10. A strengthened NYPD
Inspector Deodat Urprashad became the highest ranking Indo-Caribbean and South Asian officer with the New York Police Department on November 21st. Since March 2015, he was a Deputy Inspector and Commanding Officer of the 102 Precinct, also a first for an Indo-Caribbean in New York City history. Inspector Urprashad holds a Bachelor of Arts from York College and a Master’s in Public Administration from John Jay College of Criminal Justice. With greater diversity in it's upper ranks and by allowing more officers to serve in neighborhoods that reflect their ethnic backgrounds, the NYPD is a stronger, more respected institution. Inspector Urprashad was born in Canje, Guyana and moved to New York in 1973 at the age of five.
ICA honored Inspector Urprashad at it's 2017 Gala with a Community Impact Award.
9. His heart is Indian, Dil Hai Hindustan
The year saw a global star emerge with Ben Parag’s entry on “Dil Hai Hindustani”, a televised singing competition based in India. Many in the Indo-Caribbean community tuned in, maybe for the first time, to see the 19 year old Queens-born resident compete by singing mostly Hindi film songs against South Asians – and winning. Ben made it all the way to the finals and dazzled judges not just with his voice, but him humility, appearing bare foot on stage during performances. Using hashtag #TeamBen, Indo-Caribbean Twitter, Instagram and Facebook drove legions of his fans to vote to keep him on the show. They also welcomed him back home with a grand, horse drawn carriage parade and concert in Richmond Hill, New York.
His biggest accomplishment? Perhaps introducing South Asians to Indo-Caribbean culture in New York and in the Caribbean.
8. Marcus Brian Bisram, the never ending story
With the arrest of philanthropist Marcus Brian Bisram over the summer, the unending saga which was the talk of probably most households in 2016 continued with even more fervor in 2017. Bisram is accused of organizing the murder of an individual in Guyana. Even the New York Times got into the act with the sensational title “Power, Corruption and Murder Roil Little Guyana” revealing details that were previously guarded and the deep fissures the controversy has caused within the Hindu and Indo-Caribbean community. While Mr. Bisram fights extradition in police custody in New York, little progress seems to have been made with the court case in Guyana. Unfortunately, this will likely continuation into the New Year.
The controversy was #9 on the Top 10 List of 2016.
7. “All skin teeth ah laugh”
Perhaps more than ever, many young men have used social media to emerge as forces to be reckoned with, influencing comedy and culture. Arguably the most successful has been Trinidadian comedian David Stephen Francis who goes by the stage name “Prnc Charming”. He started on Instagram where he now has 176,000 followers and is selling out shows across different states.
There are many others who have not just gone viral but have had staying power. They include 24 year old producer Jonathan Madray, better known as Jon One, who started out as a DJ at some of the most popular venues in New York City. Now, he's doing product endorsements. He gained the most attention for his short comedic skits, with over 10M views on a single video.
There are of course other groups, like CoolieTimes and Cooliebook WTMC, was has even transitioned into merchandising. Like the Guyanese proverb, it looks like "all skin teeth ah laugh", and hopefully serious commercial success.
6. The Liberty Ave Fire
On March 5th, on one of the coldest and windiest nights of the season, a seven-alarm fire engulfed 13 businesses along Liberty Avenue and 110th Street. The blaze took over 250 firefighters to control. It resulted in few injuries but significant damage to businesses and the displacement of over 40 individuals, many of whom found refuge at the nearby Shri Tulsi Mandir. After an online appeal went viral, within six hours residents flooded Tulsi Mandir with donations of clothing, electronics and toiletries for the affected families. With the ongoing fears of an immigration crackdown in the community (see #3), many families refused to register with the Red Cross, hospitals or government agencies.
ICA raised over $3,000 to provide immediate relief to several families.
5. Honoring the lives of Sukree Boodram, Ramesh Kalicharran and Anand Yankarran
The year saw the passing of domestic violence activist Sukree Boodram, Indo-Caribbean cultural pioneer Ramesh Kalicharran and legendary musician, Anand Yankarran.
