The 35th annual Phagwah Parade in Queens made history on Sunday by celebrating two female grand marshals for the first time ever.
On March 26, Assembly Member Jenifer Rajkumar and Bahen Vedo, an executive member of the Hindu Mandirs Inc., both led the way for dozens of floats in Little Guyana.
The Holi Parade, also known as the festival of colors, began at noon on 133rd Street and Liberty Avenue where hundreds lined the streets tossing multicolored bags of powder at each other while others fired water guns filled with colored liquid to symbolize that everyone is connected by one spirit.
Smiles beamed alongside the warm sun as people of all ages raced up to the floats and unleashed a rainbow of colors. However, it wasn’t just locals who partook in the fun. Elected officials also joined in.
At the parade, Lt. Governor Antonio Delgado underscored the sense of unity the march embodies about each year, and stated that New Yorkers should celebrate their diversity together.
“It’s really amazing to look out and see all of the colors and to appreciate what all these different colors represent,” Delgado said. “In so many ways, when you think about all the diversity that’s here and how we all represent so much in our spirit, in our presence it’s always important that we come together as a community, sharing and celebrating our cultures or ethnicities.”
Marchers danced to the beat of drums and symbols, while New York City Police Department officers, the Commissioner of Immigrant Affairs Manuel Castro and Senator Chuck Schumer proudly strode in the occasion.
“We have more people from India and from the Caribbean Indian community here in New York, and here in Queens. I am fighting for immigration laws to make that happen. So, our great assembly member is the first Hindu in the assembly. She will not be the last,” Schumer said.
Hosted by the Federation of Hindu Mandirs, Inc. and Arya Spiritual Center, the celebration honors Holi, a significant festival in the Hindu, Sikh, and Buddhist communities. Many attendees waved flags from Guyana, Trinidad, India and other Indo-Caribbean nations.
“This is what we look like when we talk about diversity — 190 countries represented right here in Queens County, 360 languages and dialects spoken right here — and this is what the Hindu-Caribbean community looks like in Queens,” Queens Borough President Donovan Richards said.
The parade culminated at Phil Rizzuto Park for a series of performances and other cultural programming in honor of the event.