By Rob Abruzzese
Brooklyn Daily Eagle
After she heard about the bombings in Boston last week, the Willow Interfaith Women’s Choir’s director Farah Chandu said the group never had second thoughts about performing in the Brooklyn Federal Courthouse because, as they say, the show must go on.
So with just a slight bit of anxiety, the women’s choir performed three songs during the courthouse’s naturalization ceremony to commemorate New York City Immigration Heritage Week on Friday morning as scheduled. It proceeded to serenade the 272 freshly sworn in American citizens as they left the building onto the streets they had previously only known as foreigners.
“What happened in Boston was so tragic and emotional and I think it hit hard in New York because 9/11 is still so fresh in our minds,”Chandu said. “We didn’t give much thought to not performing because there is nothing more beautiful and healing than music and we felt like it was needed now as much as ever.”
The group performed “It’s a New Day”and “What a Wonderful World”before those being naturalized gave the Oath of Allegiance and then recited the Pledge of Allegiance. Judge Kiyo Matsumoto then officially named them American Citizens.
The group performed the national anthem before everyone left the courtroom. The choir then proceeded to the courthouse lobby where they sang about five more songs as many court employees including judges, lawyers, and court officers gathered to watch.
“For a building that has been pretty tense since the bombings in Boston it was certainly a fantastic moment,”said Adam Carol, a former FEMA employee who helped organize the event.
Officials at the courthouse were glad that choir didn't back down. They explained that even though there has been a heightened level of security by the United States Marshals Service and court security officers, court functions have gone on as planned.
The United States District Court for the Eastern District of New York naturalizes anywhere from 50,000 to 60,000 new citizens a year in Brooklyn and it's divisional office in Central Islip each year. That puts them in the top three of the 94 districts in the number of new naturalized citizens each year. The Brooklyn courthouse alone typically naturalizes up to 281 new citizens a day.
The event was especially emotional for Chandu, who was naturalized herself in the same room of the same building back in 1977 after she came to America from West Pakistan when she was 11 years old.
“This was so emotional for me,”Chandu said. “I kept thinking back to that day in 1977 where I was sitting in the second row. I still remember tears running down my parents’faces because they were so proud. This is such an emotional high for me. It’s just so wonderful.”
The Willow Interfaith Women's Choir was formed in 1998 by a group of women who discovered that despite their different faith and backgrounds they shared much in common including their passion for music. The women of the group hail from different parts of Queens, Suffolk, and Nassau counties.