A heart-to-heart talk with my fellow Iranian-Americans in Houston
I have served the Iranian Cultural Foundation-Houston (ICF) from the inception (January 24, 2007), first as the Secretary of the Board, and later as the Chairman of the Board and the President (from December 2009 to December 2012). Now that I have stepped down from this position by my own choice, I like to—better yet, I feel obligated to—analyze the goals, dreams and hopes of the Board so that our hearts connect and your hand is extended to help in this endeavor, and together, we can take bigger steps towards keeping the ICF’s doors open to our families and those of other compatriots.
With best wishes for the success and advancement of our Iranian-American community in this neck of the woods and anywhere else on the face of this planet.
Why is it necessary for our Iranian-American community to have a cultural foundation in a city like Houston? After all, there are other organizations in this town that happen to be very successful in their pursuits. Aren’t those enough?
If we take a close look at the social clubs and organizations in Houston such as SIAWE, IAMA, AIAP, Bonyad, Noor Institute, Zoroastrian Organization, Iranian Christian Organization, Pendar Book Club, and the like, it becomes evident that each one attracts specific affiliations, belief systems, and interests. Naturally, they exclude other sectors of the community, or perhaps others shy away from these organizations.
Among all, it is only the ICF that does not exclude or isolate any religious, political, or professional affiliations or beliefs. The only requirement for joining ICF is the same identity that is in common among all ethnic and cultural groups inside Iran— having a love for Iran! Under the ICF umbrella, all, regardless of their geographic origin, language or local dialect, religious conviction, political or philosophical orientation, social status, or professional engagement are welcome with open arms!
Why shouldn’t the ICF have any religious or political affiliation?
When we say the ICF is a non-religious organization with no political affiliation, it is because Iranians have different political and religious belief systems. If the ICF sides with any one of these systems, a large segment of the community would be excluded. This would defy the ICF’s ultimate purpose of serving all segments of the Iranian diaspora.
What is ICF’s mission?
- To preserve the Persian language, culture, history and traditions
- To teach these values to the children and the youth
- To introduce and promote the positive Persian cultural values to the American community and bridge between the two cultures.
Why should I become a member of the ICF?
The answer to this question is very simple! Let’s think about the mission of the ICF for a moment. If the preservation and promotion of the Persian language and culture and passing this heritage to our children are of any importance to us, then we must become a member and do our best to promote its goals with all our financial and human resources. If we take pride in these values and like to introduce them to our hosting American community, then it is our duty, to not only become a member, but encourage our friends and family to join as well. Each one of us must be an ambassador for the ICF in our own capacity. It is the utmost duty of each one of us to preserve this home away from home, and do our best to keep its doors open. The honor and dignity of our community is dependent upon the progress and success of the ICF.
What is in it for me?
A better question is: Why should we receive anything in return for doing our civic duty? Why should we ask for compensation for responding to our consciousness? Why should we hide in the cocoon of my selfishness so that we block ourselves from our social responsibility toward our community and our children who are going to inherit our cultural identity as Iranian-Americans? Why should we ask what our community does for us instead of asking what we can do for our community?
If we find a logical answer to these questions, we should join the ICF with no further arguments, pay the nominal membership with no questions asked, and help promote the mission of the ICF to the best of our ability. Nevertheless, joining the ICF is not quite without any rewards. Let’s look at some “perks” of ICF membership:
- The right to vote on the election of the Board of Directors,
- The right to run for the Board of Directors,
- The right to nominate others for the Board of Directors,
- Discount on certain ICF programs and concerts,
- Priority in purchasing some concert tickets and events,
- The privilege to check out the ICF Library books,
- The privilege to use the ICF office facility for cultural meetings and events (e.g., Pendar Book Club, rules and limitations apply)
Why should the ICF have members?
Because without charging membership fees, the ICF could not afford the back-breaking cost of its operation, and it would have to close down. Currently, our annual physical plant and employment cost is over $50,000. Although we receive occasional generous donations, this type of support is not continuous, and the Board spends a considerable amount of energy, time and effort to collect these contributions.
On the other hand, we know that between 50,000 to 70,000 Iranian-Americans reside within the Houston Metropolitan area. With a meager annual fee of only $50 per year, we would need to recruit 1000 individuals (1 out of 50 or 70) as regular members in order to alleviate our budget problem and be able to focus our human resources more on the quality and quantity of our services to the community.
The responsibility of fulfilling this level of paid membership lies on the shoulders of you, the reader of this message, and no one else!
Does a particular person “own” the ICF and cover all its expenses?
This amusing rumor goes around in our community (and has reached the board’s ears, as well) that someone is paying for the ICF’s operational expenses. We would be pleased to know who this imaginary person is.
Our budget is covered by the income from certain programs such as the Nowruz Festival, some concerts, the school’s tuitions, and in a very small part, by the membership dues. We hope that the majority of our expenses can be covered by the membership dues in the near future, so we can save funds to purchase a venue and pay for expanded programs and activities.
What do we see in the crystal ball?
Currently, the ICF office, classrooms, and the cultural activities are operated from a commercial leased space with a monthly rent of $4,000. We hope that we can purchase a venue for ICF’s operation in the not-so-distant future in order to accumulate equity on the real estate and prevent the waste of expenditure on the monthly rent payments. Again, the importance of expanding our membership to 1,000 members becomes evident. With this level of human support, we can hope that we can collect more generous donations toward down-payment on our new home.
What is on the ICF’s score card?
- Offering of classes in Persian, painting, and dance for children, and English and Persian language classes for adults
- Offering “the Gathering of Friends” event every other week
- Organizing the largest Nowruz Festival in the U.S. outside California since 2009
- Monthly Poetry Night gathering
- Monthly Shahnameh Workshops
- Monthly Golestan Workshops
- Opening the ICF Library and offering book checkouts to members
- Organizing cultural lecture series at Saint Thomas University
- Organizing music concerts and entertainment shows
- Mastan Ensemble
- Maestro Shajarian
- Maz Jobrani stand-up
- Movie screenings
- Collaborative programs with the Asia Society
- Collaborative programs with the Museum of Fine Arts in Houston
- Collaborative programs with the Houston Library
- Collaborative programs with SIAWE, PAIAA, IAMA, and AIAP
- Providing the ICF space for Pendar Book Club’s meetings
- Collaboration in the Persian Thanks Giving Program – collection of donations for the needy in Thanksgiving Day
The dedicated and hard-working members of the ICF Board of Directors have sacrificed their volunteer time, energy, talent and invaluable resources to serve you, to keep our Iranian-American community coherent, united, and proud of their heritage. They have done what they have had in their power to showcase our cultural traditional values to the Houston population. They have cared so much about our children and their need to learn their mother tongue and become aware of their Persian identity.
In return for all these selfless sacrifices, they only have one expectation from you: to support ICF by becoming a paid member. This is the ONLY logical way that we can call this institute a TRUE Iranian Cultural Foundation—an organization that has been instituted by a large number of loyal members who are committed to support its noble goals and valuable mission. Is this too much to ask? Join us today! Let’s prove it to ourselves that we are a closely knitted community with much pride for our identity. Become a member! Today! Would you?