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South Asian Heritage Month Ends With Big Win For Hindu, Sikh, Jain, and Buddhist New Yorkers

  • Category: News & Events
  • Posted On:
  • Written By: Viviana Metzgar

As many people try to savor what little is left of Summer vacation, South Asians across the globe have been basking in the delight of celebrating their South Asian Heritage for the past month. However, this celebration is a little different than last year’s. This school year is the start of a new tradition, the official observance of Diwali, a Hindu holiday, as a public school holiday across the city. Although this year, Diwali falls on a Sunday, the first official observance of the holiday (with students having the day off from school) will be held during the 2024-2025 school year. This is a big win for the Hindu community across the city, as it will allow the school year to better reflect the schedule of their own religious holidays.

Who supported this legislation?

A snippet of an e-newsletter recently published by the Assemblymember Jessica González-Rojas:

“Last week, I had the pleasure of standing alongside South Asian and Indo-Caribbean leaders and advocates, many of whom I represent in the Assembly, to celebrate their hard-won legislative victory in Albany, passage of legislation that would make Diwali a public school holiday for New York City students. The South Asian community fought for decades to make Diwali an official school holiday, and this session they were able to achieve their goal. The Diwali school holiday bill passed in the legislature unanimously in June. When signed into law, Diwali will finally be enshrined as a school holiday. Now New Yorkers who celebrate Diwali, many of whom reside in the Queens neighborhoods I represent, will have their traditions and religious practices respected, no longer having to celebrate at the expense of missing a day of school. Happy South Asian Heritage Month!”

Signed, In solidarity, Assemblymember Jessica González-Rojas (She/Her/Ella)

Assemblymember  Jessica González-Rojas

Assembly member Jessica González-Rojas

"As the first Hindu American and first South Asian woman elected to New York State Office, Assemblywoman Rajkumar spent months working with Mayor Adams to develop a strategy to achieve the long-sought goal of the Diwali School Holiday. Mayor Adams has been a consistent supporter of designating Diwali as a school holiday dating back to his days as Borough President, throughout his mayoral campaign and throughout his first 10 months (NY State Assembly)."

Assembly member  Jenifer Rajkumar

Assembly member Jenifer Rajkumar

When is South Asian Heritage Month?

New York City has always been a haven for immigrants from across the globe. In recent years the population of South Asians who call NYC their home has grown exponentially, and with this wave comes new changes to the city’s culture. South Asian Heritage Month, like other observational months dedicated to a particular lineage or culture, is a time for people to learn the history of the region, celebrate and commemorate the culture, and allow for them to share their love of heritage with the others around them. South Asian Heritage Month is observed each year from July 18 to August 17. Primarily, this timing honors the tradition of the South Asian solar calendar, but also within the date range are independence days for several countries within the region.

Where is South Asia?

The countries that make up the South Asian region include:

  1. Afghanistan
  2. Bangladesh
  3. Bhutan
  4. India
  5. The Maldives
  6. Nepal
  7. Pakistan
  8. Sri Lanka

How does Apicha serve the South Asian community?

Apicha was originally founded as a specialty clinic to treat HIV/AIDS for the Asian American and Pacific Islanders (AAPI) communities, including South Asians. Since evolving into a Federally Qualified Health Center (FQHC), Apicha's services are available to everyone.

We have two locations, the one in Manhattan’s Chinatown and the newest location in Jackson Heights, a neighborhood in Northern Queens. Jackson Heights is dubbed “The World’s Borough,” as it is home to people from all different countries and cultures, speaking 200+ languages and a landing place for many new immigrants. Included in this melting pot are several South Asian communities, parts of the neighborhood are even called “Little India” and “Little Bangladesh.”

To meet the needs of the South Asian communities, Apicha is translating things into many South Asian languages and hired South Asian providers. We've done extensive needs assessments of the neighborhood and offer the services these communities need, including adult primary care, pediatrics, women's health, dental, mental health, HIV specialty care, transgender primary care, as well as community education programs that are tailored to serve the LGBTQ+ and immigrant communities.

Click here to request an appointment or explore our website for more information.