Top 10 Moments of 2012
10. Hookah here, there and everywhere
Smoking hookah, a Middle Eastern form of flavored tobacco has become so popular that just about every bar, lounge and restaurant offers it. While some studies found that the health impact of hookah can be greater than cigarettes, information about the side effects is not readily available in the community and not controlled by existing smoking regulations, allowing second hand smoke indoors whether you like it or not. Although it’s an alarming trend in the community, business owners seem to only see the profits of this activity.
At the intersection of Lefferts and Liberty Ave
9. Festive Lights on Liberty Avenue
For the first time in many years, Liberty Avenue was lit up in time for Diwali and Christmas courtesy of the Richmond Hill Economic Development Council. The lights and diyas, despite being sparse, offered a more vibrant shopping experience and a celebratory mood within the community. They event generated some buzz on social networks with several photos being uploaded.
Copyright Jim Everett saddeoboxing.com
8. Elton Dharry is a champion
At age 27, Indo-Caribbean boxer Elton Dharry made history by winning the Bantamweight belt in the WBC Caribbean Championship. Born in Guyana and raised in Brooklyn, Dharry is winning fights and quickly picking up a strong following. As he fights to hold on to the title, he will have many rooting on his side.
7. The first Hindu is elected to U.S. Congress
Tulsi Gabbard made history by becoming the first Hindu-American elected to the US Congress, with her swearing-in on the Bhagavad Gita scheduled for January 3rd 2013. The Hawaiian Congresswoman-elect visited South Queens and interacted with residents of all backgrounds shortly after her victory. Although she is not Indo-Caribbean herself, she has become a much-needed political inspiration to the community.
6. Easy come, easy go
Many welcomed the introduction of lower air fares and direct flights to Guyana as eagerly as they questioned EZ Jet’s viability. With no prior experience running an airline and rumors of connections to controversial politicians, the airline had frequent disruptions even as they grew rapidly. Suddenly, although not surprisingly, passengers were left stranded in several cities as planes were repossessed and criminal charges filed against CEO, Sonny Ramdeo. Almost the next day, the cost of travel to Guyana skyrocketed, and with Christmas around the corner the diaspora either cancelled their plans or were gouged by the other airlines.
5. White House delegation visits Little Guyana
For the first time, the White House sent a special delegation of high-ranking officials and advocates on a tour of Richmond Hill seeking to create partnerships among various Asian American non-profits, establish lines of communication and to provide access to Federal agencies. The White House Asian Pacific Islanders Initiative, or WHAAPI, saw firsthand the challenges at Richmond Hill High School, the vibrant religious establishments and culture in the community and had lunch on Liberty Avenue. The visit gave Indo-Caribbeans a national profile which we hope will result in better access to Federal programs, raise the issues we care about to a national level and develop a method to count the number of Indo-Caribbean Americans.
Photo by Evan Ning/The Epoch Times
4. “Doubles with Slight Pepper”
Named after the popular Trinidadian snack, the short film “Doubles with Slight Pepper” directed by Indo-Caribbean filmmaker Ian Harnarine has become a sensation among critics. Set in Trinidad, the film explores the strained relationship between a father and son and explores themes deeply relevant to Indo-Caribbeans. The film has won several prestigious awards, including the “Best Live Action Short Drama” category at the Genie Awards, the Canadian equivalent of the Oscars. Ian is now working on a full length version of the film and with Spike Lee on another project. You can watch the film on iTunes.
3. An LGBT movement gathers pace
A rise in the number of organizations and activities focused on the Caribbean queer population took hold in South Queens in an effort to educate residents, stem discrimination, and provide an outlet for young people and families to cope and find acceptance. One such organization is Sangam, which was launched in February and remains vibrant to the needs and challenges facing Indo-Caribbean LGBTQ residents in Queens. Coincidentally, New York has also seen a rise in LGBTQ organizing with the passage of the Marriage Equality Act in 2011.
2. Super storm Sandy
The hurricane brought severe hardship to many residents in our community. Residents of South Queens experienced several days of blackouts, broken sewer and gas lines, fallen trees and an Indo-Caribbean woman was even electrocuted. When the dust settled, many realized the Rockaways and other parts of the City were more heavily impacted, triggering tremendous support via fundraisers, food and clothing drives and volunteering en mass. While Sandy will probably not be forgotten we need to ensure the passionate civic side brought out by the storm is also remembered, even as we continue to help with the recovery.
1. Candles in the wind
What might have been just a spontaneous late night car ride turned tragic for five boys when they crashed at high speeds off the Southern State Parkway, leaving only the driver alive. The tragedy rocked the families and friends of the victims and brought the community to its knees. The media stereotyped a general car-racing culture among Indo-Caribbeans, while others criticized the parents who gifted an expensive racing car to their son with only a learner’s permit. In an outpouring of grief, a candlelight vigil was organized by friends of the victims and ironically, some car-racing enthusiasts, which drew hundreds to Smokey Park. With the 17-year-old driver now facing up to 25 years in prison after testing positive for marijuana, the tragedy has caused introspection and has brought the community closer together as we face these issues head-on. We stand together with the families and our community.
RIP to the victims: Darian, 18; Peter, 18; Chris, 18; Neil, 17.
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.