Mayor of the City of New York Eric Adams joined celebrants in a colorful Phagwah comeback, on March 27 after a hiatus of the parade, due to COVID-19.
The politician extended the greeting, “Sitaram,” as he thanked thousands of Hindus for their support during a cultural stage presentation to observe the 34th Annual festival, held at the intersection of Liberty Avenue and Lefferts Boulevard, in Richmond Hill, named Little Guyana.
Called the Hindu Mayor, Adams who noticeably avoided being doused with Abrack, multi-colored powder, explained the importance of the Spring festival colors and the colors in the diversity of our city, and what this community means to us.
“When you think about the Hindu spirit I too, like you, eat plant-based healthy food, spiritual food. That is what you represent in this community,” said Adams.
“We are fortunate to have an amazing woman elected to the state government, the first Hindu, Assemblywoman Jennifer Rajkumar, a real leader, fighting for this community, and she is right, this is a moment for you to show your political strength and power in this great community of good business leaders, and good educational system, this is a community that has contributed so much,” said the politician.
“This is your moment to say that you are very much a part of New York, we look forward to being your partner. You helped me to become the mayor and I am going to help you to become the strong community you deserve to become. Thank you so much. Happy Phagwah!” exclaimed the politician.
Queens Borough President, Donovan Richards, presented proclamations to the festival organizers The Federation of Hindu Mandir Inc. and the Arya Spiritual Center, Inc., for the rebirth of the celebration.
Richards, elected in the heart of the pandemic, said it was a blessing to be outside, and promised celebrants that the parade will return in 2023, since Queens continues to lead New York city in vaccinations, with more than a million residents inoculated.
“I am here to wish you a happy Holi,” said Richards who recalled the country’s slowdown two years ago, and folks being lost. “As we remember them, we look to the future, and a new beginning,” said the politician.
“We want you to be prosperous, with good health and may this be a new beginning for every one of you. We will get past the darkness by lighting a candle and being a light to the world,” he said. He called on everyone to pray for Ukraine, a country he said he visited a few months ago.
“It is an honor to be the borough president in the most diverse county in this country and in the world, where we have 190 countries represented, and over 350 languages and dialectics spoken.”
“We understand that our diversity is our strength. There may be those who seek to build walls in Queens County, but we will break those walls down by building bridges, expressed the BP.
NYS Senator of SD15, in Queens, Joseph Addabbo, in turn, reiterated Queens diversity, saying, “It don’t matter where you come from, we know how to get together and have a good time. A happy, healthy Holi, it’s great that we can get together again, we are beyond Covid. God bless you, and thank you,” he said.
NYS Senator Roxanne Persaud, who represents SD19 in Brooklyn, and who will be seeking a fifth term in Primary 2022 waved the Golden Arrowhead flag of Guyana, as she extended greetings to the colorful crowd. “It is great that we can come out and celebrate in the circle that we are in, together Happy Holi! she said with excitement and thanked the NYPD for their service.
In keeping with Women’s History Month, many women acknowledged the festival, including NYC Councilwoman of District 32, Joann Ariola, and Judge Karen Gope. Guyanese-born, Judge Andrea S. Ogle, explained that late founder of the Phagwah, Pandit Ramlall, was the reason she continues to attend the spring festival, and thanked the community for voting her to the bench.
“Holi is for new birth, and new beginnings, we are out in the community celebrating, continue to be safe everyone. Happy Holi! said Judge Ogle.
Guyana’s Minister of Human Services and Social Security, Dr. Vindhya Persaud, extended greeting on behalf of President Iraafan Ali, and the government, while calling on expats to come home and shared memories of festivals, and she will when she returns, before wishing celebrants, a Happy Holi.
Brooklyn District Attorney, Eric Gonzalez, also attended the celebration.
The dynamic presentation of exciting dance performances from Guyana’s top artist, Terry Gajraj, the blended musical instruments, the enjoyment of residents dousing each other with colored liquid and powder, certainly brought a renewed spirit of celebration, and the once again coming together of the community, that Dr. Dhanpaul Narine said is usually celebrated with a float parade and thousands of onlookers.
Phagwah heralds the arrival of spring, in the Hindu system that signifies, triumph over evil, and light over darkness, said Narine an original member of the Phagwah committee that began in 1988, where only 40 people turned out to enjoy the parade.
He said the New York times named the Phagwah parade as the biggest street festival in Queens, adding that the Indo-Caribbean community was one of the hardest affected by pandemic because it was the epicenter of the pandemic in the early stages of COVID-19.
“The school system, employment, living arrangements, and our beautiful festival, we are accustomed to, and absent for the last two years, is now back, not as big as it was, but we are happy to be celebrating.”
Dr. Narine presented plaques to the wives of Phagwah pioneers, for their services, and for the significant roles their children play in the success of the annual Phagwah parade. “And how appropriate it is, to celebrate and honor these mothers during Women’s History Month,” he added.
The educator also stated that the visit of Mayor Eric Adams was the highlight of the return of the festival, and called him a bridgebuilder.
Romeo Hitlall, a prominent member of the committee, thanked all the artists, and behind the scenes operators for their signification contributions to the return of Phagwah.