The Southern Queens Women’s March (SQWM), in partnership with the Racial Justice Commission of New York and the Asian American Federation, hosted the first-ever Fall Harvest festival in South Richmond Hill, Queens on October 29. The event occurred near the busy intersection of Lefferts Boulevard and Liberty Avenue in the Leo Kearns parking lot at 103-33 Lefferts Bld.
Founder and Executive Director, Aminta Kalawan, said the festival welcomed more than 120 community members who pledged to vote and inspired more community members during tour or processing hours at their office in Halloween to do the same. During the Festival, the organization highlighted some of the key issues that will be on the back of voters’ ballots this election. The group mobilized community members to vote and remember the critical need to return their ballots. This year, the back of the ballot will feature four proposals, three of which emerged from the efforts of the New York City Commission on Racial Justice.
Fun Afternoon gave away free groceries, including contributions from the Hunger Campaign and culturally relevant items such as curry powder and vermicelli sponsored by Singh’s Roti Shop and Bar . Fresh produce offerings, purchased by SQWM from Earnest Foods, included zucchini, carrots and onions. Traditional Caribbean pastries, including pine pies and cheese rolls from Tropical Isle Bakery, were handed out. The organization also distributed personal protective equipment (K95 and surgical masks and disinfectants), home COVID test kits and feminine hygiene products.
Reading for Black Lives, an entity founded by SQWM member Fayola Fair of Rochdale Village, distributed free books by BIPOC authors. Little Guyana Pharmacy provided free flu shots and drinks while Juice 101 provided juice shots.
As with all of their giveaways, SQWM handed out resources on domestic/gender-based violence, and the main entrance to the Fall Festival featured a beautiful painting by SQWM intern, Jennifer Padilla of South Queens dedicated to members of community who have been lost to domestic violence over the past several years, including Guiatree Hardat, Stacy Singh, Donna Rehanna Dojoy, Rajwantie Baldeo and Mandeep Kaur. October marks Domestic Violence Awareness Month and since its inception, SQWM has sought to change the patriarchal culture in its community to end violence against women and all.
The event also featured local artists. DJ Keshan has spun soca, calypso, chutney and Bollywood tunes. Creole Rock’s Gavin Mendonca literally rocked the crowd with folk songs like “Small Days,” with older audience members rocking to the sound of his vocals and guitar.
SQWM members Anjali Seegobin, Sabrina Mohammed and Sacha Sulaiman performed a dynamic fusion dance. Reading for Black Lives founder Fayola Fair gave a reading from ‘I Affirm Me’, a children’s book by Nyasha Williams. Kathak dancers Ambika Persaud and Durga Rathi, also members of the SQWM, gave a demonstration inviting many participants to take the stage of all ages and walks of life.
South Queens Women’s March members Movina Seepersaud and Theresa Deepan co-chaired the event. Co-sponsors for the event included All-in-One Party Rentals, Ambika Henna Creations, Blaque Resource Network, Chhaya CDC, Caribbean Equality Project, Desis Rising Up and Moving (DRUM), Diverse Streets Initiative, Earnest Foods, Emblem Health , Guyanese Girls Rock Foundation, NYC Commission on Human Rights, Juice 101, Little Guyana Pharmacy and Cafe, MumsKitchens, POOJA Boys, Reading for Black Lives, Resilient Bridges, Safe Horizon, The Campaign Against Hunger, Singh’s Roti Shop & Bar, and Tropical Isle Roti Shop and Bakery.
Aminta Kilawan-Narine said: “Last year we saw many of our rights revoked, including the dystopian reversal of Roe v. Wade. Voting has never been more critical for our underserved community, at all levels of government – from local to national. The South Queens Women’s March has been advocating for real gender justice since its inception. We’re hosting our first ever Fall Festival in pursuit of our mission to meet our community where they are and provide them with the tools and resources they need to survive and thrive.
“We are thrilled to have so many community co-sponsors and culturally appropriate performances as we celebrate this harvest season with a resourceful festival and encourage community members to vote and return their ballots. , especially to look at proposals related to race justice in our city,” Kilawan-Narine said.
At the event, Kilawan-Narine called out all SQWM members, thanking them for their leadership and volunteerism over the past few years and encouraged more community members to join the SQWM movement.
“This weekend’s Fall Harvest Festival isn’t just a GOTV player. It’s a cultural event that brings whole communities together with art, music and dance and connects people with essential resources like groceries, COVID tests, children’s clothing, books, vaccines against the flu and more. Trusted community organizations like the South Queens Women’s March are activating not just Asian American voters, but entire communities ahead of these crucial midterm elections that will decide who will represent us and what values matter to us in as a city,” said Jo-Ann Yoo, director. director of the Asian American Federation.
Christina Motilall, a member of the South Queens Women’s March Civic Engagement Team, said: ‘During times like these when we are going through inflation and worrying about whether we have enough money to to buy groceries, to pay our rent, to survive at the end of the month, we often forget other essentials like voting. It is very important to exercise our rights as citizens and to ensure that we have a say in who makes the decisions that affect our lives. We may not be able to control everything that happens to us, and we may feel defeated due to our circumstances, but one way to change that is to make the change and vote!
“Returning the ballot in these upcoming elections allows citizens to raise issues and support needed recommendations at the state and city levels. One of these proposals highlights the need to act against climate change with an environmental obligations law. Anxiety and fear related to climate change is an alarming concern for New Yorkers, especially felt deeply in communities of color. This new proposal aims to implement funds for renewable projects, improved rainwater systems and zero-emission school buses,” said Anjali Seegobin, Civic Engagement Coordinator of the Women’s March of South Queens, who in addition to performing at the festival also encouraged residents to vote.
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