Activist and author Sukree Boodram lost her fight against cancer on the morning of May 28th in Florida. Sukree rose to prominence in 2010 by boldly chronicling her struggle with violence in her marriage and the pressures she faced from family, friends and sometimes, herself. Her book "Breakout" stoked controversy with gripping first hand accounts of cultural taboos and was embraced by social justice and women's right organizations. Ms. Boodram went on to found Caribbean Domestic Violence Awareness, an organization that promoted healthy relationships in the Caribbean. Professionally, she was an accountant with Starwood Hotels and Resorts. In her final days, she used her Facebook account to describe her cancer treatment, sharing pictures and stories of her last struggle.
Ms. Boodram launched her book at ICA and was a donor to the organization.
Ramesh Dalchand Kalicharran
Ramesh D. Kalicharran, better know as Uncle Kali, passed away on December 3rd in New York City. Born in 1949 in Guyana, the eldest of eleven children, Uncle Kali moved to the Unites States in 1974. He entered the real estate business, started a driving school and then launched an innovative concept called the Kali Bharat Yatra Tours (KBY) for Indo-Caribbean people in North America to discover and re-connection with their roots in India. It became perhaps his most defining success in business. He was a pioneer for the Indo-Caribbean community in New York, having been associated with the founding of the Phagwah Parade, the Indo-Caribbean Federation and funding the construction of Mandirs and programs for children and families. Uncle Kali gave us many reasons to come together as an early advocate for the Indo-Caribbean community in New York. We're a strong, thriving community today, in part, due to his efforts.
He was a donor to ICA and proudly supported our Hindi language classes.
Fans rang in 2017 with the shocking news of legendary chutney artist Anand Yankarran's death. Suffering multiple strokes, he passed at age 51. Mr. Yankarran achieved stardom with his breakout hit Nanda baba in 1989. He will be remembered for several hits including Humsa Bolaway, Ranga Dal, Oh Nanda La La and several others. His fans in New York, led by the Ramotar music family, held a tribute the evening of his death with hundreds in attendance at the Cricket Wicket. He was cremated on January 5th at Waterloo, Trinidad.
4. Women in power
In a year defined by the aftermath of Hillary Clinton's historic Presidential nomination, the Women's March and more recently, the Silence Breakers from the #MeToo movement, Indo-Caribbean women are also taking action. Although not directly tired to those movements, 2017 saw Indo-Caribbean women champion social justice causes while challenging politics and history as we know it, and questioning cultural taboos that are often directed at women.
In September, Shivana Jorawar, an attorney and Steering Committee Member with the Jahagee Sisters, wrote about her personal experience as an abortion rights activist and how this has influenced her career. Perhaps for the first time, an Indo-Caribbean woman is speaking openly about having an abortion. Ms. Jorawar has also written about limitations placed on Hindu girls and women and "slut shaming" in Indo-Caribbean communities.
At the grassroots, activist and attorney Aminta Kilawan continued to fight stereotypes, often dealing with religion, politics and conforming to gender roles, with a weekly column in the West Indian newspaper and by working directly with residents at the Mandir, at rallies or roti shops. Of course she also drafts some of the most progressive legislation, under Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito, as part of the day job with the City of New York. She has emerged as one of the most respected voices within the community.
Another attorney, Elizabeth Jaikaran, published “Trauma”, a series of short stories that chronicled the experiences of Guyanese women and girls. She also wrote an article for Playboy.com exploring how young Muslim couples find new freedoms in online dating.
Author and Professor Lisa Outar launched “Indo-Caribbean Feminist Thought” in July at Queens Museum focusing on how Indo-Caribbean women have contributed to ideas of knowledge in the Caribbean. Professor Outar has been a consistent speaker on issues affecting Indo-Caribbean women both in New York City and in the Caribbean.
Women, and specifically these Indo-Caribbean women, have made 2017 an inflection point for society.
3. The roti shop "raids"
“Roti shop raids” was how the rumor got started with a social media post by a bored employee at a local restaurant. Soon, panicked employees, families and their children were worried about going to work, school or public spaces. By February, only the 2nd month after President Trump had been in office, many feared his worst promises were unfolding. Before the rumor could be dispelled, it morphed into an avalanche of fear –burying efforts to dispel it. By August, as additional immigration proposals were unleashed, the New York Times caught onto the large impact it would have, explaining that “The Guyanese community brings in more people through family preference visas than any other immigrant group in the city”. Among the community’s responses was the public declaration of the Shaanti Bhavan Mandir as a sanctuary, in partnership with Sadhana: Coalition of Progressive Hindus, to protect undocumented residents from Federal immigration enforcement. It became the only Hindu temple to take such a stand, joining 800 other places of worship across the country. Still, not a single person or family has utilized this facility.
