By Solmaz Sharif
I arrived in the U.S. on the evening of January 13, 2007, and went directly to Prospect Heights, Brooklyn, and have stayed in Brooklyn ever since. The first place I visited on the morning of January 14 was Times Square. The sight of Times Square was mesmerizing! It’s funny how I avoid that area at all costs today, but that day, it filled me with joy and left me in awe. I opened up a map of NYC and in a short few minutes three people asked me if I needed help. That was the moment I knew New York was home.
I knew I had to make a life here: career, friends, and family. Back in those days, the Persian community of New York was limited. There wasn’t a well-known place for people to meet one another or gather weekly. It was up to individuals to seek out new friends and places to meet. The loneliness was real.
That loneliness and the urge to share our culture with this great city is the reason I started NYPC from the corner of my dining table in Crown Heights, Brooklyn in 2009, with a blog on WordPress and a $50 budget for online marketing on Good Ad and Facebook. I started by teaching Persian language and Persian cooking in my kitchen. In the spirit of American entrepreneurship, my husband joined me and we grew the business step by step to the center that have today.
I like to keep connected to our culture because it adds color to our lives. Despite the feeling of loneliness back in the day, in fact, we are a part of a huge community that grows by the day. Persians (Iranians, Afghans and Tajiks) represent a wide range of sub-cultures and communities, including Azeris, Kurds, Hazaras, Uzbeks, and so many more. The curious and adventurous New Yorkers also add a big extension to this community. With all the colors, foods, dance, fashion, music, language, movies and other interesting cultural aspects of each part, our goal is to make sure that no one – old and new New Yorkers – ever feel alone in this city.
We have achieved a lot, but there is so much more we have planned. We are looking at 2018 as a new start; a change of gear to move faster and stronger. I want to use this opportunity and invite you to join us on this journey.
*Solmaz Sharif, Founder of New York Persian Cultural Center