Keeping community spirit alive, third annual Kashmiri gathering hosted in Los Angeles

Los Angeles: To keep the Kashmiri community spirit alive in second and third generation Kashmiri Americans, an event was hosted by the Kashmiri Group of North America (KGNA) on June 29 to July 2.

The three day event which aimed to promote the Kashmiri community spirit, ethnicity, culture and heritage took place in Los Angeles, Long Beach California and was attended by over 500 Kashmiris. It offered networking opportunities, cultural performances by a number of Kashmiri artists and interactive sessions focused on professional panels.

There were programs around youth development, Kashmiri culture and language for adults and children, entrepreneurship, outdoor activities and an off-site picnic.

The event opened with ‘Zoon Dab’, a debate session touching crucial topics like ‘Is independence possible for Kashmir?’, ‘Is it important to marry within the community?’ and ‘Has the Kashmiri American community done enough?’.

Farooq Kathwari, the CEO of Ethan Allen was the keynote speaker and Kashmiri poet Madhosh Balhami’s video recorded poems were shown at the event. Zaffar Abbas chipped in with a recitation of Kashmiri poetry.

During the three day event, sessions of professional development and children’s programmes for the youth were organized.

Medium and large businesses and vendors like Kashmir Box, Koshur Wear, Kashweave Fashion, Trumbu Crafts and non-profit organizations like Kashmir Education Initiative, Revive Kashmir, Chinar and Kashmir American Humane Society and KASHMER were present during the event.

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Cultural programmes also took place during the event amongst which were Arshad Mushtaq’s ‘Bea Chus Shahid – I am the witness’, and a comical play by Nahida Nazir, who is a Los Angeles based doctor and actor.

Mushtaq’s play focused on creating a narrative around the ‘contemporary reality which created a sense of disengagement towards the present’, and on holding on to the history of Kashmir. For the event, the play was adapted by Arshad Mushtaq and Nahida Nazir.

Women of the community performed Rouf, the Kashmiri classical dance.

The event also included the launch of books, “Resisting Occupation in Kashmir” by Haley Duschinski, Mona Bhan, Ather Zia and Cynthia Mahmood, and a seperate book authored by Daisy Khan.

Underlining the importance of history and the culture within, Wajahat Dedmari, one of the speakers at the cultural event was quoted as saying, “if you have to kill a nation take away their language, culture will follow, so will the country.”

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Kashmiri Gathering of North America (KGNA), now called Kashmiri Group of North America, was started by Tahir Qazi and Wajahat Qureshi in 2016 in an attempt to revive culture, tradition, community, heritage, specifically for the Kashmiri American community. The idea behind the gathering was to create a non-profit impact on the teenagers and children and to upheld the traditions of the conflict-stricken place.

The executive board of KGNA comprising of 13 individuals, including Tahir Qazi as President, Samina Qazi as President Elect, Manejeh Yaqub as the Secretary, Manzoor Mir as Treasurer, Marina Sofi as Marketing Lead and Yamin Fazili as Technical Support organized the event with an army of volunteers ranging from hospitality to fundraising to event management.

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