With a drastic decline in the economy in Guyana, even more Guyanese are expected to arrive in New York.
2. Seeking political representation, a continued effort
Democrat Richard David launched a campaign for the City Council in South Queens, encompassing many Indo-Caribbean enclaves. After almost a decade of neglect and a lack of funding, residents were demanding a more capable elected official. ICA, for example, was unable to receive discretionary funding and had to go outside the district to request funding from other elected officials - the only Council District among 51 in New York City. Several youth programs had to be curtailed or eliminated entirely. Offering 10 years of government experience, activism and community board involvement, Richard promised a fresh start and fair representation for all communities in the district. The campaign saw thousands getting involved, many registering to vote for the first time and others donating. The election resulted in historic levels of participation and almost unanimous support from Indo-Caribbean and South Asian leaders and residents, a break from prior elections in the community. Yet, it was not enough. While he did not win the Primary election, Mr. David secured more votes than any prior South Asian or Indo-Caribbean candidate for City Council in New York City history. Adrienne Adams, also a Democrat and the former Chairperson of Community Board 12, won the election.
Richard is a co-founder of ICA and a former Board Member.
1. Commemorating 100 years since the end of indentureship
For the Indo-Caribbean community, 2017 marked 100 years since the abolition of the British indentured labor system. Commemorative events and programs occurred at almost every turn, from Queens Museum to college campuses and across different countries. It was a reminder of the progress the community has made, and lack of, as well as the continued fight for survival of this uniqueness history and cultural.
Share your feedback, add to the list and repost.
The Top 10 List are people, events and policies that have had the greatest impact on the Indo-Caribbean community in 2017. The List is only meant to spark discussion and reflection. In the interest of full disclosure, we explained our involvement with any item on the list while we intentionally excluded ICA's core initiatives to offer an objective perspective. We welcome suggestions and feedback.
ICA Condemns Latest Hate Crime on Indo-Caribbean Employee at JFK and Stands in Opposition to President Trump’s Executive Orders on Immigration and Muslims
As an organization that represents one of the largest immigrant groups in New York City, including thousands of Muslim Americans, we are appalled and deeply affected by the recent executive orders put in place by President Donald Trump. Indo-Caribbean Alliance, Inc. (ICA) condemns President Trump's actions and rhetoric against our immigrant communities and all Americans. These orders promote a divisive and intolerant society in a country that has thrived on the acceptance of all immigrants and served as a safe haven for those fleeing religious and racial persecution.
These executive orders, among others signed last week, have serious legal ramifications that inspire hate against immigrant communities. Most recently, on January 28th, 2017, a female Muslim Guyanese employee at JFK International Airport, Rabeeya Khan, was both physically and verbally assaulted. Khan was wearing a hijab, or headscarf, when she was allegedly kicked by the assailant who proceeded to intimidate her by blocking her from escaping. The attacker allegedly went on to imitate the prayer stance of Muslims by kneeling and bowing his head repeatedly. Witnesses also claimed that the attacker yelled “Trump is here now. He will get rid of all of you” during the attack. This is the latest in a series of hate crimes against Indo-Caribbean Americans. We call on everyone to condemn actions that inspire hate and fear in our community and threaten our safety.
ICA mobilized our community and resisted President Trump’s actions by participating in a demonstration against the executive order on Saturday, January 28th, 2017 at JFK International Airport. Please actively call your local and state Congress Members and ask them to oppose President Trump’s orders and actions and fight for the rights of every person in our community regardless of race, religion, or gender. There is a lot of work to be done as we stand against the President’s anti-immigration and anti-Muslim agenda.
ICA vows to remain steadfast in our opposition to these divisive policies that only promote hatred, racism, and fear. We will continue to fight with our allies across New York and the country for the rights of our immigrant communities.
