As Norooz approached the buzz of New York's first Persian Parade made its way to Chicago via email. My curiosity was sparked. Things like this happen in California, but NY? So, I planned a visit to the Big Apple from Chicago. I went through the motions, emailed my friends and cousins to see what's up and coordinate, and made sure to leave Saturday morning free to go witness this event.
After a night of partying with my crew, I painfully got out of bed, got ready, and made my way towards Madison Ave. On the way, my friend Ramin called and said he was already there. Video camera in hand I met up with him. We were waiting and looking around for a while cracking jokes about whether people standing around us were really Persian or some other ethnicity that could resemble us (Puerto Rican, Cuban, etc.) hired to fill the streets. We were initially a bit disappointed with the turnout; we blamed it on inclement weather, then on the foreign concept of a parade, and finally Persians' tendency to be lazy.
Slowly but surely the parade came our way. I stood there watching through the camera's view finder thinking to myself, “Should I have stayed in bed?” I figured I came all the way to NY and I am standing here in the rain, I may as well get it all on tape since most of my friends (lazy Persians) were still sleeping anyway; I had to make sure to document what they were missing, not to mention I had to share it with my friends and family in Chicago.
Amazingly the sun started to shine, and I looked up from my video camera and noticed the transformation in the street, the DJ Float and the dancing groups were in front of us and we were surrounded…. surrounded by Iroonis!
One float and group after another they were all Persian. The spectators were Persian and others passing by wanted to know who these people are. It was beautiful! Tourists, cops, shop owners, and us, everyone wanted to know, who's who? We are Kurds, we are Turks, we are Afghans, we are Zoroastrians, we are Muslims, we are Jews, we are Christians, we are Bahai, we are Doctors, we are Lawyers, we are Business People, we are Politicians, we are Artists, we are Musicians, we are Young, we are Old, and we are MANY Other Things, yet we are ALL PERSIANS!
For the first time, I saw Persians together in once place, civilized organized, happy, proud and working together! I was delightfully impressed, and still am. Of course being the Persians that we are, nothing could be perfect: a few typos in the program, the name of the Parade as “Persian Parade Day,” and some naughty boys not wanting to listen to the cops (what's life without a few shaytoons amongst us), and of course the final loitering in the streets to say our salams, ask our ahvaals, figure out where the mehmooni is and of course say our notorious hour long goodbyes.
I hope that this is a sign of the changing times and the new generation-organization, teamwork, and PRIDE within our OWN community! May our centuries of rich history help us keep our culture alive in this foreign land that we live in called the United States of America. Cheers to the Persians!
Author Neda Nabavi leads the Chicago Chapter of Shabeh Jomeh. She is currently the Vice President of Trading Systems and Operations for Refco LLC. She graduated from the University of Wisconsin-Madison in 1998. She has worked at Cargill Investor Services, Ernst & Young LLP, and Chicago Mercantile Exchange Inc. Neda was born and raised in the Chicago area. She speaks Persian and Spanish fluently. Neda is a member of numerous other charitable and social organizations.