In the 1960s when Forbes Burnham imposed the ban on basic foods items and imposed belt tightening measures in his quest to prevent Guyanese from buying foreign products in order to save foreign exchange, thousands fled and in the 1970s and 1980s and 1990 more followed, taking up residence in various parts of the planet mainly the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom and the Caribbean.
It seems that a large percentage of them took up residence in New York, mainly in Queens. They were attracted to the area of Richmond Hill, and Ozone Park area which they later transformed into a Guyanese community – importing the foodstuff they like from Guyana mainly seafoods — hassar. bangamary, catfish, shrimp and vegetables such as pumpkin, ochro, eggplant, bora etc.
Walking or driving through Liberty Avenue one can see dozens of markets and small grocers where one can smell the aroma from curry powder and other Indian spices.
The Guyanese community grew rapidly and some of the vibrant ones wanted their voices to be heard since they have made significant financial and other contributions to the city, state and district.
A few ran for offices in the District Council and supported Senators and Congressmen of their choice. The Guyanese are community-minded and wanted their presence to be felt and made representation for an area to be called Guyana.
After years of negotiations, the authorities have decided to answer their call.
On Sunday May 29, the corner of Liberty Avenue and Lefferts Boulevard will be renamed Little Guyana Avenue – a sign will be unveiled to mark the change and it is expected that hundreds if not thousands of Guyanese in New York will attend the brief ceremony which commences at 10am.
The organisers are Adrienne Adams (Councilwoman); Richard David (District Leader) with Dr, Dhanpaul Narine, Ashook Ramsaran, Romeo Hitlall, and Vibert Bernard.
Ramsaran described the event as “historic, a significant milestone of achievement for the Guyanese-American community, reflecting the many remarkable accomplishments and contributions of the vibrant community of Guyanese living in New York. Indeed, it has taken more than 40 years to arrive at this moment for Guyanese and those of Guyanese origin to be recognised as a significant part of the social, cultural and economic fabric of New York. It is truly a moment of jubilation and pride which we share with Guyanese living everywhere, in particular in Guyana where most of them have families and we retain a strong bond and interest in Guyana’s success as well”.
In the Richmond Hill area, there are Guyanese travel agents, real estate offices, accountants, lawyers, doctors, mechanics, technicians not to mention the numerous restaurants, eating houses and fast food outlets.