“Live” in this case can be pronounced either way. People are posting “live” videos, but the goal is to show how different cultures “live” harmoniously in the United States.
The challenge is the brainchild of Ali Partovi, an angel investor in Silicon Valley and the founder of Code.org, a nonprofit that teaches computer science to kids, who came to the United States in 1984 when he was 11 years old — as so many Iranians did after the 1979 revolution. After the Trump administration announced its travel ban, which includes people coming from Iran, Partovi said people in his professional and personal network — many whose politics lean conservative, particularly on fiscal issues — were searching for ways to affirm that they did not agree with discrimination based on national heritage.
“I was thinking about my own ethnicity. It’s so unfamiliar to be suddenly targeted in my own country,” Partovi said. “I’ve always loved the ideals of what makes this country great, but the idea of being treated with distrust or as an outsider is something I had never experienced before. I thought it would be a lot harder to demonize a category when you realize everyone has friends in that category.”
The Persian New Year officially began Monday with the first day of spring, a time of celebrations and family gatherings and the promise of new beginnings and optimism. For some Iranian Americans, the Nowruz festivities are tempered by the U.S. travel restrictions. Family in Iran couldn’t get visas to come for the holiday. And those already in the United States are fearful of traveling back to Iran and not being able to return.
By shifting the focus to friendship and bridge building, Partovi is hopeful this challenge can break through some of the negativity and cynicism that has permeated the collective national consciousness. It’s capturing “a brief moment of endearing vulnerability of trying to learn a foreign language live” in the interest of wanting to celebrate other cultures, he said.
So far, several high-profile individuals have participated. Iranian American comedian Maz Jobrani did it with Stephen Colbert on “The Late Show.” Firouz Naderi, the NASA scientist who helped direct the Mars mission, taught a friend, while actor Kurt Russell learned to say “nowruz pirouz.” Instagram founder Kevin Systrom, challenged by LinkedIn chairman Reid Hoffman, posted a longer video learning about the Persian New Year from venture capitalist Pejman Nozad. The challenge has also been picked up in London and Rome.
Today I took the #LiveTogether Norooz challenge with Pejman Nozad. At Instagram, it's our mission to strengthen relationships through shared experiences so Pejman and I went Live over Persian tea to celebrate Persian New Year. Pejman taught me how to say "Happy New Year" in Farsi and shared some of his traditions for the holiday. I'm glad we could do this together and challenge Mike Krieger, Marne Levine and Kevin Weil to take the challenge next.Posted by Kevin Systrom on Friday, March 17, 2017
“I feel like there’s a very fertile ground for a campaign like this to take root, a way to affirm that we do stand for equality and freedom and they’re not okay with xenophobia or targeting people based on national heritage,” Partovi said. “They haven’t been sure how to express that in a positive way, a fun way, in a way that’s not political.”
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