The rain couldn’t stop elected officials, community organizers, small business owners and residents in Richmond Hill from celebrating the street co-naming ceremony and street sign unveiling of “Little Guyana Avenue” at the corner of Liberty Avenue and Lefferts Boulevard on Saturday, May 29.
Hundreds of people attended the event, which honored the accomplishments, contributions and sacrifices of the Guyanese community in Richmond Hill and beyond. The event featured a brief history of Little Guyana, followed by remarks from elected officials, community organizations and local businesses, as well as performances from local artists.
A Tassa Band led the march to the intersection for the unveiling of the new Little Guyana Avenue sign, which came three days after the 55th anniversary of Guyana’s Independence Day.
Councilwoman Adrienne Adams, who sponsored and passed legislation in December 2020 to co-name Liberty Avenue and Lefferts Boulevard as Little Guyana Avenue, said the historic street co-naming has been long-awaited, but so well deserved.
“For decades, our Guyanese community has contributed to the economic, cultural and political fabric of Queens, and now their accomplishments and impact are officially recognized through this new street sign,” Adams said. “The co-naming of Little Guyana Avenue is a testament to the hard work and sacrifices of our immigrant families, longtime small businesses, and community organizations and leaders who have endeavored to make their mark on our community and our city. Their long and lasting legacy of community-building will forever be remembered through the new Little Guyana Avenue street sign.”
In the last several years, Adams has also championed and oversaw the co-naming of Punjab Avenue and Gurdwara Street in recognition of District 28’s ethnic, racial, cultural and religious diversity. Council District 28 covers the neighborhoods of Jamaica, Rochdale Village, Richmond Hill and South Ozone Park.
Richmond Hill is home to the largest Guyanese community outside of Guyana.
According to the U.S. Census data, the Guyanese community is also the second-largest foreign-born immigrant group in Queens and the fifth largest in New York City. According to local historians, since the 1960s, hundreds of thousands of Guyanese immigrated to New York City, with a majority settling in Richmond Hill.
Bringing their culture, religion, food and fashion to the community, Guyanese Americans built homes, businesses and religious institutions near corridors such as Liberty Avenue. In fact, the first West Indian store on Liberty Avenue was J&B West Indian Grocery, which was first established 44 years ago and still stands as a community staple today.
Simone Jhingood and Shivana Jorawar, of the Jahajee Sisters, honored the elderly for their hard work, preserving the neighborhood’s unique cultural history.
“They were the ones who settled here in the ’80s and set up mandirs, mosques, roti shops and stores where we could purchase religious items, cultural clothing and West Indian groceries. They worked incredibly hard to preserve our traditions on this new American soil and marked our existence as Indo-Caribbeans with big events like the Phagwah Parade that have put Richmond Hill on the map. We thank our elders for paving the way for us, and we humbly carry the torch forward as custodians of our culture and community,” Jhingood and Jorawar said.
Assembly District 31 Leader Richard David said it was a proud and powerful moment for generations of Guyanese Americans who built Little Guyana, like his parents.
“We did this co-naming to honor their migration, their sacrifices and their contributions to our great city,” said David, who thanked political, business and community stakeholders for making the day a reality.
Other community leaders and organizations applauded Adams’s efforts for making the street co-naming possible.
“While we don’t need a street sign to tell us Richmond Hill is Little Guyana, recognition matters,” said Annetta Seecharran, executive director of the Chhaya Community Development Corporation. “We are immensely grateful to Council member Adrienne Adams for making this happen and for celebrating in style with us!”
Aminta Kilawan-Narine, founder and director of South Queens Women’s March, said they were humbled to support the historic unveiling of Little Guyana Avenue.
“We uplift the indelible impact of countless hardworking Guyanese who have contributed over many decades to the landscape of this vibrant and iconic corridor, whether by owning, staffing, patronizing local businesses, maintaining traditions across multiple migrations through mandirs, mosques and churches, or ensuring culture thrives through events like the Phagwah Parade and Diwali Motorcade,” Kilawan-Narine said. “Representation matters and we are overjoyed to see many of our identities reflected in this everlasting symbol of pride in our beloved community.”
Queens Borough President Donovan Richards said he is looking forward to a celebratory summer on Little Guyana Avenue honoring Queens’ Guyanese heritage, culture, cuisine and more.
“There are few communities that represent our borough’s unmatched diversity and pride in its heritage than the Guyanese American community in Richmond Hill,” Richards said. “It is an honor to officially declare Liberty Avenue as Little Guyana Avenue, cementing the remarkable strength and the countless contributions of our thousands of Guyanese American families who call this neighborhood home.”
Richards was joined by Deputy Borough President Rhonda Binda, a second-generation Guyanese American representing the largest diaspora in Queens.
“Liberty and the pursuit of happiness are the cherished values Guyanese immigrants embraced and embodied in coming to this blessed country to live the American Dream, just as my family did,” Binda said. “Liberty Avenue in Queens became home for so many, so this historic street co-naming gives recognition to the massive contributions of Guyanese immigrants who make Richmond Hill one of the most vibrant and dynamic districts in New York City. It certainly is an inspiration to me to have my heritage honored in such a public way.”
As the first South Asian woman elected to office in New York State, Assemblywoman Jenifer Rajkumar said she was proud to represent the entire South Asian diaspora, which includes Indo-Caribbeans from Guyana.
“The South Asian community now has a seat at the table of power in our state and is finally getting the recognition and resources it deserves,” Rajkumar said. “The historic naming of Little Guyana Avenue symbolizes that. Little Guyana, Richmond Hill and the South Asian community are officially on the map.”