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Community backs Mayor Franklin’s efforts to acquire the King Papers

July 2007
Community backs Mayor Franklin’s efforts to acquire the King Papers

Leading community activists, distinguished professionals, academicians and corporate executives from Georgia's mainstream and Asian American ethnic communities gathered at a banquet Norcross' Palace Restaurant on June 11 to lend their support to Atlanta Mayor Shirley Franklin's efforts to secure the King papers.

The host committee for this historic event included Gandhi Foundation of USA and numerous community activists — Chintan K. Amin, Sushan Arora, Salim Jetha, Nadir Nanjee, Narsi L.S. Narasimhan, Dr. J.J. Shah, Mohsin Bharmal and Dr. Abdul Rehman Ahmed.

Gandhi Foundation, which was instrumental in installing the full-size bronze statue of Mahatma Gandhi at the M.L. King Historic Site in 1998, played a lead role in organizing this banquet. The Gandhi statue, the first of its kind at a National Park, provides a perfect confluence of the legacies of Gandhi and King.

During the social hour, Franklin shook hands and personally thanked the community for their support. Viren Mayani, from the mayor's office, welcomed the gathering and invited Subash Razdan, chairman of the Gandhi Foundation of USA, to launch the proceedings for the evening. Razdan extended a warm welcome to Franklin and thanked her for her presence.

Razdan praised her leadership in securing the pledges and funding to purchase the Martin Luther King Jr. Papers last summer. The papers, which are housed at the Woodruff Library on Atlanta University campus, clearly reflect the strong influence of Gandhi's nonviolent philosophy on Dr. King and the Civil Rights Movement. For example, the collection includes a small piece of paper, thought to be in Dr. King's wallet when he died. It contains a quote from Gandhi.

The evening started with a melodious rendering of Gandhi's favorite Bhajan (prayer song), "Raghupati Raghava," by Rashmi Ahuja. Students from Atlanta's Kruti Dance Academy gave a Bharatnatyam and a fusion dance performance. Alam Gir, considered by many in his native Pakistan as the country's Elvis Presley, recited poet/philosopher Khalil Gibran's "Giving." Alam Gir chose the poem as he felt it would inspire the audience to donate generously. "The poem provided a befitting setting to honor the King-Gandhi legacy which is all about giving", said Razdan.

Giriraj Rao, the cofounder and executive director of GFUSA, lauded the officeholders at the foundation. Dr. Narsi Narasimhan, founder of Indian Professional Network (IPN) and president-elect of Georgia Indo-American Chamber of Commerce, assured Franklin of the Indian community's support. "You have undertaken a great cause. We would like the King papers to be in Atlanta, not only because of the King-Gandhi connection, but also because Atlanta is a convention center," he said.

Mohsin Bharmal invited Jamal Yusuf Bhaisaheb Zainuddin, who assured her of the Dawoodi-Bohra community's support in her endeavors. Similar sentiments were voiced by banquet co-hosts Chintan Amin, Sushan Arora, Manju Kothary, Salim Jetha, Nadir Nanjee and Noor Ahmed, wife of Dr. Abdul Rehman Ahmed of the Ismaili community.

Franklin later received the Gandhi Foundation "Humanitarian Award."

In her address, Franklin spoke about the unique Gandhi-King bond. She dwelt on how the King Papers were purchased by the city, and her vision for preserving the Gandhi-King legacy for the future generations.

- Mahadev Desai

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