Shonita Srinivasan dances on stage at the 2021 Light Up Montclair Diwali celebration, on Oct. 16, 2021 outside the Montclair Art Museum. Srinivasan recently graduated from the Shubanjali School of Performing Arts in Scotch Plains. (LOUIS C. HOCHMAN/FOR MONTCLAIR LOCAL)

An estimated 1,300 to 1,400 people joined AAPI Montclair outside the Montclair Art Museum Saturday for Light Up Montclair — the township’s first large-scale Diwali celebration.

Diwali is known as the festival of lights, and celebrated by Hindus, Jains, Sikhs and some Buddhists, marked by harvest celebrations in several countries. It symbolizes the victory of good over evil, and light over darkness.

AAPI Montclair had formed earlier this year to ask Montclair Public schools to better protect Asian American and Pacific Islander students as they returned to classrooms amid the coronavirus pandemic, citing incidents of anti-AAPI bias escalating nationwide. In the time since, it has expanded its mission, organizing events focused on celebrating AAPI culture and sharing it with the larger Montclair community.

On stage at the event, dancers and singers entertained crowds on the museum lawn, as well as passersby who checked out out tables from food vendors, henna artists, the creators of a drinking game for Desi adults and others who took part in the cultural celebration.

Montclair school board president Latifah Jannah gets henna art from Tanvi Kacharia at the 2021 Light Up Montclair Diwali celebration, on Oct. 16, 2021 outside the Montclair Art Museum. (LOUIS C. HOCHMAN/FOR MONTCLAIR LOCAL)

Linda Kow, one of AAPI Montclair’s founding members, told attendees: “We demanded visibility, and we got more than we could ask for.”

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Assemblyman Raj Mukherji, from Jersey City, encouraged attendees not to be complacent — but to vote to protect their rights and those of other marginalized communities. He recounted practices such as Chinese exclusion, which prevented Chinese laborers from coming to the United States beginning in 1882, and which wasn’t repealed until 1943. And he advocated for state legislation that would require lessons on the AAPI immigrant experience to be taught in schools.

“The way you fight hate, the way you fight bigotry, is education,” he said.

Also: Montclair Local had been a sponsor of Light Up Montclair. Attendees donated close to $2,500 toward the nonprofit newspaper’s fourth-quarter campaign — seeking to raise $230,000 between Oct. 1 and Dec. 31 to keep the paper able to provide thorough, robust journalism to the Montclair community into 2022 and beyond. Montclair Local is grateful for the support of Light Up Montclair’s attendees, and for all those who have contributed to make its journalism possible. Donations can be made at MontclairLocal.news/donations.

