PATERSON, NJ- Paterson’s City Council Chambers was transformed into a sea of vibrant green and red on December 15 as a capacity crowd filled the rows to celebrate the positive impact the Bangladeshi community has made on the increasingly diverse city.
Second Ward Councilman Shahin Khalique led the festivities held on the 48th anniversary of Victory Day which marks Bangladesh’s victory in their fight for freedom over Pakistan. The Liberation War, as it is known historically, left three million Bangladeshis dead and another 10 million as refugees.
Khalique was joined by six of his eight Council colleagues, as well as Mayor Andre Sayegh, in the celebration that included music, dance, and food. Also taking prominent seats on the stage were three local men, revered for their participation in Bangladesh War of Independence as Freedom Fighters.
Intashan Chowdhury, a Paterson native currently serving as business administrator for neighboring Prospect Park, spoke passionately about his ancestral nation’s history, saying that those in the room, as well as all making contributions in their adopted community, “represent our people here and at home.”
Prospect Park Mayor Mayor Mohamed T. Khairullah and Council President Anand Shah were also in attendance.
Numbering approximately 16,000, the Bangladeshi-American community in Paterson is among one of the most active in the city when it comes to growing businesses and excelling in education. With former councilman Mohammed Akhtaruzzaman signaling his intent to challenge Khalique for the Second Ward council seat, the community is also expected to be energized in advance of the 2020 election.
While the Sunday event was strictly about celebrating Bangladesh, hints of the brewing campaign broke through with Council President Martiza Davila offering a tacit endorsement of Khalique saying “his work has been for all of the Second Ward, and all of Paterson.”
Chowdhury’s words could also be seen as an effort to curtail a potentially bruising campaign. “Let us end division to validate our strength in the community,” the young, but increasingly influential, voice said.
Sayegh drew applause when he showed his enthusiasm for the contributions made by the community, which earlier this year were memorialized in the form the renaming of a portion of Union Boulevard to Bangladesh Boulevard.
Listing off a number of appointments, including as deputy mayor, planning board commissioner, and to a statewide committee that helps oversee business growth in New Jersey’s urban centers, Sayegh, perhaps offering a foreshadowing of things to come, said “it’s time to name the first Bangladeshi cabinet member in Paterson.”
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