Thursday, December 13, 2007

Indo-Carribeans Worship the Goddess Kali

At the Rajkumari Center for Indo-Caribbean Arts and Culture in Richmond Hill, Indo-Caribbean traditions from Guyana, Trinidad and Suriname are taught, preserved and passed on through sacred ritual and social interaction.

Every Sunday the Indo-Carribean community (originally from the Madrasi region of India) gathers at the Shri Maha Kali Devi Mandir temple on the border of Queens and Brooklyn for hours of healings and song devoted to the Hindu Mother Goddess Kali.

Click on the photo below to launch the audio slideshow.

This audio slideshow and accompanying story about folk arts in Queens is published on Columbia's Graduate School of Journalism's website, City of Change.

From Central Asia To A New Homeland

From her seventeenth floor apartment in LeFrak City, Gulchekhra Alimova runs Vatan Asia, a grassroots immigrant association that helps the growing number of Central Asian immigrants assimilate into American life.

Since she established the non-profit organization in 2003, it has grown to approximately 25 active members and over 100 volunteers. Alimova has become the inadvertent go-to person for Central Asian immigrant needs.

Alimova said Vatan Asia, which translates to "Homeland Asia" in Uzbek, has a network of about 5,000 in New York and 9,000 across the U.S. Alimova said she will now seek city grants or government sponsorship for her association.

This story was published in the Queens Tribune.

Teens Trace Their Roots At Bukharian Museum

In the densely packed Bukharian Jewish Museum on Woodhaven Boulevard in Elmhurst, gold embroidered tapestries hang on walls, books and photos pile up on tabletops, and silk robes and tribal musical instruments cast an era not quite ready to be forgotten.

"I don't want my Bukharian Jewish history and culture to disappear without leaving any trace," said Aron Aronov, 69, who has collected or purchased over 3,000 items for his museum, including a 400-year-old deerskin Torah. "We [already] lost our environment. There is no desert, no camels [in New York], so I started this museum."

But, it's the youth's interest that captures the spirit of old and new in Bukharian culture. Imanuel Rybakov, 24, is the president of the Bukharian Jewish Youth Association - a 100-member group from the ages 16-35. He runs the Bukharian youth website (with an online dating service), gives guided tours of the museum and teaches the the farsi-inspired Bukhori language online and to peers.

"First, I was very interested in the history of my family" said Rybakov, whose family was deeply involved in the Bukharian community in Tashkent, Uzbekistan. "I was proud that I was coming from a family with such good roots."

Rybakov is patient and precise during his tour, explaining artifacts in detail, whether handling Soviet money or donning delicate, silk robes.

"Our mission statement is the integration of Bukharian Jews into American Jewish life," said Rybakov, a finance and economics major at Queens College. "We would like to create more programs to educate our youth about our background."

This story was published in the Queens Chronicle.

Monday, December 3, 2007

Corona: a neighborhood transformed

by Channtal Fleischfresser and Laura Isensee

Click on the photo to listen to Corona residents talk about the changes in their neighborhood over the last 30 years.