On Thursday, February 2, 2017 at 7PM at the ICA office (131-12 Liberty Ave., cellar level) we continue to mobilize our community and protect ourselves from President Trump’s Anti-Muslim and Anti-Immigrant agenda. We will be hosting an emergency discussion with community partners, stakeholders, elected officials, and lawyers who will discuss the implications of these orders. It will be a safe space to discuss fears and concerns and ask questions:
Emergency Meeting: President Trump's Anti-Immigration Exec Order
On January 27, 2017, the President Donald Trump enacted the Protecting the Nation From Foreign Terrorist Entry Into the United States executive order. This order calls for the following:
By Odessa Despot, PsyD
-Trigger warning: This article contains references to violence and loss which may be triggering to survivors. The warning is posted in order to help readers recognize and manage their feelings.
Traumatic loss, such as the sudden passing of a loved one, is one of the most difficult events that a person can experience. The change is immediate and permanent. Reactions to this kind of loss can take any or all of these forms: shock, denial, anger, worry, fear, sadness, numbness, helplessness. In some cases, a delayed reaction might even occur (This can’t be happening). When the loss is violent—as in the case of the young Guyanese man who was recently murdered or the woman who was fatally stabbed by her husband in December, coping becomes even more challenging. Law enforcement, news media, insurance companies, and litigation, impact the process of grief and mourning for the victim’s family.
Traumatic loss affects us at every level. Biologically, it affects our bodies. People sometimes experience heart racing, increased breathing, trouble sleeping, trouble eating, and emotional dysregulation with periods of crying, anger, numbness. Psychologically, it affects our thoughts, feelings, actions: Why did this happen? How can he be here one day and the next day be gone? The world has no meaning. The world is no longer a safe place. Where is god? The combination of these factors can change or transform how we see ourselves, how we relate to others, and how we live our lives afterward. Some people withdraw and isolate, question their faith, and question their sense of belonging in this world. Others remain silent and/or numb for periods of time. Some of these feelings and thoughts are expected. Depression, anxiety, development of eating disorders, substance use and other illnesses however, can develop in response to the stress of traumatic events. When these disorders are present clinical intervention with a trained professional is usually indicated.
I once treated a young woman who suddenly lost her boyfriend. She was in therapy with me for about a year and a half and in that time I witnessed her re-live the days before his death, make peace with it and become angry that it had happened—again and again. In sessions we explored what her life was supposed to look like, how the two of them were supposed to share their lives together, and what her life was like in the present. She worried about the future and whether she could trust in love and relationships again. The suddenness of his death led to panic, worry and racing thoughts about her own purpose in this world. She would wake up at night wondering, “What’s the point of this?” She was haunted by regret over how things had been leading up to his death: I wasn’t there enough, I didn’t call him that day, I should have been there. The loss of meaning in her life and feelings of self-punishment intensified her struggle: What have I done to cause this? Am I deserving of this pain?
My patient will likely never forget the loss of her loved one—that was not the focus of our work together. As her therapist I joined her in the exploration of the painful parts of that loss, offered support as she confronted and accepted them, and found a meaningful way to integrate the memory of her significant other and his loss into her life. She recovered as best as she could, in the way that only she could do.
Recovery from grief and traumatic loss is a process, and one that is difficult to cope with alone. If you are affected by a traumatic loss consider reaching out to a counselor, trusted friend, or support system (family, church, community agency, neighbors). If you are trying to help someone through grief and loss—be patient, try checking-in with the person, tell them that you are there to support them, and whenever possible, be ready to listen.
Odessa Despot, PsyD is a clinical psychologist and has worked with patients experiencing acute and chronic mental health conditions. She currently works as a staff psychologist at Rochester Institute of Technology. She was the former Secretary on the Board of Directors of Indo-Caribbean Alliance, Inc.
10. An intersection of art and activism
In a year defined by shocking migrations around the world, guest curator Grace Aneiza Ali, organized Un|Fixed Homeland for Aljira, a Center for Contemporary Art, in Newark, New Jersey. This presentation highlighted thirteen artists of Guyanese origin, including several Indo-Caribbeans. The exhibit centered on migration and the emergence of the Caribbean diaspora in metropolitan cities in the US, Canada, UK. The exhibit was on view from July 17 to September 24, 2016.
Ms. Ali was born in Guyana and lives in New York City. She is an Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts Curatorial Fellow, a Fulbright Scholar, and a faculty member at the Tisch School of the Arts at New York University.
