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Paterson’s Bengali Population Celebrates Mother Language Day at Westside Park’s Shohid Minar Monument

Paterson’s Bengali Population Celebrates Mother Language Day at Westside Park’s Shohid Minar Monument

March 3, 2023

Mother Language Day has been celebrated by Bengalis on February 21 every year to remember the people who died for the right to speak their mother language of Bengali. Bangladesh later proposed to the United Nations that Mother Language Day become an international holiday, and the first International Mother Language Day was held on February 21, 2000. Now it is an opportunity for people around the world to celebrate their mother languages and promote linguistic diversity.

In Dhaka, a monument called the Shohid Minar—which means the Martyr's Monument in Bengali—was built to commemorate the people who lost their lives in the 1952 protests. In 2015, NJCDC received funding from the County of Passaic, which allowed us to closely collaborate with Paterson's Bengali community to design and build a replica of this monument in Westside Park. At the ribbon-cutting ceremony, NJCDC Founder & CEO Bob Guarasci said, "NJCDC was proud to have been asked by our Bengali friends and neighbors to build this monument on their behalf and we look forward to continued collaboration with this vibrant community.

Since the monument was built, Bangladeshi-Americans living in Paterson have gathered there every year to celebrate Mother Language Day. Today, Paterson has one of the largest Bengali communities in the United States, and the annual celebration of Mother Language Day is one of many ways Paterson recognizes the community and their heritage.

MD Raju Miah, a resident of Paterson's 2nd Ward, said "It's important for all of our communities to unite to celebrate International Mother Language Day to honor our respective languages of origin and our diversity."

At midnight on February 20, Bengali community members and several of Paterson's leaders—including Mayor Andre Sayegh, Councilman-at-Large MD Forid Uddin, and Council President Shahin Khalique, as well as Prospect Park's Mayor Mohamed T. Khairullah—gathered at Westside Park to place flowers on the Shohid Minar monument.

Council President Khalique said, "Bangladesh is the only nation in the world to have fought for and won its independence on the basis of preserving the right to speak its own language. I want to thank NJCDC for helping us build the only permanent Shohid Minar Monument in North America and for allowing us to celebrate this year's celebration event at their Youth Center."

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