New York City hosted the 14th annual Persian parade on Sunday, April 30.
The parade celebrates Persian culture, heritage and tradition, inviting Iranian-Americans and other communities to come together to celebrate Nowruz, the Persian new year.
The parade started at Madison Avenue at 38th Street, culminating in a festival in Madison Square Park. Betty Emamiam, director of communications for the parade, said this year’s parade had 16 floats, more than ever before, including a new Ferdowsi float, and a float celebrating the Saffarid dynasty of Sistan, which was established in the ninth century. Floats represent the different provinces of Iran, or a piece of the country’s history.
Emamiam says the parade is particularly important to the younger generation of Iranian-Americans, most of whom have never been to Iran. This year, she said, she was excited that Iranian communities from outside the city had traveled to take part in Sunday’s festivities, including Iranian-Americans from Long Island, Washington DC and Connecticut. Performers also traveled in for the parade. A number of prominent Iranian-American community leaders also took part. Tom DiNapoli, State Comptroller of New York, was the parade’s grand marshall.
New York Governor Andrew Cuomo sent a message to be read out at the parade. “The Iranian-American community honors its proud history and heritage with today’s parade and its many significant contributions to society in various areas of professional endeavor,” it read.
The organizers have always said the parade is 100 percent apolitical and non-religious. But I asked her, in light of the new Trump administration and its executive order targeting Iranians as well as people from six other Muslim-majority countries, wasn’t it difficult to remain completely divorced from politics? She said there had been “absolutely no” call for the parade to be more political from the public or the committee overseeing the event. “It never has been political or religious and it never will be,” she said. “We have had to prove that we are peaceful individuals and that we denounce terrorism. During last 14 years we have shown harmony, peace and love for mankind.”
Between 80,000 and 100,000 people attended and participated in the event, which includes music and dance. Vendors offered Persian cuisine including grilled meats and sweets. As part of their commitment to remaining apolitical and as inclusive as possible, the parade features Persia’s historical flag, a field of red, white and green with a centerpiece displaying a sun and golden lion.
Last year Emamiam said the parade sent a message: that Iranian-Americans are a proud part of American culture and society.
“We are saying: ‘here we are, and we’re here to stay.’” This year, the message was the same — and perhaps more important than ever.