Paterson City Mayor Andre Sayegh, City Council President Maritza Davila, and Councilman Alaa Abdelaziz pose next to the new Palestine Way street sign (Photo Credit: Middle East Eye)
Thousand of people in the South Paterson neighborhood in New Jersey celebrated renaming a five-block section of Main Street to “Palestine Way” on May 15th.
In April, Paterson City Council voted unanimously to rename a five-block area of Main Street to “Palestine Way” in honor of its sizeable Palestinian community and its contributions to civic life and local business such as hair salons, hookah shops, halal meat markets, and diverse Middle Eastern restaurants.
Moreover, the organizers said that the “Palestine Way” renaming also paid tribute to generations of Palestinian families rooted in the area. Paterson City Council has a history of renaming portions of local streets for other groups in the past, including Jamaicans and Colombians.
Palestinian women celebrate the decision to rename a five-block area of Main Street Palestine Way (Photo Credit: Middle East Eye)
The Palestinian American Community Centre organized a street festival to celebrate the occasion. There were performances such as Dabke dance, live singers, and vendors selling traditional Palestinian thobes.
There were approximately 5000 people in the crowd, who cheered in zaghrouta. Zaghrouta is a form of a long, wavering, high-pitched vocal sound representing happy emotions and waving the US and Palestinian flags.
Dabke dance (Photo Credit: Middle East Eye)
Furthermore, the day is marked Nakba Day, the day of commemoration for the Nakba, also known as the Palestinian Catastrophe. Nakba Day commemorates the ethnic cleansing of 750,000 Palestinians from their homes with the establishment of the occupation (Israel) in 1948. And this year marks the 74 years of Al-Nakba, or the Palestinians suffering from dispossession and loss of their homeland.
“Palestinians are proud Americans. Palestinians are productive Americans. Palestinians are making countless contributions to our communities every day in the United States of America”
The background of South Paterson
Paterson, New Jersey (Photo Credit: Fulcrum)
South Paterson, is known as Little Istanbul or Little Ramallah. It has the largest Turkish-American immigrant community in the United States and the second-largest Arab-American community after Dearborn, Michigan.
The Arab community in South Paterson had existed since the late 19th century. During the time, there were surges of Lebanese and Syrian immigrants who moved in. Since then, immigrants from these two countries have decreased, but their descendants still reside in the neighborhood.
After World War II, many Turks flew to the New York metropolitan area and established communities in Paterson, contributing to the growing Turkish community. More Turks arrived after Turkey’s financial crisis in 2001 to seek jobs and opportunities.
Now, Paterson has the largest Turkish community in the US and is clustered with Turkish restaurants, bakeries, and markets.
Taskin Bakery (Photo Credit: Tripadvisor)
Today, the number of immigrants from the Middle East in South Paterson is still increasing. In 2015, the Arab-American population reached approximately 20,000. Therefore, South Paterson, also known as Little Istanbul or Little Ramallah. Signs and banners of most of the shops are written in English and Arabic in South Paterson.
By Kimothy Wong / Arab America contributing writer