9. Rumors ah gwan
After making countless, and very public, charitable contributions to organizations and causes in New York, Jamaica and Guyana, 27-year-old Marcus Bisram suddenly became a recognized and sought after individual within the Indo-Caribbean community in New York. Perhaps just as fast, social media and fake news stories morphed into a vilification campaign after Mr. Bisram was branded as a suspect in a murder case in Guyana. The criminal investigation in Guyana devolved into what appeared to be a public witch hunt and online bullying crusade in New York that was the subject of conversations within many households.
While the Guyana criminal trial gets underway, other issues here in New York went largely overlooked. One example was the case of Rajwantie Baldeo who was brutally murdered by her partner who also attempted to decapitate her in public on December 5, 2016. The Jahagee Sisters hosted a vigil and speakout in her honor and to highlight continuing gender-based violence against Indo-Caribbean women. This case, as do others dealing with the LGBTQ community, alcoholism and the stigma around mental health counseling hardly seemed to provoke outrage.
Perhaps Gregory Isaacs summed it up best in his song "Rumours".
8. Building community power
On November 4, Chhaya Community Development Corporation, a leading South Asian nonprofit based in Jackson Heights, Queens, announced Annetta Seecharran as its next Executive Director. Chhaya CDC provides services for homeowners, civic advocacy, and financial empowerment programs. Ms. Seecharran was previously the Executive Director of South Asian Youth Action (SAYA!) for eight years during its foundational growth period. She later served as Director of Policy and Advocacy at United Neighborhood Houses, a policy and advocacy organization working on poverty and community development issues. In addition, she also serves on several citywide and national nonprofit boards.
Ms. Seecharran was born in Guyana and came to the United States when she was thirteen. She holds a Master’s degree in international political economy and development from Fordham University.
7. A hero emerges
One of the largest massacres in the country’s history occurred in Orlando, Florida and was targeted against LGBTQ individuals. On that tragic morning on June 12, 2016, 49 people were murdered and 53 others were wounded. Imran Yousef, who was a bouncer at the nightclub and a veteran from the war in Afghanistan, saved over 60 lives. Mr. Yousef who is an Indo-Guyanese of Hindu faith was raised in Schenectady, NY.
Online and on social media, Imran’s religion and heritage generated the most controversy. Numerous mainstream newspapers in India and Pakistan debated how he could have a traditionally Muslim name and be Hindu, and questioned if he is Indian or of Indian-origin. The hashtag #ImranYousef captured much of the discussion and even vitriol.
With the plethora of emotions the massacre unleashed, ICA’s annual Eid Iftar on June 14, 2016 was dedicated to a discussion on tolerance in Islam and LGBTQ rights. Prayers and discussion were led by Dr. Fiaz Shuyab of the 112 Street Masjid, and was moderated by Riyadh Mohammed, an ICA Board Member.
6. Bazodee, a soca musical
Set in Trinidad, the film chronicles a familiar story of an Indian woman falling in love with an Afro-Caribbean man --in this case, soca artist Machel Montano. What sets this film apart was the music and it's mainstream release across the country. It was released throughout the Caribbean, New York, Toronto, and Montreal allowing for the first time, millions of Americans and others to be exposed to Indians in the Caribbean on a grand scale.
5. Karen Gopee, first Indo-Caribbean Judge in New York
Karen Gopee was appointed by Mayor Bill de Blasio as a Criminal Court Judge on December 29, 2015. Prior to being appointed as a Judge, she was the Principal Court Attorney to Acting Supreme Court Justice Alex Calabrese, the Presiding Judge of the Red Hook Community Justice Center, the nation’s first multi-jurisdictional court. In that capacity, she was able to develop and implement programs that improved police community relationships, divert youth from the criminal court system and help adolescents and adults get their lives back on track through education, career training and counseling programs.
Judge Gopee began her legal career as a Trial Attorney with the Kings County District Attorney’s Office, where she spent the majority of her time prosecuting special victim cases involving domestic violence and child abuse. She is a trained mediator, who has served as Co-Chair and Chair to the Criminal Justice Alternative Dispute Resolution and Restorative Justice Committee of the American Bar Association. Her committee received the Meritorious Award for their work on a mediation training DVD and a restorative justice Webguide.
