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Iranian New Year celebration to welcome refugees, immigrant families

Persian-style dancing, prizes for the best costumes and extraordinary food will be plentiful at the March 31 celebration of Naw Ruz, the Iranian New Year, presented by UB's Gender Institute and the Coalition for the Advancement for Moslem Women.

By BERT GAMBINI

Published March 20, 2017

“During this era of social unrest, fear and anxiety, we want to create events that are celebratory and community-building that help people connect more with a sense of friendship, joy, music, dance and food as a way of building resilience.”
Kari Winter, professor of transnational studies and director
UB Gender Institute

UB’s Gender Institute and the Coalition for the Advancement for Moslem Women will mark the start of the Iranian New Year with a Naw Ruz celebration of food, dancing and music on March 31.

The event, which will take place from 5:30-8:30 p.m. at the Unitarian Universalist Church, 695 Elmwood Ave., Buffalo, is free and open to the public; organizers welcome all refugees and immigrant families, including those from Iran, Iraq, Syria, Yemen, Somalia, Sudan and Libya.

Naw Ruz, sometimes referred to as the Persian New Year, coincides with the vernal equinox. People from many faith traditions have been celebrating the secular holiday for thousands of years.

“During this era of social unrest, fear and anxiety, we want to create events that are celebratory and community-building that help people connect more with a sense of friendship, joy, music, dance and food as a way of building resilience,” says Kari Winter, professor of transnational studies and director of the Gender Institute. 

The Naw Ruz celebration is co-sponsored by “The Sisters,” a group comprised of faculty, professional women, students, refugees and immigrants who has been holding regular meetings ever since the Gender Institute’s October 2016 symposium titled “Honor, Systems of Masculinity, and Violence against Women: Responses and Solutions.

“After that symposium, some of the participants wanted to continue our conversations, including several UB faculty, graduate students and undergraduates who want their research to be complemented and strengthened by engagement with immigrants and refugees in daily life,” Winter says.

Led by Nadia Shahram, founder of the Coalition for the Advancement of Moslem Women, The Sisters began hold social potluck meetings at the Family Justice Center in Buffalo. The professional women in the group also have taken turns hosting dinner meetings in their homes and have been collecting new and used items for donation to those in need.

The event at the Unitarian Universalist Church will happen near the end of the 13 days in which the Iranian New Year is traditionally celebrated.

“We’ll have Persian-style dancing, prizes for the best costumes and extraordinary food prepared by cooks from Iran and India,” Winter says. “And, weather permitting, some of the dancing will take place outside, visible on the street from Elmwood.”

Winter says the inaugural Naw Ruz celebration fits nicely into the local tradition of hosting various cultural and ethnic festivals.

“One of the things that most human beings can relate to in understanding how diversity enriches our lives is when they have the opportunity to sample different cuisines, to hear different kinds of music, to see different kinds of fashion and to experience the wealth of different cultures,” she says.

“It’s one of those things where variety is literally the spice of life.”