. However, Ramadan is more than just fasting; it is the month of forgiveness, mercy, and salvation.
“After the month of Ramadan, you get this feeling of purity and innocence,” said 29-year-old, Ali Ahmed, “like you have been washed of all your sins.”
When asked to describe Ramadan, 52-year-old Abdul Mukith, replied, “A big part of Ramadan is to understand poverty and be able to relate to it, donate to the less fortunate, and to be grateful for what you have in life.”
The celebration began in the morning and continued until about 10 pm. Although the turnout was light in the morning, it picked up in the late afternoon and continued to grow into the evening.