A Street Named Ibrahim Al-Hamdi
By: Menal Elmaliki / Arab America Contributing Writer
In the raucous and busy streets of Little Yemen, stand hundreds of Yemenis celebrating, singing and dancing. The unveiling of a new street named Ibrahim Al- Hamdi in the heart of Bronx marks an historic event for Yemeni Americans. Every year, Little Yemen hosts a Yemeni Day Parade.
Now in its 3rd year, the parade celebrates Yemeni heritage, culture and brings to light the positives of Yemen and Yemenis despite negative media coverage. It is also a celebration of American Yemeni identity. Yemenis all over the country flock to attend this celebrated event. Yemenis prideful of their roots, saturate the parade with the glorified colors of their flag. In showcasing their tradition and culture Yemenis are decked in traditional garments and share traditional dance and music. Women are dolled up in gorgeous fabrics, and silver pendants, while men come adorned, some in lungi’s or izaar’s, a skirt men typically wear in Yemen, carrying a jambiya which is a Yemeni sword or dagger.
Yahay Obeid, a prominent Yemeni American and chairman of the Yemeni American Day Parade, who coined the term Little Yemen back in 2018, explains what this day means to him,
“It’s a day to celebrate our heritage. It’s a day to put smiles on kids faces. It’s a day that we consider our own Eid. It’s a day where we show the rest of the neighborhood and the rest of the community, who we are and what our culture is about. Just like any other other people in New York City, they have their own parade. We want to have our own parade. We want something to ours, something that belongs to us. And that’s something that we can celebrate anyway. And that would be the Yemeni American Day Parade.”
Yahay Obeid (Yemeni community leader & activist)
Yemenis feel it necessary to take pride in their roots and to celebrate their culture especially in a land that is not their own and what better way to feel like you belong then making one’s presence known. Many Yemenis have made America their second home, having forced to leave their country due to war, poverty, famine, poor economy, and this parade is a token of unity and hope.
Covid 19 had dampened last year’s parade, yet the spirit of Yemenis was still alive, “the parade was held in cars and participants practiced social distancing,” and it was led by two NYPD officers on horseback. To make up for last year’s parade, Yahay Obeid unveiled his newest project, a street named after the Yemeni President Ibrahim al-Hamdi. What better location for the street co-naming ceremony then here in the eastern half of the Bronx, with over 500 Yemeni owned businesses, ranging from Yemeni orientated supermarkets, delis, restaurants, to pharmacies, all lined up in a span of 1 mile.
I asked Yahay why this president and not another well-known Yemeni historical figure,
“I noticed that a few street names in the Bronx are named after certain people, whether it’s Mother Teresa or an Italian judge your or someone else. And I wanted to have something symbolic for the Yemeni community that will last for a very long time to leave the fingerprints for the Yemeni community. And I needed to choose a person. I looked at the current situation in Yemen. And you can see Yemen is devastated by war, devastated by hunger. And I said, What can bring Yemen out of all of this and solve all of our problems. After doing some research, I noticed that Yemen had hope. And it was one of our human friends. He was president. And that was the only period the Yemen had hope. And I said okay, we have to do something symbolic. So to bring hope back to sort of when I came in handy, brought hope to him and in the 1970s. And I’m hoping that bringing his memory back and honoring him will trigger another Ibrahim Al- Hamdi to bring him in from darkness into light.”
For many Yemenis who are honored to live in the Bronx, feel the sign is a reminder of Yemen’s past of resilience, stability, and that one day a leader like Al- Hamdi will arrive to bring Yemen to its past glory. Despite the civil unrest in Yemen, Yemenis feel at ease in America, a home away from home.
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