As a first generation Iranian-American, I can tell you endless stories of what my parents endured growing up as foreigners in America. There were struggles for work, cultural acceptance, and the loss of identity. I fortunately never had the same struggles, and could never imagine or put myself in the shoes of immigrants who had to start their lives from scratch in a country that offers opportunity, but no handbook on how to get there. And square one must be awfully terrifying with no one to support you when you fall. Luckily it’s 2013, and the concept of immigrants moving to America is widely accepted. More Iranians are residing in Los Angeles than ever, and political leaders are even recognizing the Persian culture.
But it is non-profit organizations like Pars Equality Center that really take the step forward to accommodate Iranian immigrants in moving to Los Angeles. Founded by global philanthropist Bita Daryabari, Pars Equality Center is the first and only non-profit organization to provide legal and social support and services for Iranian-Americans. And on September 26th, 2013, a Grand Opening Celebration took place in Los Angeles with a special welcome message from the Los Angeles Mayor, Eric Garcetti: Welcome to our city and thank you for taking part in our effort to build community and make Los Angeles a better place to live. The work that you are doing to help Iranian Americans through social and legal services strengthens our city and creates opportunities”. LA City Councilmember Paul Koretz, and president of the West Los Angeles Chamber of Commerce, Ron Adams, joined Bita Daryabari in the Ribbon Cutting Ceremony. Other notable attendees: actor Jermaine Jackson, Jr., Maria Di Mento, actor Houshang Touzie (“Argo”), Asa Soltan Rahmati (“Shah’s of Sunset”), journalist and author Homa Sarshar, Alex Helmi, and Saba Hamedy. Reception was held at Damoka LA Gallery and a dinner of Persian cuisine by Shohleh Restaurant.
Daryabari made a statement regarding the purpose of Pars Equality Center, stating, “Los Angeles has over half a million Iranian residents. Every year LA area is being hit by more than one thousand new Iranian immigrants, and now, we are here to help them settle, go to ESL classes, learn the culture, find jobs, and more. I wish that there had been a Pars Equality Center when I first came to the Untied States from Iran as a teenager. It was a challenging transition.
“Over the years, and especially since 9/11, the climate in the US has gotten more challenging for Iranian Americans and Iranian immigrants, and this is why I founded the Pars Equality Center. There is so much misperception in this country about the Persian culture. Firstly Iranians were not responsible for 9/11, and secondly, the refugees coming here are doing so due to sanction regulations and the economic situation in Iran.
“We cannot do this alone. It is through education, collaboration and dedication that we can all come together to create a more peaceful and tolerant society. Let’s build our community together.”
Like my parents and any other Iranians of her generation, Daryabari left Iran for the US in1979, only instead of ignoring her struggles as an immigrant, Daryabari decided to help future Iranian Immigrants in their endeavors to America not only legally, but socially, which is why Pars Equality Center is so significant and will continue to grow. Daryabari recognized that the number of immigrants will never remain stagnant, but will continue to grow like it does in the popular city of Los Angeles.
To get involved with the center, people can attend a Pars Equality Center job fair or community-wide events. The helping hand is expanded from Iranian Americans to the most recently arrived with few or zero financial resources and need that assistance in establishing themselves in America. The social services provided range from mentor programs, ESL classes, computer labs, emergency assistance, and job development services. The Legal Department provides the guidance in areas regarding law and offers assistance in applying for OFAC licenses and issues with discrimination, domestic violence, family law, and immigration issues. Pars Equality Center creates the opportunity of not having to start from square one alone, and is basically a handbook for Iranians in support to succeed.
Pars Equality Center was founded just three years ago, and has since advocated positive prospective of Persians in the US media despite political controversies, creating a productive and compassionate place for Persians in the working society.
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