On Thanksgiving an Indo-Caribbean family in Woodhaven, Queens was the victim of a hate crime when more than 40 “jhandi” flags in their yard were set on fire. The jhandi flag is a highly visible, quintessential marker of Indo-Caribbean culture that transcends religion, ethnicity, and race. Made of bamboo and colorful pieces of cloth that symbolize Hindu deities, jhandi flags are placed next to a home’s private temple or in its yard after a Hindu religious ceremony, or pooja. They are commonplace in the Caribbean, notably in Guyana, Trinidad and Tobago, Suriname, and Jamaica, and the Caribbean Diaspora, but rare in South Asia.
The Indo-Caribbean Alliance, Inc. (ICA) is deeply concerned about this attack on the security, safety, and freedom of expression of our community. We are proud to partner with Sadhana: Coalition of Progressive Hindus and other community organizations and stakeholders in organizing a rally on Friday, December 4, 2015 to show solidarity with the family and ensure accountability for this crime.
The #WEAREONE rally will be held on Friday, December 4, 2015 at 7PM at the intersection of 89th Avenue and 80th Street in Woodhaven.
ICA calls for a thorough and speedy investigation of this crime and encourages anyone with additional information to come forward. “When one person or family is targeted in our community and they are made to feel unsafe, no one in our community is safe”, said ICA Executive Director Kenrick Ross. “As we promote multicultural dialogue and foster tolerance and understanding, let us also be clear that the onus is not on minorities, immigrants, and communities of color to justify why they should be treated with basic fairness, dignity, and respect. It is rather on all of us, particularly public figures, to ensure that we create environments which are inclusive, tolerant, and supportive.”
We are proud to have our elected officials share our concerns and stand with our community.
“Crimes which target religious expression are hate crimes, and should be treated as such,” said Councilman Eric Ulrich. “Whoever is responsible for the burning of these flags must be held accountable. We simply cannot tolerate any form of religious persecution.”
Assemblyman Mike Miller stated, “In our community, we pride ourselves in our diversity and welcome individuals of all faiths and backgrounds. Our compassion for one another is what ultimately unites us together during times of tragedy and it is also what makes our community so unique. When I received news that someone had burned more than three dozen religious flags on Thanksgiving morning, I was in disbelief to hear that it happened so close to home. I want to condemn the actions of this individual and ask everyone of all faiths in our community come together in solidarity against any form of flag burning such as what happened here in Woodhaven. As we move forward, we will not let incidents such as this one change our acceptance and tolerance for all faiths and backgrounds in our community nor should we live in fear of ignorant acts such as the one this criminal committed. I urge anyone with any information to please reach out to the NYPD. Thank you.”