The Pakistan-American Society of South Jersey (PASSJ) sponsored an Independence Day celebration earlier this month, where guests were treated to musical and cultural performances and a children’s costume show, among other activities.
“I would like people to appreciate the diversity, and to see how diverse our cultures are among the bigger cultural forum here in the United States, and how we can all share our diversity with the community at large,” said PASSJ trustee Saima Bhutta of the Pakistani celebration.
The day’s program – catered by Karachi Kafe – included speeches; music by Pakistani singer Richie Robinson and his band; and displays of jewelry, dresses and artwork, among other features.
According to aljazeera.com, Pakistan achieved independence and became a sovereign state following the end of British rule in 1947. On Aug. 14 of that year, the new state appeared on the world stage for the first time when the Indian subcontinent was formally divided into two new dominions of India and Pakistan under the terms of the Indian Independence Act adopted by the British Parliament.
Students collaborated on dances and songs for the Moorestown event, and Bhutta praised them for keeping their culture alive.
“These kids were all born and raised in the United States and some of their parents were born and raised in the United States, but they still carry the love for the mainland, and they carry the culture … and want to share it with the community at large,” Bhutta noted.
“ … It’s amazing how people have all this love for the culture, and they would like to take time and even contribute.”
PASSJ membership is open to anyone, but the nonprofit’s main goal is to represent Pakistanis living in the area, irrespective of their ethnic, religious or political views. According to its website, PASSJ’s mission is to initiate and support efforts to unite the community; promote peace; respect diversity in other cultures, religions and races; and create a greater awareness of Pakistani heritage among its American-born children.
One of Bhutta’s goals for the Independence Day celebration was a dialogue on how the community could promote diversity in already thriving cultural organizations.
“I’m very passionate about all these things that represent the culture and diversity, because it tells a lot about that culture,” she explained. “Coming from that culture, it tells a lot about you and it really energizes the young people. And they have a sense of belonging.”
PASSJ has held fundraisers, banquets, picnics and other events over two decades, but its members have performed charitable work for 27 years.
“ … We sent several containers of clothing from the United States to help out with the victims of flooding in Pakistan just last year,” Bhutta recalled. “We are reaching out to the community and trying to get things done, and so far it’s been very fruitful.”
“I’m thankful to God that I had this drive to form this nonprofit 22 years ago with the help of these seniors in our community.”
Bhutta also co-founded the nonprofit United We Serve and is vice president of the Muslim Federation of South Jersey. Working with different organizations is something that gives her energy.
“The sentiment of doing something for others, it just brings the best out of me,” she said, “and I feel that this is my calling.”
For more information on PASSJ, visit https://www.pakamerican.org/index.php.