Pandit Ramlall Way in NY to be unveiled Sunday
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The late Pandit Ramlall (right) with Ashook Ramsaran
The late Pandit Ramlall (right) with Ashook Ramsaran

By Vishnu Bisram 

THE co-naming of a street in Richmond Hill, Queens, New York, after prominent Guyanese Pandit Ramlall will be unveiled on Sunday, at the corner of Liberty Avenue and 133rd Street near the ground of Arya Spiritual Centre which he co-founded. It is an occasion for celebration following the co-naming of Liberty Ave Little Guyana Way in Richmond Hill on May 29, 2021.

Pandit Ramlall was born on February 28, 1928 in Guyana of Indian indentured parents. He passed away in Queens, New York, on January 26, 2019 at the age of 91. Ramlall hailed from Skeldon and taught at Tagore Memorial High School. He taught around the same time as the late, well known biologist, Dr. Joshua Ramsammy.

Pandit Ramlall joined Dr. Cheddi Jagan in the struggle for Guyana’s political freedom. He was arrested and kept in confinement at Sibley Hall for a few years for his dissension against colonial rule. He studied Hindi in India under a Government of India scholarship in 1974 and returned to Guyana to teach Hindi in Guyana. He also wrote several Hindi books.

Pandit Ramlall migrated to the USA in 1979 and pursued further education.  He is the holder of a BA and a DipEd.  In New York, he helped founded Arya Samaj mandirs and was the lead pandit. He subsequently became Dharmacharya or leader.

RESTORATION OF DEMOCRACY

In New York, during the 1980s, he joined the movement for restoration of democracy in Guyana. He was a well-loved doyen among Guyanese religious leaders and followers of Hinduism. He was also well known among American political leaders in New York; they recognised his contribution to the Guyanese and Indo-Caribbean immigrants in Queens. A movement was started after his death two years ago to co-name a street after him.

Guyanese-American, Ashook Ramsaran of the Indian Diaspora Council (IDC) was named Chairman of the Pandit Ramlall Way Committee, and Patricia Gordon-Langford of Tristate Alliance was named Co-Chairman, respectively. The committee included several prominent members of the community including several board members of the Arya Spiritual Centre, family members of Pandit Ramlall, Dr. Dhanpaul Narine of Jyoti Satsang; District Leader, Richard David; Naidoo Veerapen of Federation of Hindu Mandirs; Dilip Nath of NAVA; Herman Singh of Radio Zindagi 540AM; Lakshmee Singh of “Let’s Talk With Lakshmee”; and several others. Naro Balli of Arya Spiritual Centre was appointed as director of the June 27 unveiling programme.

With the experience of initiating the Ramesh Kalicharran Way, named after an Essequibian to a successful conclusion in 2019, Ramsaran directed the committee’s efforts and a sustained campaign to justify the street-naming in honour of Pandit Ramlall. The committee prepared an 89-page dossier of letters of support from businesses and organisations, thousands of signatures of area residents and an extensive biography of the man, his life and legacy. Despite delays due to COVID-19, the efforts continued. Ramsaran gave testimony at the NYC City Council on December 17, 2020, in support of the application which was unanimously approved by the City Council and signed into law by Mayor Bill de Blasio.

PRIEST, SCHOLAR, POLITICAL COMMUNITY ACTIVIST

It was noted that Pandit Ramlall was a priest, scholar, political community activist, freedom fighter, religious icon, Indo-Caribbean and Guyanese cultural pioneer in NY, and community advocate. He had earned the respect and admiration of politicians and the Guyanese and Indo-Caribbean communities in Queens. Pandit Ramlall was honoured with several awards in India, Guyana, and New York. He attended Hindi, Sanskrit, and Indian diaspora conferences around the globe. His name is well known in India in Aryan circles.

Committee Chair Ramsaran remarked that, “Dharmacharya Pandit Ramlall was a selfless and avid community advocate, a well-respected iconic spiritual leader and scholar, a freedom fighter in Guyana, and a pioneering community advocate who has been recognised locally and internationally for his life-long community service. He founded the annual Phagwah (Holi) Parade in New York and Queens Borough President declared March 23, 2003 at ‘Pandit Ramlall Day’. He was indeed a tremendous asset to the community with a lifetime of service to spirituality, justice and freedom. These attributes justified the naming of Pandit Ramlall Way as a lasting tribute to the man and his legacy.”

NYC Council Member Adrienne Adams of Richmond Hill piloted the bill to name a street after Pandit Ramlall and won unanimous City Council approval. The unveiling of Pandit Ramlall Way at 133rd Street, off Liberty, just in front of Sybil’s Restaurant, will take place on Sunday, June 27th at 13:00hrs. It will be preceded by speeches and a cultural programme at the Dr. Cheddi Jagan Square, at a lot owned by the Arya Samaj Spiritual Centre, which is used for many cultural events such as the Gandhi Peace March, Holi and Diwali functions.
In a memo to the organisers of the event, Mayor De Blasio praised the contributions of Pt. Ramlall in Guyana and New York. The ceremony begins at 11:30hrs and will include songs and tributes by community advocates and elected officials. The unveiling of Pandit Ramlall is at 13:00hrs, following the conclusion of the ceremony and all are invited to attend.

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