On June 26th, Mayor Eric Adams announced that the New York State Assembly and Senate recently passed a bill observing Diwali as a school holiday.
Diwali, known as the Hindu festival of lights, is celebrated by over 600,000 New Yorkers every year. The festival signifies the defeat of evil and the triumph of good, often shown by the victory of light over darkness, hence the “festival of lights” title. Upon the signing of the bill into law by Governor Kathy Hochul, students attending New York City public schools will get the day off.
At a press conference announcing the celebratory news, Mayor Adams said, “This is a victory – not only for the men and women of the Indian community and all communities that celebrate Diwali, but it’s a victory for New York.”
Adams continued, “This victory will allow those who did not feel seen, and did not feel heard, we are saying ‘we see you, we hear you, we respect you’ — and your culture is part of the New York experience.”
Assemblywoman Jenifer Rajkumar, the politician that spearheaded the bill, is the first Hindu and Indian-American to be elected to office in Albany. At the announcement, she quoted Shirley Chisholm, the first Black woman to be elected to the United States House of Representatives. Chisholm, who Rajkumar says was a trailblazer, said, “If they don’t give you a seat at the table, bring a folding chair.” Assemblywoman Rajkumar then stated, “As the first elected of our community, I picked up my folding chair and went to Albany to make a place for us at the table of power and to fight for our community to be seen.”
Currently, students across New York City have days off for other religious holidays, including Christmas, Eid al-Fitr, Good Friday, Passover, Rosh Hashanah, and Yom Kippur, with Diwali soon being added to the list.