Compared to glitzy well-publicized jamborees organized by other communities for their annual conventions, it was neither a small event nor was it called a convention, nonetheless close to 150 members of the Dalit community got together in Virginia recently for bonding and discussion about their history and culture.
Organized by the Ambedkar Association of North America (AANA), the three-day event at Keezletown in Rockingham County, Virginia May 24 - May 27 celebrated Dr. Babasaheb Ambedkar, Mahatma Phule and BuddhaJayanti. The organizer said it was the biggest event AANA has organized in 11years of its existence.
The event provided an opportunity for the new members of the ever-growing AANA families to meet some of the older members. All these new members and their families were welcomed and made to feel at home by the other AANA members.
Program host Ravikiran kick-started the event by welcoming Bhante Chipmong, a monk from New York practicing Therwada Buddhism, Lama Rangdrol, a Tibetan African-American Monk and other guests and members. Bhante, a Harvard graduate, started the event with Buddha Vandana in Pali and it’s meaning in English. Lama Rangdrol introduced himself and his students and gave a brief overview of his work in spreading Dhamma.
AANA president Thenmozhi Soundararajan’s message about taking Dr. Ambedkar’s caravan forward was read by Ravikiran as she couldn’t attend the event due to personal reasons.
She mentioned in her video message that this annual get-together at the retreat is the best place to interact with each other. She said the time has come to release everything that is not essential so that “we can come together with non-attachment ,dignity, purpose and heart.”
The event was organized in the sylvan surrounding at Brethren Woods Camp and Retreat Center, one of the finest retreat centers in the state with lush green landscapes and a beautiful lake, in Keezletown.
“It was one of the best programs we ever had ,” said Mahesh Wasnik, one of the organizers.
The highlight of the program was the enthusiastic participation of women and children who traveled from all over the USA to showcase their talent by paying their tribute to Dr. Ambedkar, Buddha, Savitribai and Mahatma Phule and other social reformers.
A“Walk/Run for equality” was also organized by the organizers on the Memorial Day Weekend at the at Brethren Woods Camp. The organizers said there were Dhamma talks, informative presentations, children’s’ panel discussions and lots of entertainment in all of which children actively took part.