Indian American lawmaker holds rally in support of bill to designate Diwali a school holiday
New York State assembly member Jenifer Rajkumar, joined hundreds of supporters at the Capitol in Albany Tuesday to push for a bill to designate Diwali as a holiday in New York City public schools.
Diwali is known as the festival of lights and is one of the most widely celebrated events in India and other areas of South Asia.
“The time has come to recognize over 200,000 Hindu, Sikh, Jain and Buddhist New Yorkers,” said Rajkumar, who made history as the first South Asian-American woman elected to a state office, Times Union reported.
Read: Diwali to be public school holiday in New York City (October 21, 2022)
“To these communities, New York state says ‘we see you.’ After two decades of advocacy by the South Asian diaspora in New York City, our time has come.”
Rajkumar, an attorney who previously served as the state’s director of immigration affairs, is sponsoring the bill with support from New York City Mayor Eric Adams, for whom she had been a member of his transition team.
In a release, Rajkumar said she has support from more than 30 state lawmakers.
“As the great Shirley Chisholm said: ‘If they don’t give you a seat at the table, bring a folding chair,'” the assemblywoman said in a release. “I have brought this bill to the table to make sure all of our New American communities have a seat at the table.”
Rajkumar’s legislative achievements include a milestone legislative package that gives domestic workers the full protections of New York State Human Rights Law, according to her profile.
Other highlights include a landmark bill establishing New York State’s first-ever Asian American & Pacific Island (AAPI) Commission and a bill to expand compensation for victims of crime.
Previous to her election to the State Legislature, she served as Director of Immigration Affairs for New York State. In this role, she built and led a first-in-the-nation $31 million project to assist immigrants in obtaining legal services.
Rajkumar, a lawyer, professor, and government leader, has worked in Washington DC as a fellow at the National Women’s Law Center advancing policy at the federal level advancing women’s equality.
Read: State’s first South Asian assemblywoman pushes for Diwali holiday (January 24, 2023)
Rajkumar has also served as a Professor at the City University of New York (CUNY)’s Lehman College, where she worked to uplift New York City’s youth.
Her parents immigrated to the United States with just $300 and a suitcase, settling in Queens where they got their start.