(10 Jul '10)
The United Nations & The Hip-Hop Nation Welcome Amma to New York
5 July, New York City –2010 USA Yatra
When Amma came to New York, it was in the midst of the Fourth of July Independence Day holidays. The city was alive with celebration, and millions of dollars in fireworks were being set off over the Hudson River.
The next evening, Amma was officially welcomed to the city by a number of figures from both the United Nations and the New York City government.
Amir Dossal, the Executive Director of the United Nations Office for Partnerships, was first to welcome Amma. Mr. Dossal is the United Nation’s representative for public/private partnerships, where he guides the development of strategic alliances with corporations, foundations and philanthropists in achieving the UN’s Millennium Development Goals. Addressing the gathering, Mr. Dossal said, “Amma, it is such an honor and a privileged to be here. You are so special—not just for people here and people around the world, but also you are special for the United Nations. What you do to bring happiness to people—you are truly a saint.”
He also informed Amma that, on July 2nd, the U.N. had formed a new agency dedicated to promoting the rights and needs of women and girls around the world—The U.N. Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women (U.N. Women). Mr. Dossal then acknowledged Amma’s long history of struggling to help women empower themselves. “Finally, it is happening,” he said. “We hope we will be able to involve you a lot more. What you do in making people understand that women actually are a real asset and must play an equal role—and maybe even a greater role—in society then they are allowed to play in business and the international world. So, thank you, Amma, for what you do. We are very grateful.”
New York City Councilwoman Julissa Ferreras, the chairperson of the City Council’s Women’s Issues Committee also welcomed Amma. She then presented Amma with a proclamation from the City Council, thanking Amma for coming to New York. Mrs. Ferreras said, “Amma’s mission—offering a loving touch to millions while building the social-economic infrastructures to help the poor and suffering lead productive lives—is an inspiration and a model to all of us seeking deeper engagement with our community.”
But the government was not the only entity to welcome Amma to the city. The hip-hop community also paid its respects to Amma. Russell Simmons, the co-founder of Def Jam Records and founder of the clothing company Phat Farm, came for Amma’s darshan on July 6th, and rapper and “Human Beat Box” Doug E. Fresh performed in the wee hours of July 7th. Speaking with Amrita TV after his darshan, Simmons said, “I’ve been a great fan of Amma for many, many years. I am practicing yogi. And it’s been my path—the yogic path. And every friend that I have that is part of this movement, the consciousness movement, through yoga, in America, has been to see Amma. So, I’m kind of the last one. Honestly. I’ve been inspired by her for many years. … Being around her, it’s like after the most beautiful yoga practice, after the most beautiful meditation; it’s during the most present moments. It is kind of a blissful experience. Being around her is like that. You feel connected. And from her, it just flows. She exudes this kind of consciousness that, most of the day, we just hope for, and every so often a second will come by and we will be awake. Being around her gives you that feeling of being awake. So it was very beautiful.”
The final night of Amma’s programs also found journalist Suketu Mehta coming for an embrace. Mehta, a resident of New York, is the author of the best-selling book about Mumbai, Maximum City: Bombay Lost & Found—a finalist for the 2005 Pulitzer Prize. After his darshan, speaking with Amrita TV, he said, “It’s really a beautiful thing for someone to just give out these hugs all around the world. I mean, who knows, if Bin Laden and George Bush were hugged together, we might break some walls. … She has made me think about the ways in which the head and heart can work together; they don’t have to be so separate.”