— LA City Councilmember Paul Koretz Presents Certificate of Recognition and Welcome Message from LA Mayor Eric Garcetti —
LOS ANGELES — Global philanthropist and humanitarian Bita Daryabari’s Pars Equality Center (PEC) (parsequalitycenter.org) hosted its official Grand Opening event last night, September 26, 2013 at 6:30pm at its newest location in Los Angeles, California. Founded in the Bay area in 2010, with offices in Menlo Park and San Jose, PEC is the first and only non-profit organization of its kind to provide social and legal support and services for the Iranian-American community. LA City Councilmember Paul Koretz presented a Certificate of Recognition from Council District 5 and a special Welcome Message from Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti.
Mayor Garcetti’s letter states, “Welcome to our city and thank you for taking part in our effort to build community and make Los Angeles a better place to live. The work that you are doing to help Iranian Americans through social and legal services strengthens our city and creates opportunities.”
The event marks the opening of PEC’s third location in three years, and is the first Southern California office. A formal Ribbon Cutting Ceremony was held in the Courtyard at 1434 Westwood Boulevard where Daryabari and PEC were welcomed by Ron Adams, president of the West Los Angeles Chamber of Commerce.
Immediately following, a reception was held next door at Damoka LA Gallery, featuring live music by a violinist and cellist, networking, cocktails and a dinner of Persian cuisine catered by Shohleh Restaurant. There was also a special video presentation (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qMLzg80ZbZw
) highlighting the work of PEC.
Over 250 guests gathered for the celebration, including Daryabari, LA City Councilmember Paul Koretz and his Chief of Staff Joan Pelico (Council District 5), West LA Chamber of Commerce president Ron Adams, actor Jermaine Jackson, Jr., Maria Di Mento (Chronicle of Philanthropy) as well as many distinguished guests from the Iranian American community, including actor Houshang Touzie (“Argo”), Asa Soltan Rahmati (Bravo’s “Shah’s of Sunset”), journalist and author Homa Sarshar, Alex Helmi (Damoka LA), Saba Hamedy (Los Angeles Times), and many more.
Daryabari, PEC founder and executive director, says, “Los Angeles has over half a million Iranian residents. Every year LA area is being hit by more than one thousand new Iranian immigrants, and now, we are here to help them settle, go to ESL classes, learn the culture, find jobs, and more. I wish that there had been a Pars Equality Center when I first came to the United States from Iran as a teenager. It was a challenging transition.”
No stranger to the plight of many Iranian-Americans, Daryabari knows first-hand the difficulties of arriving as a new émigré to the United States. In 1985, she left Iran for the U.S. in the shadow of the 1979 Iran Hostage Crisis.
Daryabari adds, “Over the years, and especially since 9/11, the climate in the U.S. has gotten more challenging for Iranian Americans and Iranian immigrants, and this is why I founded the Pars Equality Center. There is so much misperception in this country about the Persian culture. Firstly, Iranians were not responsible for 9/11, and secondly, the refugees coming here are doing so due to sanction regulations and the economic situation in Iran.”
PEC is known for holding community-wide events, such as job fairs, as well as partnering with local and national community organizations. It has also been expanding its reach to the most vulnerable in its community: Iranians who have recently arrived in the U.S. with few or no financial resources and need support in order to establish themselves in this country.
With the help of Iranian and American volunteers, PEC Social Services range from Mentorship Programs to ESL classes, a computer lab, in-home visits, emergency assistance, and job development services (i.e. soft-skills workshops, resume preparation and job placement). A newly established casework system served over 160 newcomer Iranians and their families in the first year alone. In 2012, PEC hosted three Job Fairs that connected more than 200 job seekers with 38 Iranian or American employers, leading to 45 successful job placements, despite the difficult economy.
The Legal Department at Pars focuses upon providing general guidance and research in essentially all areas of the law, such as helping community members navigate through the complicated Iran Transactions Regulations overseen by the Office of Foreign Asset Control (OFACSanctions) and offering low-income individuals assistance applying for OFAC licenses, as well as tackling complex issues relating to discrimination, domestic violence and family law, and immigration issues.
Daryabari is on a two-fold mission of helping educate the public-at-large about the positive contributions that Iranian Americans are making to the country as a whole, while also bringing the Iranian community together. She aims to break down barriers and create a more compassionate community between the many Iranian cultures and beliefs that have settled in the U.S. since it takes a unified and organized community to build and grow together.
Daryabari states, “We cannot do this alone. It is through education, collaboration and dedication that we can all come together to create a more peaceful and tolerant society. Let’s build our community together.”
Her mission carries through all of her philanthropic endeavors, of which there are many. She recently was appointed the International Arts Ambassador to the LA-based charity Adopt the Arts, which helps keep art education in public elementary schools. Daryabari is working with the organization to ensure that children are offered programs that will nurture multicultural sensitivity.
In addition, she was a co-sponsor of the Cyrus Cylinder Tour for the exhibition of the Cylinder that was on display from August 9th through September 22nd at the Asian Art Museum of San Francisco. Over the centuries, the Cylinder has come to symbolize mankind’s first document on human rights and is recognized as one of the oldest, most iconic objects of religious tolerance and multiculturalism in the world. The Cyrus Cylinder (regularly housed in the British Museum) has, for the very first time, been on tour throughout the United States since March 2013 and been exhibited in five major museum venues. The Cylinder’s next stop is at L.A.’s J. Paul Getty Museum at the Getty Villa, Oct. 2 – Dec. 2, 2013.
On November 15th, the 6th Annual Bita Prize in Literature will be presented to Ms. Mahshid Amirshahi, an acclaimed Iranian writer, essayist, and translator. Daryabari created the award with a $6.5 million endowment at Stanford University, and it has become the most coveted prize in Persian Letters.
About Pars Equality Center
Founded by Bita Daryabari in 2010, the Pars Equality Center (PEC) is a non-profit organization, and the first of its kind, supporting the full integration of people of Persian (Iranian) origin in the United States. PEC provides social and legal support to all members of the Iranian American community, including refugees, asylees, 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 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 can participate. www.parsequalitycenter.org
About Bita Daryabari
In less than a decade, arts advocate and global philanthropist Bita Daryabari has emerged as one of the most beloved and cherished leaders of the Iranian-American community. From the beginning of her professional life, her work has been accompanied by her avid interest in Arts & Humanities. She created the Bita Daryabari Endowment in Persian Letters at Stanford University, where the Annual Bita Prize in Literature has become a coveted prize in the realm on Persian Letters. In 2010, she founded Pars Equality Center—the only non-profit of its kind providing social and legal services to Iranian emigrants, refugees and asylum seekers—in the San Francisco Bay area where she is also the executive director (http://www.parsequalitycenter.org
). Her charitable Unique Zan Foundation is dedicated to supporting the education of women and children all over Western Asia—from building orphanages for Afghan children to schools in the Middle East (http://www.uniquezanfoundation.org
/). Her Honors include the Ellis Island Medal of Honor (2012), the United Nations Appreciation Award for Outstanding Leadership, Commitment and Support of the UN and Achieving the UN Millennium Development Goals (2011), PAAIA Philanthropist of the Year Award (2010) and Golden Gate University’s Alumni of the Year Award (2008).