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Flame of Independence begins journey around Atlanta

August 2009
Flame of Independence begins journey around Atlanta

Visitors to the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., National Historic Site witnessed the lighting of the “Flame of Independence” at the Gandhi statue on July 4, followed by a peace march to the King Crypts. The torch began its journey around Atlanta and its suburbs as part of a unique celebration that will culminate at the Gwinnett Civic Center on Aug. 15, India’s Independence Day.

The India American Cultural Association (IACA) in partnership with the Gandhi Foundation of USA (GFUSA), National Park Service, King Center, VIBHA and several other community organizations, organized the event to mark the Fourth of July observance, drawing about 60 people from the community, as well as visitor center guests. A few thousand are expected to attend the Aug. 15 celebration.

Padma Rallapalli, executive vice-president of IACA and program director for the event, welcomed everyone and introduced Lakshmi Vedala to perform Gandhiji’s favorite hymn, “Raghupati Raghava Rajaram.” Subash Razdan, chairman of Gandhi Foundation of USA, congratulated Rallapalli and the FOI team for the idea of linking Fourth of July with August 15, independence days of the world’s oldest and largest democracies.

“Both communities have so much to share,” said IACA President Dr. Ananth Kamath. “We must get together and practice the ideals of Gandhi and Martin Luther King.”

Issac Farris, CEO of the King Center, and Doug Shipman, executive director of the Center for Civil and Human Rights, garlanded the Gandhi statue. Jay Tribby, chief of staff to Councilman Kwanza Hall, and Tony Stennis, deputy superintendent of the National Park Service, placed flowers on the Mahatma’s feet.

After Farris lit the “Flame of Independence,” violinists Pallavi Rallapalli and Sheila Vedala played the Indian and American national anthems. This was followed by the peace march to the King Crypts, where Farris placed flowers at the crypts of Martin Luther King Jr. and Coretta Scott King. Dr. Yogesh Joshi and Dr. Ravi Sarma, veteran IACA members and visionaries, delivered the vote of thanks.

The “Flame of Independence” journey, a partnership between IACA and Vibha, will make stops at East Cobb Park (July 18), Ocee Park, Johns Creek (July 25), Lilburn City Park, Lilburn (Aug. 1) and Lake Spivey Country Club, Jonesboro (Aug. 8).

The grand finale at the Gwinnett Civic Center on Aug. 15 is an all-day event that includes exhibition booths, youth programs, dances, music and variety of tasty food to showcase Indian culture and heritage.

On July 6, members of IACA and GFUSA were invited to the City Council Chambers at Atlanta City Hall to receive a proclamation signed by the entire Council. Councilman Kwanza Hall read the proclamation, mounted on a wooden frame, and presented a copy to each of the organizations.

Rallapalli, executive vice-president of IACA, thanked the Council for the honor and requested all in attendance to come and celebrate at the GCC on Aug. 15. Razdan, chairman of GFUSA, also thanked the Council for the partnership, honor and proclamation, and urged everyone to make a visit to the King National Historic Site and pay homage to Mahatma’s statue and the King Crypts.

- Viren Mayani

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