Top 10 Indo-Caribbean Moments of 2014
10. Screw the light bulb anyone?
Guyanese sensation Romeo Nermal a.k.a. Mystic released the song "Coolie Boi Dance" which quickly became a hit playing at every turn. The song is accompanied by a dance routine that mimic's the way some Indo-Caribbeans dance to Indian and Calypso music commonly referred to as "screwing the light bulb". It is similar to other recent hits like Soulja Boy "Crank That" and "Gangham Style" by pop star Psy. With several hundred thousand views on YouTube alone, this song is perhaps the song of the year.
Check out the video
9. Joseph Beer is sentenced
In August, Joseph Beer was sentenced to up to 15 years in prison for the deaths of four of his friends in a devastating car accident in Long Island in 2012. Beer, 17 years old at the time of the accident, and his friends were students at Richmond Hill High School. The accident brought the community to its knees in mourning with hundreds attending the funerals and community candle light vigils. It also brought deep introspection about what some see as a pervasive car culture among Indo-Caribbean boys and a debate about marijuana use.
This was the number #1 issue in our Top 10 List of 2012.
8. What happens after Hindus make offerings at Jamaica Bay?
In April, an organization called Sadhana: Coalition of Progressive Hindus launched a series of environmental awareness drives that included clean up efforts in partnership with the U.S. National Park Service and the Rockaway Waterfront Alliance at Jamaica Bay. To spread further awareness and education, part of what they called "Project Prithvi", Sandhana co-created a landmark exhibit called "Sacred Waters: A Collection of Hindu Offerings from Jamaica Bay" which was on display at the new Queens Museum of Art for several months. The exhibit showcases religious items discovered on the beaches of Jamaica Bay. The organization plans to continue cleaning up the Rockaway waterfront in 2015.
7. Demand Action on Climate Change
In advance of the the United Nations General Assembly in New York City in September, over 400,000 people took to the streets of Manhattan to call attention to global climate change and the impact on local communities. This march, the largest of its kind in history, served as a public statement to world leaders, including President Obama, that we cannot turn a blind eye to climate change and pollution which disproportionately impacts poor, minority communities. ICA and several South Asian partner organizations also marched with dozens of our volunteers.
6. Mahadeo Shivraj Day in Schenectady, NY
The Office of the Mayor of Schenectady, New York, issued an official proclamation declaring November 30, 2014 as MahadeoShivraj Day. Shivraj, a native of Guyana, was recognized for his outstanding work as an actor, director, and producer and his overall dedication to the arts. Shivraj is perhaps the best known Indo-Caribbean filmmaker having produced, directed, and starred in "A Jasmine for a Gardener", "Brown Sugar Too Bitter for me", and "83 Million Gees".
Schenectady is also the first City in New York State to elect an Indo-Caribbean to public office. Last year John Mootoovenern was elected to the City Council. The City has a significant and growing Indo-Caribbean, Guyanese population.
5. Miss Guyana 2014 enters Miss World Top 10 finals - the first time in over 40 years
Miss Guyana 2014, Rafieya Husain, landed as one of the top 10 contestants for the Miss World 2014 competition in December. This marks the first time in over 40 years for a Miss Guyana contestant to make it this far in the pageant. Rafieya made domestic violence her platform bringing additional attention to an issue that continues to plague many households and relationships.
Rafieya lives in Queens, New York and graciously lent her support to ICA's Annual Gala in June.
4. Community loses Jimmy Maharaj & Frankie Sooknanan
On January 9th, Jimmy Maharaj, passed away after a prolonged illness at age 63. Jimmy was the founder and owner of the iconic Trinidadian roti shop named Sandy's after his daughter. Jimmy was also a fixture in the cricket community - an avid cricket player and supporter of multiple teams. For his service to the community, the Jamaica Rotary Club presented Jimmy it's highest award, the Paul Adams Medal. Jimmy's funeral procession was also given a NYPD motorcade escort, a rare honor for a civilian.
On August 3rd, comedian Frankie Sooknanan also passed away unexpectedly at age 34. Frankie was a co-founder of Flat Tire Productions, an Indo-Caribbean production house that creates original content to reflect Indo-Caribbean heritage and promote performing arts. In 2004, Frankie produced a feature film, Sacrifice, that won Best Feature at the Indo-American Arts Council Film Festival in NYC. Frankie was called "Sundar" by friends also his namesake in the television show "Liberty Avenue Singles" which he co-created. Frankie was perhaps best known through the comedy troupe "Buttahflap" which performed at hundreds of shows in the community. Frankie was born in Suriname and graduated from New York University.
Both Jimmy & Frankie's presence will be deeply missed in the community but their accomplishments and legacy will continue on.
3. Roxanne Persaud is elected to the New York State Assembly
In November 2014, Roxanne Persaud made history when she was elected as the first female to represent the 59th Assembly District and the first Guyanese elected to the New York State Assembly. Assemblywoman Persaud is a longtime advocate for her community and an avid volunteer. She was born in Guyana to parents of Indo and Afro-Guyanese backgrounds. She migrated to the United States with her parents and siblings and lives in Brooklyn, New York.
Assemblywoman Persaud has spent her entire career working in higher education institutions and works tirelessly encouraging urban youth to attend college. In 2012, she served as a member of the New York State redistricting commission (aka LATFOR) which was tasked with creating the political boundaries of each state elected official. Her district legislative priorities include funding for schools, youth and senior support services, libraries and parks.
2. Shootings & Race Relations
The exoneration of police officers in the deaths of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri and Eric Garner in Staten Island, New York triggered a national movement of protests all over the country. This came after a string of other shootings of black men. In an apparent retaliation, two NYPDofficers Rafael Ramos and Wenjian Liu were murdered. The cycle of gun violence by police and civilians is tied to a complicated web of privilege, race, economic imbalances, education, an unfair judicial system and many other angles. Advocates for police and judicial reform are worried their agenda for change will be undone by the senseless murder of the NYPD officers.
Coming from countries where race, power and economic relations are also strained, Indo-Caribbeans are all too familiar with the cycle of violence. We are joining the thousands calling for reforms and peace to return to our communities.
1. Guyanese and Trinidadians are the 3rd
largest immigrant group in New York City
The New York City Department of City Planning issued a detailed report showing that Guyanese are the second largest immigrant group in Queens and the fifth largest in New York City. Immigrants from Trinidad & Tobago ("Trinidad") occupy the eighth position. The report, The Newest New Yorkers, is based on data collected in the 2010 Census and the 2011 American Community Survey. Details on income, occupation, and neighborhood demographic is included. The data does not include thousands of Indo-Caribbeans who were born in New York City.
With such a large combined population, Indo-Caribbeans from Guyana and Trinidad, and other Caribbean countries, have the propensity to work closely together for social, political and economic development.
Read the snapshot ICA produced: Population Analysis of Guyanese and Trinidadians in NYC
Please let us know if we forgot something. Share your feedback, add to the list and/or repost.
The list is only meant to spark discussion and reflection. In the interest of full disclosure, we explained our participation in different events while we intentionally excluded ICA's core initiatives to offer an objective perspective.