This year's Nowruz celebration looks different for new Afghan arrivals in West Michigan
"It's hard to celebrate something so valuable when half of your heart is still in a warzone."
The Persian New Year kicks off on Sunday, and many of West Michigan’s newest Afghan neighbors are heading out to celebrate. However, this year’s holiday will look very different, through the lens of a difficult past year.
“It’s hard to celebrate something so valuable when half of your heart is still in a warzone,” Freshta Tori Jan said.
Tori Jan, an Afghan asylee, works as an Afghan Community Health Advocate for Treetops Collective, a nonprofit aimed at empowering refugee women in West Michigan. She says the new year celebration, known as Nowruz, is time of reflection and hope.
“It’s a time where you’re supposed to forgive one another, the actions that may have caused others harm as you go into the new year," Tori Jan explained.
Treetops Collective is working to bring West Michigan’s Afghan communities together for a Nowruz celebration on Friday night. Tori Jan said it’s a way to celebrate the culture so many are longing for, while opening opportunities for connection here in Michigan. The ticketed event runs from 5:30-8:30pm at the Madison Church Franklin Campus in Grand Rapids. Each $45 ticket purchased ensures free event enjoyment for Afghan arrivals.
"This is their new home, and they are just so thirsty to be part of this culture and this country," she said.
However, amid the celebration comes the realities of hardship over the past year.
“A big population of us had to leave the country by force on short notice. We had to leave everything behind," Tori Jad said. "...When you still have families that are suffering and waiting, they're desperate to survive, and it's hard to enjoy and breathe here comfortably when you think of that."
Among activities like poetry and egg painting, the event will hold a moment of silence to acknowledge the pain many are still coping with.