Have you heard of African-American History Month? An annual observance that originated in the United States, African-American History Month or Black History Month is celebrated every February by the US and Canada. It began as a way to remember important events from history and people related to the African diaspora. What if I told you that something similar is happening in honour of us Malayalis?
While the internet populates our screens with memes about how Kerala withstood the BJP wave that swept the rest of India, the New York State Senate declared May 2019 as Malayalee Heritage Month.
The bill to adopt May 2019 as Malayalee Heritage Month was sponsored by Senator Kevin Thomas and was passed to show the state’s gratitude to the scores of Malayalis who have contributed to the welfare of the state. Kevin Thomas is the first Indian-American to serve in the New York Senate. Prior to elected office, he was an attorney and an appointee of the US Commission on Civil Rights to the New York State Advisory Committee.
The first Malayali immigrants to New York were nurses and paramedics who came to fill the shortage of nurses in New York’s hospitals in the post-Vietnam War era (the early 1950s). The hospitals were flooded with wounded veterans and Malayali nurses made their mark through dedication and commitment. Malayalis have been immigrating to New York ever since, and now can be found at all points in the job spectrum – from computer engineers and doctors to shop assistants.
It is heartwarming to see the state acknowledging the contribution of Malayalis and hopefully, this will turn into an annual observance like the African-American History Month in the future.