By Gina Martinez
The Indo-Caribbean community held a vigil Sunday at Naresa Lounge in South Ozone Park in honor of Rajwantie Baldeo, the Guyanese woman who was nearly decapitated on the streets of Richmond Hill, allegedly by her jealous husband.
The vigil was organized by Jahajee Sisters, an organization aimed at promoting gender equality in the Indo-Caribbean community.
Baldeo’s husband, Prem Rampersaud, was charged with her Dec. 5 murder, authorities said. According to police, Baldeo had finished her shift at a nearby restaurant when she met up with Rampersaud. As the couple approached the corner of 124th Street and 103rd Avenue, Queens District Attorney Richard Brown said they began to argue and Rampersaud began stabbing her in the throat, abdomen and shoulder.
Police said there were two witnesses who observed the crime and saw Rampersaud sawing at her neck with a knife. An ambulance took Baldeo to Jamaica Hospital, where she died. Rampersaud has been charged with murder and criminal possession of a weapon, according to the DA. He faces up to 25 years if convicted.
At Sunday’s vigil, members of the Indo-Caribbean community gathered to have an honest conversation about domestic violence, recalling Baldeo and other women in the community who have been victims. They carried signs that read “You are always remembered’ and “Your life mattered, we will create change.”
Community Board 9 member Richard S. David said abused women need more resources in Richmond Hill community.
“We have failed to break this vicious cycle of violence against women in New York, as we have failed back home in the Caribbean,” he said. “The heartbreaking murder of Rajwantie Baldeo is a reminder of how few outlets are available within the neighborhood. I keep asking myself, where could she have gone for help? As we reflect on how this could have been avoided, I’m glad we’re standing up and raising our voices to honor her life.”
Nadia Bourne of Jahajee Sisters said Baldeo’s murder should be a wake-up call to change the culture of silence around domestic violence.
“These outmoded ideas and backward cultural patterns concerning women never deserved a seat at our society’s table,” she said. “How can we solve a problem if we cannot face it? How can we face a problem whose existence we willingly fail to recognize? Now is the time for us all to push back against this normalization of sexist and patriarchal patterns at the root of gender-based violence. We must acknowledge the depth and magnitude of this silencing of our women, the lasting effect of murder, their severing impact on our families and loved ones. I will hold Rajwantie Baldeo’s family in my thoughts and her life in my memory.”
Reach Gina Martinez by e-mail at gmart