Commentary: My Walkabout in “Little Guyana”- by Francis Quamina Farrier

This article is about my recent two-hour walkabout in “Little Guyana” which is located in Queens, New York City. First, let me turn back the clock over half a century to my first visit to New York City, which was in 1969. I did not arrive in New York by the route normally taken by tens of thousands of Guyanese over the decades; which is by a flight from Timehri to New York. That first arrival of mine to the Big Apple, was by aircraft from Toronto, Canada.

A Guyanese business establishment on Liberty Avenue in “Little Guyana” New York city.(Photo by Francis Q. Farrier)

I had just completed a four-week Summer course in Theatre and Journalism at the Banff School of Fine Arts, University of Alberta, in western Canada. That was made possible by a grant from the international Educator, Author and Diplomat, Guyanese-born E.R. Braithwaite. During that first visit of mine to Canada, I city-hopped to cities in seven of the country’s Provinces.
Arriving in New York, I stayed with a relative who resided in a section of Brooklyn which I really did not fancy. “Asphalt, concrete and Bricks” is the way I described it – meaning the streets of asphalt, the sidewalks of concrete and the buildings of bricks. There was no greenery whatsoever in the area where I stayed. However, in more recent years, all those streets in Brooklyn are now beautifully tree-lined.
In those very early years, there was no area of New York city called “Little Guyana,” but that developed when many Guyanese of Indian descent, began to migrate in large numbers and settled in the Richmond Hill area of Queens. Some of them were friends of mine – playwright and poet Rajkumari Singh and her son Gora the talented dancer. Also, her daughter Prita, who was an equally talented dancer. Radio broadcaster Eshri Sing, Playwright, novelist and poet, Sheik Sadeek and others, were also friends of mine, who I visited whenever I was in New York. As such, I saw “Little Guyana” grow from a ‘baby’ so to speak, into the impressive ‘adult’ it is today. I have played Phagwah in Little Guyana on three occasions. I attended the funeral of Gaitri Hardat who was shot dead on Atlantic Avenue by her Guyanese ex-boyfriend, who was convicted for the crime.
Earlier this year, (2021), after decades of hard work making a stamp of ‘Guyaneseness’ on the area, it was officially christened “Little Guyana” at an impressive open-air ceremony at which a name plaque was mounted. A few weeks after, I made that walkabout mentioned in the headline of this article. Wearing my Covid-19 mask, and with perfect weather, I commenced my walk along the well-known Liberty Avenue for a distance of over a mile. It was a joy and pride for me seeing all the many Guyanese business enterprises, many bearing the word “Guyana” in them. Of course, there are a few signs which state, “GUYANA GOLD.” That’s as good as it gets.

One of the many Guyanese-owned business establishments on Liberty Avenue, in “Little Guyana” Queens, New York. (Photo by Francis Q. Farrier)

Migrating during the 1970s to New York, former Guyanese magistrate Albert Basdeo, is well-known as an advocate and community leader. The former Queens College student ensures as best he can, to keep the Guyanese-Americans residing in and around “Little Guyana” well informed regards their civil and other rights as citizens. That has become more so, since the arrival of the COVID-19 pandemic in New York city resulting in many families and business enterprises going under with some even unable to feed themselves and their families.
“We need an institutional system of feeding people.” Albert Baldeo pointed out, noting that there is much pain and suffering at this time brought on by the rigors of the COVID-19 pandemic. Baldeo has also been vigorously encouraging his fellow Guyanese-Americans to get vaccinated and also to wear a face mask, since there have been many deaths in “Little Guyana” which are attributed to the coronavirus. There is a US$92 billion New York City budget, and Baldeo has expressed the view that some of that money should go to assisting small businesses which are now failing due to the pandemic. Baldeo’s Law Chambers is also on Liberty Avenue.
Reflecting on the early history of Little Guyana, and the arrival of the Indian-Guyanese to the area, Albert Baldeo mentioned the hard work done to develop the area which was somewhat rundown at the time, and the indirect assistance, pointed out, “We are so grateful to the Civil Rights Movement, and of course we celebrate Black History Month because it is on the backs of those heroes, our Black Brothers and Sisters, that our rights are also made, and we must never forget that.” According to him, his on-going advocacy for the people of Little Guyana, is a “Mission Uncompleted.”
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  • 1gtman  On 07/23/2021 at 8:45 am

    Nice and informative. Thank you for sharing!

  • Albert J Baldeo  On 07/24/2021 at 1:35 pm

    Thank you, Uncle Francis, it is great to be appreciated! I have always admired you as the pre-eminent Guyanese hero and patriot! God bless!

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