In a show of solidarity, residents of Forest Hills and other areas will gather at MacDonald Park on Sunday, Feb. 26, to celebrate “Queens values” and the borough’s diversity in the face of growing divisiveness across the country.
Ethan Felder, Community Board 6 member, came up with the idea for the Queens Stands Together Rally in response to the recent political climate, specifically the travel ban issued by President Donald Trump, restricting immigration from seven predominantly Muslim countries.
“The rally was my idea; with all that’s happening in politics, with the travel ban, the wall and the executive orders, in the most diverse place in the world here in Queens, we needed a tolerance rally,” Felder said. “Being a lifelong Forest Hills resident and attending local public schools, I thought the values instilled in school needed to be stood up for.”
Felder has enlisted the help of Mazeda Uddin, Peter W. Beadle, Prameet Kumar and Mark Laster to organize the rally, and have the support of a diverse group of community organizations including the following:
- Arab-American Family Support Center;
- Coalition of Race, Diversity, and Intersectionality;
- Council on American-Islamic Relations;
- Muslim Jewish Solidarity Committee;
- Queens Connection;
- Queens New Democrats;
- South Asian Education & Training (SAFEST);
- Townsend Harris Alumni Association;
- Turning Point for Women; and
- Women for Afghan Women.
“When I see my Muslim friends feeling fearful and subject to bias, it affects me,” Felder said. “When one group is targeted, it is a threat to us all. So I think a Queens rally needs a strong showing of public support. Not just by having the rally, but assembling a diverse group of coalitions to sponsor it.”
Felder has also invited several of the local elected officials to participate in the rally, including Borough President Melinda Katz, Public Advocate Letitia James, Congresswoman Grace Meng, Councilwoman Karen Koslowitz, and Assemblyman Andrew Hevesi. The lawmakers have yet to confirm their attendance at the rally, however.
According to the rally’s Facebook event page, the rally will be used as a show of unity to bring together people of different faiths and ethnicities to stand up against hatred and bigotry.
“Standing together united and not being divided, especially in the most diverse place in the world where a large number of residents are foreign born, is extremely important,” Felder said. “It might be easy to turn on someone that doesn’t look like us, but our diversity is our greatest strength. We here in Queens are not immune to the intolerance and bigotry that has been on the rise. The time is right to really have this display of unity in the face of all that.”
The rally is scheduled to take place from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Feb. 26 at MacDonald Park, located on Queens Boulevard between Yellowstone Boulevard and 70th Road. For more information, visit the Facebook event page.