Americans are the most generous people in the world and some of the Indian Americans are catching up with that tradition. Dr. Parveen Chopra has been serving as Chairperson of Finance for the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Committee of Nassau County Inc. for the last decade and he has contributed generously to the worthy cause of awarding scholarship awards to the scholarly and needy high school students who take part in the county wide essay contests each year. Outstanding citizens who have helped to realize Dr. Martin Luther King’s dream were also honored.
This year Dr. Martin Luther King Committee celebrated its thirtieth Awards Luncheon at the Marriott Hotel, Uniondale, New York, which was attended by many distinguished dignitaries like Nassau County Executive Edward P. Mangano, U.S. Senator Al D’amato, New York State Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli New York State Attorney General Eric Schniederman, Congressman Steve Israel, Congressman Gregory Meeks, Congresswoman Kathleen Rice, New York State Supreme Court Justice Peter Skelos in the Appellate Court, New York State Supreme Court Appellate Justice Ruth Balkin, Nassau County Criminal Court Judge Anthony Paradisio. Several elected county and town chiefs and legislators also attended.
President and Founder for thirty years, Mr. Julius O. Pearse pointed out that “The rise of senseless violence continues its threat against our dreams and banish our hope. We must defend our dreams, encourage hope, and learn to live with ourselves and others.”
Dr. Martin Luther King received his Ph.D. in systematic theology in 1955 when he was only 26 years old and in the same year he successfully led the Montgomery bus boycott for 381 days. In 1956 the segregation on public transportation was declared illegal by the Supreme Court. He led the largest civil rights protest march to Washington in 1963.
Before 1964 Indians could not come to USA as immigrants. Civil Rights Act of 1964 opened the road to immigration for all Asians. Human rights laws were passed that gave the right not to be discriminated based on age, race, color, national origin, gender, religion, political persuasion etc. in employment, housing, public conveniences. Freedom and equality of opportunity were enforced through many laws passed in the last half a century.
Despite many laws Indian community faced glass ceilings in employment, quota system in prestigious universities, racial prejudice and violence in certain neighborhoods due to dot busters movement in New Jersey, excessive crimes and lack of protection in certain Indian business hubs like Jackson Heights, Flushing etc. in New York. Indian Community had to organize itself and demand justice for equal protection and equal opportunities. In New Jersey marches were organized and demonstrations took place outside Police Departments, County Courts, and delegations to Attorney General in Washington D.C. National gatherings also took place where entire EEOC and congressional committees heard from Indian Americans regarding the deep level of employment discrimination faced by Indian immigrants all around the country which led to the granting of minority status to Indians in USA. Jackson Heights Merchants Association and Flushing Merchants Association were set up to organize merchants, organize protests, get attention from the Mayor, Borough President, Police Department and other neighborhood associations. Over a period of time after sustained community activism in 1980’s and 1990’s Indian community started seeing the change and this non-violent movement by the Indian community bore fruits and helped Indians to become part of mainstream America. Today Indian community of three and a half million people is considered to be a great asset to America and has reaped rich dividends also because of its strong work ethics, heavy emphasis on education, strong family ties, frugality and cautious investments, secular culture and love for freedom. Dr. Parveen Chopra remembers that when he was President of Federation of Indian Associations for New York, New Jersey, Connecticut (1987-1988) and National Secretary of National Federation of Indian Associations (1992-1994) there were so many dedicated leaders and associations that had some kind of fervor to do something for the Indian community. They knew that they could not sit back because the price to the community, their families and future generations would be too high and non-action could become a stumbling block for the Indian community’s progress in America. Price of democracy is vigilance and activism and Indian community paid the price willingly to come out as a stronger peace loving secular community.
In 1959 Dr. Martin Luther King went to India to study Mahatma Gandhi’s philosophy and non-violent movement. When a lot of journalists swarmed him and his wife Coretta Scott King at the Mumbai airport he said while to other countries I may go as a tourist but to India he had gone there as a pilgrim. Dr. King had abundance of invitations and he spoke freely at public gatherings, Universities, radio audiences, members of Gandhi family and Vinoba Bhave group. He noticed that even though Indians at that time faced grinding poverty, epidemics and destitution but they were not unhappy because they had a strong bond of fraternity and spirituality a message that he spread in America. “May I also say that since being in India, I am more convinced than ever before that the method of non-violent resistance is the most potent weapon available to oppressed people in their struggle for justice and human dignity.”
Dr. Martin Luther King had a much wider impact on minorities but the civil rights legislation protects the rights of everyone in America. His message of love and peace had a profound impact on America.
He was assassinated on April 4, 1968 when we was only thirty nine.
The greatest contribution of India to the world in the last century is Mahatma Gandhi’s non-violent movement which he used to shake up a large British empire to free 400 million Indians over 6 decades ago. Because of this freedom and democratic rule India has created a create image for its self all around the world wherever 30 million Indians have gone. Gandhi’s Satyagrah – a non-violent approach is the only way to solve the world’s colonial, racial, civil and human rights problems on a permanent basis. A glorious history of twentieth century world leaders who applied this approach with much success includes several Noble Peace Prize Laureates: Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. ( USA 1964), Lech Walesa (Poland 1983), Dalai Lama (Tibetan leader in exile in India 1989), Daw Aung San Suu Kyi (Myanmar 1991), and Nelson Mandela (South Africa 1993).