By Prem Calvin Prashad

The Ozone Park-based Indo-Caribbean Alliance kicked off the new year as a beneficiary of a charity ball hosted by two area business owners. The group has worked on initiatives, such as youth mentoring and voter registration plans, to continue its advocacy work though providing spaces for the community to come together, voter registration and serving in an advisory role for local youth.

The Platinum Ball, hosted by Sandra Nandalall, of Elegant Floral Designs, and Shivie Sukhdeo, of Platinum Celebrations, was held at the Golden Terrace Banquet Hall in Richmond Hill. ICA was not the only beneficiary of this event, as Operation Dreamcatchers, Three Rivers Kids Foundation and Chutney Pride LGBT NYC were also selected to benefit from donations. The event consisted of a dinner, guest appearances from performers and a musical finale after midnight.

Though this was not the first time ICA has worked with neighborhood businesses, the charity ball was the first of its kind in the community. Of the two entrepreneurs who made this event happen, ICA Executive Director Richard David said, “We want to align ourselves with businesses that are responsible … civic-minded and businesses that are unique in our community.”

David continued, “Here are two businesses that are doing a really wonderful thing …. We wanted to highlight that.”

Several local business have been under fire in the past year for their negative impact on the community as well as irresponsible business practices.

Among ICA’s continuing achievements is the Indo-Caribbean Collection, part of the Lefferts Branch of the Queens Library, which features works by Indo-Caribbean authors such as V.S. Naipaul and David Dabydeen. The collection, started in December 2011, provides the community with novels as well as scholarly works on the Indian diaspora to the Caribbean.

Continuing on the success of this program, ICA routinely holds a book club for discussions with authors, film screenings and discussion of relevant literary works. This spring, author Gaiutra Bahadur will discuss her book “Coolie Woman: The Odyssey of Indenture” as part of the book club.

In an ongoing effort, ICA will extend its Youth Mentioning Program for a fourth year with a cohort of 15 local students selected for guidance, leadership training and other assistance. David noted that the program continues to successfully push area students to achieve educational goals, as well as empowerment to become involved in their community. Adding to that is programming to help students recognize career development goals.

For all students, ICA offers tutoring for students in Grade 6 to 12 through its Middle School Initiative and the College Bound high school program. Students who apply and are accepted into these free programs also receive exam preparation, mentoring and access to volunteer opportunities.

Though David noted that there was a strong sense of community and pride in Richmond Hill, he also noted that the community has evolved and needs “a secular and culturally sensitive space to talk about how our community is changing … a space like that is what ICA hopes to foster.”

David said that a generational divide, in which parents and their children could share a space a discuss challenges as well as foster solutions, is missing in the community.

For more information on ICA’s events and programming this year, visit indocaribbean.org.

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