— Louis C. Hochman

Aalok Mehta, an actor, producer and musician, takes the stage at the 2021 Light Up Montclair Diwali celebration, on Oct. 16, 2021 outside the Montclair Art Museum. (LOUIS C. HOCHMAN/FOR MONTCLAIR LOCAL)
Julie Kim, one of the founding members of AAPI Montclair, speaks at the 2021 Light Up Montclair Diwali celebration, on Oct. 16, 2021 outside the Montclair Art Museum. “Let us eat, drink, dance and be joyous together,” Kim said. (LOUIS C. HOCHMAN/FOR MONTCLAIR LOCAL)
AAPI Montclair’s Sumeer Kapoor, one of the organizers of the 2021 Light Up Montclair Diwali celebration on Oct. 16, 2021, takes the stage outside the Montclair Art Museum. (LOUIS C. HOCHMAN/FOR MONTCLAIR LOCAL)
Vikram Sood performs a folk dance 2021 Light Up Montclair Diwali celebration, on Oct. 16, 2021 outside the Montclair Art Museum. (LOUIS C. HOCHMAN/FOR MONTCLAIR LOCAL)
Vikram Sood performs a folk dance 2021 Light Up Montclair Diwali celebration, on Oct. 16, 2021 outside the Montclair Art Museum. (LOUIS C. HOCHMAN/FOR MONTCLAIR LOCAL)
Children represent the various states of India, dressed in each state’s outfit and performing a folk dance from the state, at the Light Up Montclair Diwali celebration, on Oct. 16, 2021 outside the Montclair Art Museum. From left are Soumya Kapoor, Rahm Patel, Dipanshi Ganguly-Chimel and Keya Hathiramani. (LOUIS C. HOCHMAN/FOR MONTCLAIR LOCAL)
Montclair resident Noah Gale volunteered to learn how to wear a sari on stage at the 2021 Light Up Montclair Diwali celebration, on Oct. 16, 2021 outside the Montclair Art Museum. (LOUIS C. HOCHMAN/FOR MONTCLAIR LOCAL)
Linda Kow, one of AAPI Montclair’s founding members, addresses the crowd at the 2021 Light Up Montclair Diwali celebration, on Oct. 16, 2021 outside the Montclair Art Museum. She recounted how the group came together, first to ask Montclair schools to do more to protect Asian American and Pacific Islander children from bigotry as students began returning to classrooms in the pandemic. “We demanded visibility, and we got more than we could ask for,” Kow said. (LOUIS C. HOCHMAN/FOR MONTCLAIR LOCAL)
Assemblyman Raj Mukherji, from Jersey City, encouraged attendees of the 2021 Light Up Montclair Diwali celebration not to be complacent — but to vote to protect their rights and those of other marginalized communities. He recounted practices such as Chinese exclusion, which prevented Chinese laborers from coming to the United States beginning in 1882, and which wasn’t repealed until 1943. And he advocated for state legislation that would require lessons on the AAPI immigrant experience to be taught in schools. “The way you fight hate, the way you fight bigotry is education,” he said. The event took place Oct. 16, 2021 outside the Montclair Art Museum. (LOUIS C. HOCHMAN/FOR MONTCLAIR LOCAL)
Khyati Joshi, a Fairleigh Dickinson University professor and social science researcher, speaks at the 2021 Light Up Montclair Diwali celebration, on Oct. 16, 2021 outside the Montclair Art Museum. She told the story of the exile of Rama, the seventh avatar of the Hindu god Vishnu. In the story, she said, there are lessons about love — Rama’s love for his father, accepting the exile his father had commanded, and his love from his brother, joining him. (LOUIS C. HOCHMAN/FOR MONTCLAIR LOCAL)
Shonita Srinivasan dances on stage at the 2021 Light Up Montclair Diwali celebration, on Oct. 16, 2021 outside the Montclair Art Museum. Srinivasan recently graduated from the Shubanjali School of Performing Arts in Scotch Plains. (LOUIS C. HOCHMAN/FOR MONTCLAIR LOCAL)
Montclair Local was among the proud sponsors of the 2021 Light Up Montclair Diwali celebration, on Oct. 16, 2021 outside the Montclair Art Museum. Visitors to Montclair Local’s table donated more than $2,500 to its fundraising campaign, looking to raise $230,000 in the fourth quarter of this year to continue providing robust local news to the Montclair community. See MontclairLocal.news/donations for more information. (LOUIS C. HOCHMAN/FOR MONTCLAIR LOCAL)
Natasha Mathias, left, and Angelica De Las Salas attend the 2021 Light Up Montclair Diwali celebration, on Oct. 16, 2021 outside the Montclair Art Museum. (LOUIS C. HOCHMAN/FOR MONTCLAIR LOCAL)