Judge Gopee was born in Trinidad and immigrated to the United States with her family when she was one. She grew up in East New York, Brooklyn and attended local public schools. She attended the State University of New York at Binghamton and earned her Juris Doctorate at St. John’s University School of Law. She sits in Queens Criminal Court.
Judge Gopee was honored with a Community Impact Award at Indo-Caribbean Alliance's 4th Annual Gala in October, 2016.
4. A tribute to George Subraj
George Subraj was a philanthropist, businessperson, and a leader in supporting Indo-Caribbean culture in New York and abroad. He died on November 17, 2016 at age 71.
Among many accomplishments, Mr. Subraj will be remembered for pioneering life-saving kidney transplant surgery in Guyana, for funding numerous educational initiatives including a new computer laboratory at Richmond Hill High School in Queens, NY just a few months ago, and of course, for building a sprawling real estate empire in Queens and Long Island as President of Zara Realty Holding.
In 2014 at the ICA annual gala, George along with his brothers Ken and Jay were awarded with a Business Leadership Award. At the time, George was unable to attend the gala because he made a midnight decision to go on a trip to Guyana to support a group of children who were scheduled for heart surgery the next day. This was his way of celebrating his recognition, by continuing to be hands-on with his philanthropic work.
Our condolences to the Subraj family, employees and supporters.
3. Who got love for Richmond Hill?
Inspired by local resident and Richmond Hill native Bridget Bartolini, this year-long story telling workshop captured stories from residents about their experiences in and of Greater Richmond Hill. It included a photo archiving component with the Queens Memory Project , writing workshops and storytelling sessions. True to its Richmond Hill roots, the culminating workshop was held on December 11, 2016 and featured a diversity of people, experiences and food. From the success of the project, it looks like a lot of people have love for Richmond Hill.
2. A Golden Jubilee 50 years in the making
As Guyana celebrated its Golden Jubilee in 2016, events across New York filled the calendar. The most prominent, and officially sanctioned by the Government of Guyana, was the New York launch event on January 16, 2016 attended by Prime Minister Moses Nagamootoo. While few Indo-Caribbeans appeared to be involved in the planning or the program, the meticulously arranged and star-studded event left many guests impressed. Jubilee celebrations continued throughout the year, including what was billed as the first-ever reception at Queens Borough Hall (although the former Queens Borough President was of Guyanese origin). Several newspapers published special issues commemorating the occasion. Here’s once such feature from the Queens Tribune.
1. "Making America Great Again"
During this presidential election year, hate crimes rose to an unprecedented level, including several attacks on Indo-Caribbeans in New York. On April 27th, an Indo-Caribbean teenager was brutally beaten in Astoria by three other young men who reportedly shouted “ISIS” while hitting him with a metal pipe and bat. In another case on June 1, 2016, Mohamid Rasheed Khan was viciously attacked in Queens Village shortly after leaving his mosque. According to the NYPD, hate crimes were up 115% across the five boroughs in 2016.
In addition to safety concerns, thousands of Indo-Caribbeans, like other communities, are worried about the IDNYC Card and DACA work permits under a Trump administration.
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.
We're saddened to learn of the passing of George Subraj yesterday, November 17th at age 71. George was a philanthropist, businessperson, and a leader in promoting Indo-Caribbean culture in New York and abroad.
Among many accomplishments, George will be remembered for pioneering life-saving kidney transplant surgery in Guyana, for funding numerous educational initiatives including a new computer laboratory at Richmond Hill High School in Queens, NY just a few months ago, and of course, for building a sprawling real estate empire in Queens and Long Island as President of Zara Realty Holding.
George and the Subraj family are friends of Indo-Caribbean Alliance, Inc. In 2014 at our annual gala, we awarded the three brothers, Ken, Jay and George, with a Business Leadership Award. At the time, George was supposed to attend the ceremony but made a midnight decision to go on a trip to Guyana instead to support a group of children who were getting heart surgery the next day. This was his way of celebrating his recognition, by continuing to be hands-on with his philanthropic work.
Our condolences to the entire Subraj family, employees and supporters.
Board of Directors
Indo-Caribbean Alliance, Inc.
