6th Annual Pars Equality Center Gala Features Congressman Mike Honda's Support for Persian Americans

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Congressman Mike Honda addresses over 800 guests at Annual Pars Equality Center Gala in San Francisco. The non-profit announces expansion of its services to Orange County.

Bita Daryabari & Congressman Mike Honda

What we have to be sure about is our rights and our understanding of the constitution.

On Saturday, March 5, 2016, Pars Equality Center (PEC) — the Californian non-profit organization providing social, legal and community services to the Iranian-American community — held its 6th Annual Nowruz (Persian New Year) Gala at San Francisco’s Marriott Waterfront Hotel (1800 Old Bayshore Parkway, Burlingame). Known for being a sold out event each year, and hosting over 800 guests, this year’s fundraising gala featured special guest Congressman Mike Honda and raised nearly $500,000.00.

Congressman Michael Makoto "Mike" Honda serves as the U.S. Representative for California's 17th congressional district (Silicon Valley), which is the only Asian American-majority district in the continental United States. The Congressman reflected on being a third generation Japanese American, sharing that he has experienced discrimination in the U.S., especially after the attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941. He recently voted against H.R. 158 — the Visa Waiver Program that could adversely affect countless American-born Iranians, saying, “What we have to be sure about is our rights and our understanding of the constitution.”

Congressman Honda added, “I would like for Bita Daryabari, the volunteers and board members of Pars Equality Center to know that the hard work that goes into non-profit work does not go unnoticed. Myself and my colleagues in Congress recognize that this nation would not be the country of opportunity to the extent that it is without the tireless efforts of people like Bita and her work with Pars Equality Center. There is no doubt that we need this Center more than ever. It advocates for more positive perceptions of Iranians in the U.S. media, while offering services and programs that help establish, integrate, and support Iranian Americans so that they are able to function productively in American society.”

Bita Daryabari, PEC executive director and founder, commented, "We are living in critical times in American politics. Elections are soon upon us and forces keen on placing the blame on immigrants, or closing the borders on those who look or pray differently are on the rise. We are fortunate to have as our congressional representative a man who has not only experienced the bitter taste of such bad policies in his own life, but has shown remarkable courage in his public life to stand for what is right, defend the weak, and be a voice of reason. He was one of the 19 courageous congressmen to vote against the discriminatory bill on visa requirements for Iranian dual citizens. We need more men and women of courage like him in congress."

The Annual Gala featured radio personality Shahrzad Ardalan (KIRN 670 AM) and comedian “Tehran” as co-hosts, The Black Cats for live entertainment, a plated three-course dinner, and a live and silent auction. Special guests included actor Navid Negahban (“America Sniper,” HBO’s Homeland) and CBS Sacramento News Anchor and award-winning journalist Shirin Rajaee. All proceeds benefit the organization’s programs throughout the Bay Area, San Jose and Los Angeles.

Congressman Honda concluded, “Over the past 50 years of working as a school teacher, a school principal, and an elected official, I have had the pleasure of observing the extraordinary contributions of Persian Americans to this community—from Google, to Facebook, to NASA, to education. The Bay Area, and the United States itself, would not be what it is without the glowing accomplishments of this community.”

On its 6th Anniversary, PEC is also proudly announcing that it is expanding its services to a new Orange County location, which officially opens today, March 15th.

With last year’s opening in San Jose of the Daryabari Iranian Community Center—the new headquarters for PEC, and the first-ever dedicated community center for Iranians in the United States—PEC became the first and most comprehensive non-profit legal, social and community support center that provides direct services to the U.S. Iranian and Persian-speaking population.

In 2015, the Bay Area and LA centers combined had more than 14,000 walk-ins. Pars serviced nearly 1,000 clients, a 139% increase over 2014; and also helped 195 job seekers secure employment—an incredible 146% increase. From education to women’s health, job placement, immigration, career development and computer training, the organization has supported hundreds of refugees and asylees in accessing mainstream opportunities and resources.

About Pars Equality Center
Founded by Bita Daryabari in 2010, the Pars Equality Center (PEC) is the first non-profit organization of its kind, supporting the full integration of people of Persian (Iranian) origin in the United States. PEC provides social and legal support for all members of the Iranian-American community, including refugees, immigrants and the American-born. The Center advocates for more positive perceptions of Persians in the U.S. media, while offering services and programs that help establish, integrate and support Iranian-Americans so that they are able to function responsibly and productively in American society. Daryabari’s aim is to create a more just and compassionate community in which Iranians of all cultures and beliefs participate. PEC is headquartered in the San Jose-based Daryabari Iranian Community Center, which opened in April 2015, making it the first and most comprehensive non-profit legal, social and community support center providing direct services to Iranians in the United States. Additional offices are also located in Menlo Park and Los Angeles, with a new office opening in Orange County in 2016.

Website: http://www.parsequalitycenter.org
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/parsequalitycenter
Twitter: @parsequality

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Heather Burgett
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