Punita Choxi, left, and Asha Champaneria, stop by Montclair Local’s table at the Light Up Montclair Diwali celebration, on Oct. 16, 2021 outside the Montclair Art Museum. Punita Choxi is the mother of Heeten Choxi, Montclair Local’s founding publisher. (LOUIS C. HOCHMAN/FOR MONTCLAIR LOCAL)
Saiful Khan, Neha Shah and Kabir Kapoor attend the 2021 Light Up Montclair Diwali celebration, on Oct. 16, 2021 outside the Montclair Art Museum. (LOUIS C. HOCHMAN/FOR MONTCLAIR LOCAL)
Children represent the various states of India, dressed in each state’s outfit and performing a folk dance from the state, at the Light Up Montclair Diwali celebration, on Oct. 16, 2021 outside the Montclair Art Museum. From left are Soumya Kapoor, Rahm Patel, Arya Rathod Shah, Vikram Sood, Sarit Patel, Keya Hathiramani, Sunaina Sood and Maya Mehndiratta. (LOUIS C. HOCHMAN/FOR MONTCLAIR LOCAL)
Tessie Thomas, president of the Montclair PTA Council as well as a founding member of AAPI Montclair, joins schools Superintendent Jonathan Ponds at the 2021 Light Up Montclair Diwali celebration, on Oct. 16, 2021 outside the Montclair Art Museum. (LOUIS C. HOCHMAN/FOR MONTCLAIR LOCAL)
Aminita Green, from left, Susan Andersen and Esperanza Cardona work the SnacksWalla table at the 2021 Light Up Montclair Diwali celebration, on Oct. 16, 2021 outside the Montclair Art Museum. (LOUIS C. HOCHMAN/FOR MONTCLAIR LOCAL)
Montclair school board president Latifah Jannah gets henna art from Tanvi Kacharia at the 2021 Light Up Montclair Diwali celebration, on Oct. 16, 2021 outside the Montclair Art Museum. (LOUIS C. HOCHMAN/FOR MONTCLAIR LOCAL)
Geetika Immaneni practices her poses at the 2021 Light Up Montclair Diwali celebration, on Oct. 16, 2021 outside the Montclair Art Museum. Geetika performed on stage with Kulture Kool at the festival. (LOUIS C. HOCHMAN/FOR MONTCLAIR LOCAL)
Kathak dance is performed by Pia Padovano, Sankirtha Kapoor, Simran Shah and Meher Agarwal, all students of Parul Shah, at the 2021 Light Up Montclair Diwali celebration, on Oct. 16, 2021 outside the Montclair Art Museum. (LOUIS C. HOCHMAN/FOR MONTCLAIR LOCAL)
Shonita Srinivasan celebrates with her mother, Shuba Vasan, before dancing on stage at the 2021 Light Up Montclair Diwali celebration, on Oct. 16, 2021 outside the Montclair Art Museum. Srinivasan recently graduated from the Shubanjali School of Performing Arts in Scotch Plains. (LOUIS C. HOCHMAN/FOR MONTCLAIR LOCAL)
Friends, from left, Kyah Brown, Anisha Thomas, Nola Kim, Chaire Washington, Sanaya Thomas and Amelia Huey, as well as Penelope Huey in front, at the 2021 Light Up Montclair Diwali celebration, on Oct. 16, 2021 outside the Montclair Art Museum. (LOUIS C. HOCHMAN/FOR MONTCLAIR LOCAL)
Drinks Walla, billed as “an adult prty game for Desis” was created as a passion project by Malini Lakhaney and Ashish Thani, who came to the 2021 Light Up Montclair Diwali celebration, on Oct. 16, 2021 outside the Montclair Art Museum. (LOUIS C. HOCHMAN/FOR MONTCLAIR LOCAL)
Drinks Walla, billed as “an adult prty game for Desis” was created as a passion project by Malini Lakhaney and Ashish Thani, who came to the 2021 Light Up Montclair Diwali celebration, on Oct. 16, 2021 outside the Montclair Art Museum. (LOUIS C. HOCHMAN/FOR MONTCLAIR LOCAL)
Drinks Walla, billed as “an adult prty game for Desis” was created as a passion project by Ashish Thani, at left and Malini Lakhaney, who came to the 2021 Light Up Montclair Diwali celebration, on Oct. 16, 2021 outside the Montclair Art Museum. (LOUIS C. HOCHMAN/FOR MONTCLAIR LOCAL)
Attendees dance at the 2021 Light Up Montclair Diwali celebration, on Oct. 16, 2021 outside the Montclair Art Museum. (LOUIS C. HOCHMAN/FOR MONTCLAIR LOCAL)
Attendees dance at the 2021 Light Up Montclair Diwali celebration, on Oct. 16, 2021 outside the Montclair Art Museum. (LOUIS C. HOCHMAN/FOR MONTCLAIR LOCAL)
From left, Montclair Township Councilman Bob Russo, Real Estate agent Laurena White Lorena White and U.S. Rep. Mikie Sherrill (NJ-11) attend Light Up Montclair Oct. 16 outside the Montclair Art Museum (COURTESY BOB RUSSO).
Councilman Bob Russo greets Lauren Spiller (wife of Mayor Sean Spiller) and the Spillers’ son at Light Up Montclair. (COURTESY BOB RUSSO)