WHITTIER, CA - The lobby of The Ritz Gardens here buzzed with powerful leaders from the SoCal community. Power with a difference; power to make a difference. All these leaders had the power of giving, the power of philanthropy! The Lohana Community was founded by Late Shri Kantibhai Khetani in the year 2000.
The agenda for the evening was to honor 51 leaders of various community organizations who have played a crucial role in serving the community. “We want the Indian community here to know that there are many such organizations besides the Lohana community who have done phenomenal work in serving the community” says Lohana Treasurer Raj Chollera.
The event began with the traditional lamp lighting jointly done by the current President Suru Manek with Navin Doshi, Uka Solanki, Dhirajlal Manek, and Kishor & Uma Manek.
Jagdish Purohit invited Bakul Soneji of Saarthi to begin with prayers and proceeded by having Arti Manek of Shankara Dance Academy introduce her school and the students that performed Kathak dances.
Sanjay Khetani invited the past and current committee members and acknowledged their contributions. The Current Lohana Board members include Suru Manek, Chandu Lakhani, Rajeev Telli, Prakash Chandrana, Sanjay Khetani, Shital Khakharia, and Raj Chollera, Hasu Popat, Ramesh Bharania, Rupesh Kotecha. The audience sat in rapt attention as Suru Manek took to the stage.
He began by embarking on a mini journey of the genesis of the Lohana Community in USA and his migration to this land of opportunities dominated by the color white. Manek, as quite a few others in the audience immigrated from various parts of Africa, a land rich in natural resources filled with people of color and yet dominated by the color white! He spoke about growing up in Kenya, he brought with him props such as shackles worn by the slaves, the early life of Mahatma Gandhi in Durban, the atrocities of the Idi Amin regime. He had just opened a box full of wounds of loss and abandonment that a lot of these Indians faced while in Africa and black supremacy. But, why was he bringing all this up at a Lohana Community Awards event? The audience listened quietly wondering where this was going and the suspense ended with his announcement! Suru Manek is writing a book titled: ‘Generation B – Resetting Black America For Success – A Guide’, due for release in November.
Manek was appealing to the heads of various organizations for a change in perspective on the idea of giving back to the community. As we often see, ethnic groups that migrate from different parts of the world incline toward ‘helping’ their own kind as they can relate better to the issues peculiar to each group. Manek made a plea that the local Indian-American community should start giving back to the African American community through a process of mentoring. He referenced the Obama initiative called ‘My Brother’s Keeper’ launched in September 2014. “We do not need money” roared Manek. There is a budget of $200 million that this initiative has. After this 90-minute speech, the floor was open to the public for feedback. Uka Solanki of Big Saver Foods stood up in support of his plea. The much awaited award ceremony followed. Some of the award recipients were: Pushpa & Bhikhu Patel; Founder of SAHARA – Sheela Mehta; Khyati Bhatt of Gayatri Chetna Center; Ramji Patel of Param Shakti Peeth USA; Uma Gulani of Ekal Vidyalaya; Sonal and Govind Vagasia of BAPS; Pratima and Navin Doshi of Yadunandan Center, CSULB; Jayshree and Mahesh Vyas of Pratham –LA; Dharmesh Patel, and many more. “The event was more than just a award giving evening. We got not just food for the stomach, but also food for thought”, said an invitee.