Last week, Muslims around the world celebrated Eid-ul-Fitr after a month of fasting. On the eve of Eid, many people hold moon-sighting or “Chaand Raat” festivals around the world.
My family and I don’t normally celebrate Chaand Raat, but every other year or so we visit the Chaand Raat festival in Brooklyn’s Little Pakistan on Coney Island Avenue, my first home neighborhood, to take in some of the sights and sounds of our people and our pind. This year I wanted to capture it all through video. No other sound resonated with all the clamor and glamour I saw and captured that night more than Big Sean’s “Blessings,” and I decided to use it for this video. It turned out to be perfection.
Way up, we’re blessed.
The song I chose, “Blessings” is a main-stream commercial rap song – and like any main-stream commercial rap song, of course, it features the usual self-affirmations about the artist’s greatness, braggadocios, self-assertions, arrogance, etc. But this song is a little different from all of that because of the term and theme of “blessings” and being blessed – it acknowledges that despite all this fame and greatness and self-pride, it’s all coming from something other than ourselves. We work hard but we are also gifted with talents, opportunities, people and things from a Greater Being beyond ourselves.
Similarly, the Desi immigrant communities here in Jackson Heights or in Coney Island Avenue reflect that same sort of empowerment and self-pride through the recognition of our blessings. Everyone – everyone’s parents, rather – have that story of landing at JFK or LGA, alone and afraid, trying to figure out how to build their worlds in a world that is so foreign and cold to them with just ten dollars in their pocket, the clothes on their back and a perhaps a floral-tiger printed mink blanket in their suitcase. Yet despite this, the acknowledgement of our blessings and that feeling of gratitude and praise for the Greater Being never escapes the way they look at the world, and the way they look at themselves. “Allah ka shukar hai” (all thanks to Allah), spoken with almost every exhale of their breaths, is a common proverb of our elders – those that have built entire satellite motherlands here for us to grow and thrive in despite everything.
And so here we are. It is empowering and it is worth celebrating.
By Sania N. Ahmed