Here's a re-post of George's biography from our 2014 gala:
President, Zara Realty Holding Corporation
Business Leadership Award
George Subraj's success began in the 1980’s when he and his brothers purchased a 44-unit apartment complex. He began renovating and upgrading the facility himself to make it “Clean, Safe, Comfortable and Affordable”, a mantra he developed to drive his business. Today, as President of Zara Realty Holding Corporation, George and his family have developed dozens of apartment complexes housing thousands of families and providing employment to over 200 individuals. George takes particular pride in the impact his investments have made in improving the quality of life for residents and in driving
economic development in Queens.
George is the fourth of ten children and was born in Georgetown, Guyana. He moved to the United States in 1971 where he attended the Midtown School of Business in the evening while working during the day. He has received numerous awards including a US Army and Navy Medal and Commendation, a New York City Council Member Award and a Medal of Service from the Government of Guyana, the fifth highest award of the Order of Service of Guyana.
George and his brothers, Ken and Jay, are perhaps best known for their philanthropy. In 2008, George sponsored a team of doctors from the Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, D.C. to conduct the first kidney transplant in Guyana on an 18 year old. By 2013, they had funded 21 kidney transplants in Guyana. In 2010, they also funded the introduction of Pediatric Heart Surgery in Guyana. The brothers have funded the construction and outfitting of computer labs in Guyana and in New York, upgraded Mandirs with elevators to assist the elderly and disabled in addition to undertaking major blood drives for New York Hospital in Queens.
An exciting new phase at ICA
Dear Friends and Allies,
The Board of Directors would like to announce the departure
of Kenrick Ross as Executive Director of Indo-Caribbean Alliance, Inc.
Kenrick served in this capacity for over a year. Prior to this role,
he volunteered with ICA and co-chaired our 2014 gala. His contributions to
the organization have been meaningful and will continue to be felt by all
those impacted by our work.
"Over the last year I've had the most unique privilege of my life, working
in the heart of Little Guyana. Serving as Executive Director of ICA,
surrounded by fragrant roti shops and front yards festooned with
jhandi flags, thumping chutney music on Saturday nights and heated
political debates that spanned cities and continents, I got to combine the professional and the deeply personal. I was able to bring the skills and experience gained empowering other communities to the one I call, and claim, as my own. These experiences have affirmed to me the necessity of the work we must do, for social change and racial justice, community empowerment and equality, work that must be done urgently and with true integrity. I'm thankful to the Board of Directors for this opportunity, and all of you for having made it such a truly special and meaningful one" - Kenrick Ross
As we planned this transition with Ken, we were careful to ensure a smooth process with no interruption in our programs and advocacy. The first step in the transition is appointing Vedesh Persaud as Interim Executive Director. Vedesh has been with ICA since 2010, serving in numerous roles including most recently as Vice Chairperson on our Board of Directors where he oversaw our Youth Programs Committee.
Over the next few months, we will be conducting a search to find a new Executive Director to best serve our community. We're also seeking your help, as an integral member of our community, to find a well-qualified individual best suited for this role; someone who has developed and implemented strategies that could take this organization to the next stage of growth. The full posting is available on our website. Please share this announcement within your networks.
As we wish Ken success in his next endeavor and thank him for his contributions to the organization, we are hopeful and excited for this new phase. If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to reach out to me directly or to Vedesh Persaud at email@example.com.
Faudia D. Baijnauth
We can give you 100 reasons, but you'll probably only read the first few, so we saved ourselves the trouble.
Here are five reasons to attend our Fourth Annual Gala - Grand Masquerade Ball "A Night In Venice":
1. The other people in the room
The event attracts leading business people, entertainers, philanthropist and, yes, even media personalities and socialites. This year is no exception, with several influential individuals and community leaders in the room. Confirmed guests include the renowned chutney singer Terry Gajraj, champion boxer Elton Dharry, and Rafieya Husain, who was among the Top 10 at the Miss World competition in 2014. We have the chair of Community Board 9, Raj Rampersaud, along with several small business owners, Lakshmee Singh, host of the TV Show Let's Talk With Lakshmee, and, of course, our master of ceremonies, Shamina Rai from PIX 11 News. Oh, and have you seen our Host Committee? Well, take a look! This is just to name a few (sorry but sometimes name- dropping helps!)
2. The Year Of the Women
Senator Roxanne J. Persaud has been a friend of ICA even before she was elected to the New York State Senate, where she became the highest ranking Indo-Caribbean American elected to public office. Senator Persaud was born in Guyana.
