By Dr. Ashford Maharaj
Trinidadians and Tobagonians, USA has once again in 2018 delivered yet another family day at Smokey Park right here in in the heart of the Caribbean community, Richmond Hill, Queens, New York on Sunday August 12th. This time however, and as compared to 2016 we got two for the price of one in that it was the celebration of T&T’s 56th Independence Anniversary and Trinidad and Tobagonians, USA’s 8th Family Day celebrations.
Such occasions are memorable events in the calendar of Trinidadians & Tobagonians (Trinbagonians) residing here in the tri-state area of the United States as the Trinbagonian family of families vested a few hours together as one big happy family, all sharing a few precious moments on a relatively cool summer day.
I have always felt it important and that it is our duty as parents to be a positive influence and a role model for our children. Spending time together, engaging in quiet conversations and sometimes even tumultuous ones and at times being overshadowed by singing, dancing, frolic, fun and all kinds of exciting activities, were characteristically the traits of a people steeped in a tradition of gaiety and laughter. It is not surprising to any one that the World Happiness Report published by the United Nations listed Trinidad & Tobago as the 38th happiest country in the world in terms of happiness of its people for the fiscal year 2018. And so the Trinbagonian family of families proudly exhibited a potpourri of bacchanal marinated in a flourishing cultural mosaic of a nation endowed with a multi-cultural identity.
Incidentally also, is that fact that the twin-island republic was adjudged as the happiest country in comparison with all of the other Caribbean territories which was evident by the cultural expressions of a people rooted in a carnival free-for-all’ tradition. And this year was a fusion of the Trinidad & Tobagonians, USA’s family day with Trinidad and Tobago’s 56th year as a free and independent country divorcing itself from British rule.
In spite of some sad news such as the passing of Trinidad’s Nobel laureate, Sir Vidia Naipaul the day before and the untimely passing of T&T USA’s Vice-President, Shandai Brown-Seegobin some eight months earlier, attendees at the event kept the festivities alive in a way that is symptomatic of boogie down nation.
In the feature address to attendees delivered by yours truly mention was made of the mourning at the passing of Chaguans’s hometown son, Sir Vidiadhar Surajprasad Naipaul. In an astonishing writing career spanning over one-half of a century the author had his ups and down like any other original and critical thinkers would encounter. However, as Sir Naipaul travelled around the world as barefoot colonial from his rural childhood in Chaguanas, to upper-middle class England, he was adjudges by the world literary community as one of the greatest writers of the 20th century. Enough respect and sincere honor was also attributed to Shandai Brown-Seegobin, whose shoes will be difficulty to fill as she blazed a trail in terms of giving of herself to her community and her church. We missed her dearly and may she reside in that eternal blissful place forever and ever.
This year as in previous years the family day was graced with the presence of Rocky, the choreographer, dance instructor and children entertainer, who had the mostly children crowd of and sometimes the adults accompanying the children whipping into a frenzy of a Spanish-style soca and rap. The dance fusion encompassed a rendezvous in a paucity of dance steps with shadowing and unison mostly for fun in the sun, but sometimes tense competition for prizes among participants.
As is customary also, many awards were handed out to outstanding members of the community especially from the Queens areas of New York City. Notably recipients were Queens Borough President, Ms. Melinda Katz for her dedication to service to the Queens’ immigrant community and the very popular Trinidad-based Caribbean restaurant, Singh’s Roti Shop’s Manager, Ashmeed Mohammed, for community service. Other awardees were Sean Kulsum in the dance category and Hafeez Ali for the promotion of culture and the arts.
As always, the message from the organizers seemed clear and with a sense of purpose, which is a love for the homeland Trinidad &Tobago, a passion for multiculturalism, and an appreciation for the opportunity to carve out our space in a place called the United States of America. If the mission is to raise the profile of Trinbagonian families residing here in the U.S.A. with an opportunity to reconnect and become purposefully stronger, then the organizers have succeeded.
This year’s festivities, like the other previous seven occasions, has live up to the expectation of attendees who came from near and afar to have a mid-summer fun in the sun. This year’s turnout was quite massive compared to previous years and at the close of the curtain hundreds continued to socialize way after the official closing time at 7.00 PM. Congratulations are in order to Anoop, Capil, Noel, Bill, Dilraj, Tallboy, Allison, Sangitta, Prakash, Geeta, Raj, and so many other dedicated members of T&T, USA, Inc. not to mention the altruistic members of our own T&T’s local business community.