America has always been a welcoming abode for many who leave their own lands behind in search of the freedom to live in peace and thrive. "Give me your tired, your poor, Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, the wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed, to me: I lift my lamp beside the golden door", reads the inscription on the Statue of Liberty. America has prospered with each generation of immigrants that has historically landed on its shores. The Persian community has been no exception. Though they did not arrive on shores but at airports, the generation that arrived in the 80's came with little more than education and inspiration, and quickly turned the combination into one of the most productive immigrant groups in modern US history.
Today, a generation later, the children of those huddled masses have an identity all their own, and as they make their way through business, academia, the arts, law and science, they are also increasingly philanthropic.
This weekend, as International Women's Day approaches, various groups of Iranian-American nonprofit organizations founded and run by women have gathered to offer a panoply of events to engage every kind of inspiration. From activists to academics, from artists to writers, from policy wonks to politicians, Iranian-American women are here to talk about the state of women around the globe and at home, and to find an enlightened way forward.
30Voices, an organization founded by an artist who goes by the name 'Halehhoo' is launching their 4th International Women's Day celebration in Beverly Hills on March 8th and 8pm, and simultaneously online with a series of interviews highlighting renown artists in the community. The fierce voice behind the organization is Haleh Manavi whose inspiration comes from her own experience as a Persian woman, and reflects the voice she feels she can amplify through her art. The program MC this year is yours truly and I highly recommend a click over to www.30Voices.org.
The Iranian American Jewish Federation has an event at the Montage Hotel in Beverly Hills on Sunday March 9th from 9am, called the Persian American Women's Conference. In its 2nd year, the conference showcases an impressive roster of accomplished women in the community with discussions and a luncheon afterwards. The mission of this conference is to inspire, encourage and empower women through education and communal support" says Shahla Zargarian Javdan, President of IAJF. Among the panelists of which we can all take pride are Goli Ameri - Former Assistant Secretary of State under Condoleezza Rice, Parvaneh Bahar - Author and Human Rights Activist, Lisa Daftari - Journalist and Fox Commentator, Stephanie Culler - Senior Research Scientist at Genomatica, Janet Daneshvar - Personal Banker at Bank of America, Farrah Douglas - Carlsbad City Council Member, Farangis Sedaghatpour - Community Activist & Author, Parvaneh Sarraf - Author & Community Activist, Sholeh Shams - Editor in Chief Rahavard Persian Journal of Iranian Studies in Los Angeles, Homa Sarshar - Author, Award-winning Journalist, Writer and Media Personality, Sogol Pirnazar - Associate Attorney at Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher LLP. See www.pawc-la.org for details.
The Iranian Women's Studies Foundation is also marking International Women's Day with two events, one in Los Angeles and one in San Diego. In LA they will be at UCLA's Moore Hall on Sunday the 9th at mid-day. The event which was organized and promoted with the help of Elahe Amani, a prominent women's right activist, will be a cultural event replete with music art and dance along with lectures from noted personalities in the Persian community including Homa Sarshar, author, journalist and global voice for women everywhere as well as Mamak Khadem, the classical musician whose performance at the Skirball center last year impressed many. Click www.iwsf2014.org to find out more.
Other cool events to usher in International Women's Day include a film screening of the documentary film Honor Diaries, on March 6th at the Museum of Tolerance, in conjunction with Women's Voices Now and community partners such as UN Women - USNC LA Chapter. The film which proclaims "Culture is no Excuse for Abuse", features the voice of female activists including Ayaan Hirsi Ali - New York Times Bestselling Author and Founder of AHA Foundation, Nazanin Afshin Jam - President and Co-Founder of Stop Child Executions, Dr. Qanta Ahmed - Author of In the Land of Invisible Women, Nazie Eftekhari - Founder Chair and CEO of HealthEZ, Manda Zand Ervin - Founder and President of Alliance of Iranian Women, Fahima Hashim - Director of Salmmah Women's Resource Centre in Sudan, Zainab Khan - Licensed clinical therapist, Raheel Raza - President of The Council for Muslims Facing Tomorrow, Jasvinder Sanghera - Co Founder of Karma Nirvana, Raquel Saraswati - Activist commentator and writer, and Juliana Taimoorazy - Founder of Iraqi Christian Relief Council. The film's producer, Paula Kweskin who spent years gathering footage an amassing the women whose narrative helps propel the film says, "some of the monies raised from the film will benefit the creation of a helpline for women and girls who are victims of honor-based violence and forced marriage." Go to ww.museumoftolerance.com to buy tickets.
On Thursday NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, where Iranian American Dr. Firooz Naderi serves as director for the Solar System Exploration Directorate, will host an event celebrating the success of women in the fields of space exploration, engineering and technology . "Dare mighty things," says Dr. Charles Elachi Director of JPL, citing Teddy Roosevelt's words a century ago. "Those are words we live by today at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory", in a spirit finely fitting to how women are daring the world today. As they fight for basic freedoms around the world and greater equalities here at home, we celebrate women on this day and every day, while we dare to strive ever higher.
Los Angeles will be brimming with events and activities on International Women's Day weekend on March 8th and 9th. Find your calling and tweet if you will, hashtag "womensday", to amplify your voice.