Our surprise honoree, to be announced only at the Gala, is an Indo-Caribbean woman from Trinidad with unparalleled legal training and accomplishment.
3. The cause
ICA offered over 6,000 hours of FREE tutoring to children of color; prepared students for the SAT, Regents exams, and college applications; registered almost 1,000 new voters for the upcoming election; coordinated cultural programs that displayed and promoted literature and media written by Caribbean writers. Having impacted over 5,000 people with diverse programming, it's easy to see that the work ICA does is essential for the advancement of South Queens and the city at large. We also run the only Indo-Caribbean community center in New York City--that may not sound remarkable, but did you know Guyanese are the second largest immigrant group in Queens? With Trinidadians, it's the third largest immigrant group in all of NYC. Hopefully that's a little more remarkable, and it gives you reasons to fund our growth.
Don't take our word for it. Here's a video to move you.
4. We like to party, too
We'll have live entertainment from singer Amit Inderdeo, who, if you don't already know, is making waves in the music industry. DJ Fess will be spinning all night and we'll have an exciting raffle and silent auction table. Items at the silent auction include an Eone watch, a stunning lehenga from Lotus Bazaar, dinner for two at Pa-Nash, tea at the five-star Pierre Hotel, and cricket bats signed by the Red Steel and Amazon Warriors CPL teams.
And, if you only care about food, we will have a four-course Italian dinner to go with our Venetian-themed masquerade ball.
5. No Halloween plans?
Hey, we'd rather you come for reasons 1-4, but we don't mind being your last-minute Halloween plan. Tickets have to be purchased beforehand and won't be available at the door. Remember, it's a black tie, Venetian-themed masquerade ball, not a costume party.
Tickets & more info: www.indocaribbean.org/gala-2016
Questions? Email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 347-566-1422
Social media #icagala
This month, we are highlighting 17-year-old Julia Balkaran, who has been involved with ICA for the past three years as both a volunteer and a student in our tutoring and SAT prep programs.
Julia initially learned about ICA from a family friend. She attributes ICA with helping her connecting to her heritage, stating: "I have gained a better view on my cultural background and encouragement to keep pushing for my goals in life. I feel more connected with my community." Julia also credits our programs with helping with her academics. She said, "I am a better student because [ICA] showed me different ways to open my mind to learning. I read more, I actually study, and I retain information and can understand things at a difficult level."
Julia said she feels hopeful for what's to come because of what she has learned at ICA. "ICA has helped me set up goals for the future because they showed me I am not limited to all these other opportunities. I am able to believe in myself more and outline how I want to accomplish everything in a certain time frame." We wish Julia the very best as she starts her first year at John Jay College of Criminal Justice!
If you are interested in supporting students like Julia through our ICA programs, consider coming to our Gala 2016!
With summer 2016 underway, the Indo Caribbean Special Collection at the Lefferts Branch of Queens Library has over 200 titles in all genres to complement your day at the beach or in the backyard. I personally recommend all of the books in the collection, but I will attempt to narrow that list with these recommendations:
1. Cereus Blooms at Night by Shani Mootoo
First on the list is Cereus Blooms at Midnight by Shani Mootoo. Mootoo is a brilliant, deeply talented writer who draws from her life and experiences to write, with dignity, about those who are not fully accepted by society. Without revealing too much of the plot, Mala Ramchandin supposedly takes revenge on her father for his abuse of her and her sister. Her story is told via her nurse at the home where she now resides, after being declared unfit to stand trial. The characters in the story, who in many ways live on the fringe of society, will draw you in and keep you connected to the narrative.
The collection also hosts Ms. Mootoo's other novels, He Drown She in Sea and Valmiki's Daughter, which are highly recommended.
2. No Pain Like This Body by Sonny Ladoo
No Pain Like This Body by Harold Sonny Ladoo is another tragic novel featuring Indian immigrants in Trinidad. It is raw, real, and captures the essence of early Indian existence in Trinidad. Much like Cereus, the theme of alcoholism, illness, and death are repeated in this novel.
Ladoo, a young writer who was hailed for this classic masterpiece, was tragically and mysteriously found dead while in Trinidad doing research for his follow-up novel.