New York City Mayor Praises Hindu Community

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Greetings from Little Guyana, in Liberty Avenue, New York!

By Dr Dhanpaul Narine

The Mayor of New York City, Eric Adams, was full of praise for the Hindu community in Queens, New York. This took place at the Phagwah Concert.

There was no Parade this year due to the pandemic. The 106 Precinct worked with the community and approval was granted for a concert to be held in Liberty Avenue, the heart of the Indo-Caribbean community. The chill in the air did little to daunt the spirits of the community. In fact, it added to it. The anticipation and excitement in the faces of the participants were indeed incredible. This was the first open air event since 2019 and the happiness was evident.

A stage was set up at Lefferts Boulevard and Liberty Avenue, in Queens, New York. Two blocks were closed and traffic re-routed. The proceedings began with prayers from Pandit Gurudat Jagnanan from the Federation of Hindu Mandirs and Pandit Bharat Singh from the Arya Spiritual Center. This was followed with a beautiful invocation dance by Urvashee Kissoon, of the Arya Spiritual Center. It captivated the crowd and the stage was set for an enthralling afternoon.

There was Chowtal, Holi songs from the different mandirs, and Pandit Chunelall Narine performed ‘Rang Barase’ that is perhaps the anthem of Phagwah. Pandit Chunelall lit up the crowds with the popular rendition and the variety of colors sparkled in the sunshine. Committee member, Sagar Rajpal, introduced the MC’s, Bahen Vedo Basdeo and Pandit Prakash Persaud. Radio personality Herman Singh and Vedo Basdeo took turns to introduce members of the Committee.

Mayor Eric Adams (center) gives the ’thumbs-up’ sign of approval at the Phagwah Concert. Standing next to him are Committee Members Romeo Hitlall and Naro Balli.

There were a number of presentations from individuals, and mandirs. They included the Arya Spiritual Center, Arya Samaj USA, the Natraj Cultural Group, David Ali Dance Group, the USA Pandits’ Parishad, the Shri Trimurti Bhavan, Omadevi Somai, United Madrassi Federation, Rajin and Deepak, Sean Kulsum, Pandit Baya and his Chowtal Group, Sundar Gopal Mandir, and others. A number of celebrity artistes were on show as well. Terry Gajraj was amazing as usual, and Marissa Deodat, Rakesh Yankaran, Randy Ramdin, and Rikki Jai entertained royally.

There were two highlights that left a lasting memory on the 2022 event. The first was the presentations to the mothers, followed by a visit by New York City’s Mayor, Eric Adams. The mothers were introduced by Dr. Dhanpaul Narine. He said they have done well, in their own right, and have produced children that are making a remarkable contribution in the community. It was also fitting that the mothers should be honored during ‘Women’s History Month.’

Mataji Champa Singh was born in Bush Lot in the Corentyne area of Guyana. She was married to Aram Singh and the union produced four children. She worked in New York for many years. Her son, Herman Singh, is well known to the community. He is the producer of a popular radio program that has been on air for over thirty years. Herman was close to Pandit Ramlall, of the Arya Spiritual Center, one of the founders of the Phagwah Parade. Mataji Champa Singh accepted the award and acknowledged Herman, and his wife Sindy, for their hard work.

Mataji Sona Balli was born in Windsor Forest, in Guyana, and is the mother of seven children. She was married to Bhagwat Persaud, known as Balli. She has ten grandchildren and one great grand-child. Her son, Naro Balli, is a member of the Arya Spiritual Center. Naro is making a wonderful contribution to the community, with his wife Mala Balli. Mataji Sona Balli wants the children to do well, and to take advantage of the many opportunities in the community.

Mataji Chandrawattie Persaud was married at the age of fourteen in Guyana to Pandit Chandrica Persaud. She has worked for over thirty years in New York, and is closely attached to the Hindu religion. Her son Ganesh Persaud, Pete Persaud, and daughter Latchmie, and the grandchildren, are flying the flag high. Pandit Chandrica Persaud and Pandit Ramlall, worked side by side to make Phagwah a big and inclusive event.

The crowds were as far as the eyes could see!

Dr. Vindhya Persaud, Minister of Social Services, in Guyana, represented the Government of Guyana and brought warm greetings on behalf President Irfaan Ali, and his government. Queens Borough President, Donovan Richards, wished the Hindu community well, spoke of his visit to Ukraine a few weeks ago, and called for peace there.

There were greetings from Judges Karen Gopee, Andrea Ogle, and from politicians Joann Ariola, Jenifer Rajkumar, Joe Addabo, Roxanne Persaud, Brooklyn District Attorney, Eric Gonzalez, and others. Mayor Eric Adams was introduced by Committee member, Romeo Hitlall. Mayor Adams thanked the Hindu community. He said he will work to ensure that the community is well represented. Many in the audience reminded Mr. Adams that Diwali should be a school holiday. He promised support for such legislation and it is hoped that the legislation will be drafted soon.

Rohan Narine, Senior Liaison, in the Officer of the Mayor, played a major role in bringing Mayor Adams to the community, and we are grateful.

The Phagwah Concert 2022 was a grand success. One suggestion would be for the Parade to commence at Pandit Ramall Way in Liberty Avenue, turn right into 123 Street, and return to Pandit Ramlall Way, where the floats would disperse. The participants would then assemble at Lefferts and Liberty for the cultural program. The Ukrainians too had a presence at the Concert. They gathered peacefully and displayed their banners, that spoke of the need for peace and love.