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Adams decides to make Diwali a school holiday, but puts the blame on Albany

This story was originally published on October 20 by THE CITY.

Let there be light… if Albany flips the switch.

Mayor Eric Adams vowed on Thursday to make Diwali a public holiday next year to hundreds of thousands families in New York observing the Festival of Light, but he’s asking state lawmakers to make it happen.

“It is high time we tell our Hindu, Sikh, Jain and Buddhist students and our community that we see you, we recognize you,” Adams told those gathered at the Education Department headquarters in Lower Manhattan to the announcement with Queens representative Jenifer Rajkumar. and Chancellor David Banks Schools.

The announcement came a week after THE CITY reported Adams had broken his Day One campaign promise to make Diwali a public school holiday. But Adams won’t unilaterally make the party a day off. Instead, he is encouraging state lawmakers to pass a bill that would include Diwali in the official school calendar, raising concerns among some supporters of the holiday.

The state requires a minimum of 180 school days per year. To make Diwali an official school holiday, Rajkumar’s legislation will light the way by replacing “Birthday Day” – or “Brooklyn-Queens Day” as the day off in June was previously known – with the Diwali holiday.

This year, Diwali will take place on Monday, October 24. It is an annual pan-religious festival, which takes place in the fall, which celebrates the symbolic victory of light over darkness and knowledge over ignorance. It is traditional for families to clean, install diya lamps outside temples, at home or on the streets, cook and pray together and give gifts. But the school day encroaches on that sense of togetherness, say party watchers.

Adams noted that “instead of looking from a deficit place,” his administration “looked from a surplus place” to identify a way for the city-state partnership to put Diwali on the calendar.

“It was wonderful to have the Mayor of New York supporting Diwali,” Rajkumar said. “It’s a great day for our city. It’s a great day for our community.”

But not everyone is convinced that the Diwali promise will materialize.

Richard David, district manager in South Ozone Park, Queens, and member of New York’s Diwali Coalition, noted the mayor’s pledge today was “a useful renewal of his commitment.” But he was not satisfied.

“Unfortunately the road to Albany is unpredictable and avoidable. We must continue to advocate for a Diwali school vacation,” he said.

Nishant Mittal, 44, a “worried Hindu” and father of three from Battery Park in Manhattan, was not completely convinced by today’s press conference. Mittal doesn’t understand why Adams can’t follow his predecessor’s lead when former mayor Bill de Blasio added the Asian Lunar New Year and the Muslim holidays Eid Al-Fitr and Eid Al-Adha to the city’s school calendar. town.

Mittal thinks the ad could distract from “the mayoral election to promise school holidays for the more than 500,000 New Yorkers who celebrate Diwali. Instead, he said the mayor had “shifted the focus to political forces at the state level.”

Adams has long struggled to keep his South Asian and Indo-Caribbean supporters happy as families celebrating Diwali are still waiting for their children to be able to celebrate the holiday without missing school. Some even heckled him to “make Diwali a public holiday” during a celebration in Little Guyana last weekend.

To date, eight private schools that make up the New York Interschool consortium already grants a day off on Diwali, as do some other non-state schools.

Some students take matters into their own hands. Avenues: The first year at the World School, Lekha Wood, together with her friend Raaghav Mittal and her mentor Neil Desai, launched a petition on September 30, calling on Adams to declare Diwali an official holiday. Their school is private, but they said they made the petition for their public school friends. They’ve gotten over 4,000 signatures so far.

If Diwali legislation is approved in Albany, it would mean the end of Anniversary Day, which originally celebrated the first Sunday School on Long Island in the 1800s and has been celebrated in Brooklyn and Queens since the 1950s, according to Gothamist.

Last week, when THE CITY asked the Department for Education about the status of the vacation proposal, spokesman Arthur Nevins pointed to new “hidden voices” from schools in the city. Program focused on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders launched this fall. It offers teachers aLearn more about Diwaliwhich includes sample lessons for all grades K-12, as well as suggested activities, books, and websites.

With less than a week to this year’s Diwali, DOE Chancellor Banks expressed his delight that Adams made the pledge while campaigning, as they are now on the path to a “promise made and a promise kept”.

But advocates say they “don’t think that will happen next year” and that the fight must continue so the city “urges the mayor to keep doing his best,” Mittal said.

“Children growing up need to see that their culture is on par with other cultures,” Mittal said. Otherwise, he fears that the students will say: “maybe it’s not that important”.

Lekha, the 13-year-old petition creator, recalls the fun, picture-filled evening and the sense of accomplishment she had with her little sister when they made rangoli artwork with flower petals. But that night was two years ago, when she coincidentally had a Diwali day off.

“I remember just taking pictures and having a snapshot of that moment,” Lekha said. “We were so proud of ourselves and each other, we had so much fun.”

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