By Prem Calvin Prashad
Richard S. David, executive director of the Richmond Hill-based Indo-Caribbean Alliance, has stepped down.
According to an Aug. 1 email from the group, the decision was the culmination of a “careful transition plan” that has the current director of youth programs, Padma Seemangal, taking over as acting executive director of the organization.
David is the co-founder of the community organization and has served as executive director since its inception five years ago. Since then the organization, which focuses on youth education and membership, launched SAT prep courses as well as leadership training and advocacy events in the Richmond Hill area.
“I am getting to a stage in my life where I want to focus on some personal goals,” David noted in an interview. “My work with ICA, while fulfilling, did not allow enough time to do those things.”
David noted his greatest achievement at ICA was “getting people to volunteer their time” to run programs and services as well as participating in events.
“We’ve created the largest Indo-Caribbean organization,” he continued, noting that this level of organizing was instrumental in participating in the City Council redistricting process for the neighborhood in 2013. “Richmond Hill is more united than ever in a City Council district,” which David described as a difficult task.
“For me it’s continuing the vision of being a resource for this community,” Seemangal said in an interview.
This includes widening the scope and types of services available in the community. Aside from ICA, few social service and community advocacy organizations exist in the West Indian community, particularly in Richmond Hill and South Ozone Park.
Prior to joining ICA, Padma Seemangal worked at the League of Women Voters and Big Brother Big Sisters, according to David.
“Those two things were unique skill sets because they match well with ICA’s focus of youth programs and civic advocacy,” he said.
Since joining ICA in fall 2013, Seemangal has been involved in the program’s middle and high school initiatives and launched a new cohort of the program’s Mentorship Program, as well as participated in the grant writing process.
ICA’s ongoing desire is to establish a more permanent presence in the community.
“I would want us to have a permanent, dedicated space,” which, David noted, is a challenge in Richmond Hill.
“We have jumped around from space to space,” Seemangal added.
Yet Seemangal optimistically believes that as ICA gains more recognition in the community and around the city for the services provided, a permanent space is feasible. The group currently operates out of a leased space on Liberty Avenue.
Seemangal also hopes to encourage youth in the neighborhood to strongly consider a college education.
“Looking at our community, there is a lot of apprehension about sending students to college,” she said.
Seemangal blamed economic difficulties, as well as failing local high schools, for the diminishing perceived value of a college degree to neighborhood youth.
“We want to see this organization around for a long time,” David concluded, “If it’s still dependent on one person or one group of people, you’re making sure that doesn’t happen.”