York College in Jamaica (NY) launches first Indo-Caribbean history class taught by local political leader

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A report by Alejandra O’Connell-Domenech for QNS.

A ground-breaking new course is coming to York College in Jamaica.

This Saturday, Jan. 26, Democratic District Leader Richard David will instruct York College’s first ever Indo-Caribbean history class which will explore the social, political and economic factors that led to the rise of a distinct Indo-Caribbean identity in Guyana, Trinidad, Suriname and in the United States.

“During these political times, when immigrants are under attack, this is a landmark moment for our community and all immigrant communities,” said Shivika Rajkisore, chairperson of the Indo-Caribbean Alliance (ICA).

According to the 2018 MOIA report, Guyanese are the fifth largest immigrant group in New York City and are the second largest in Queens.

York College has one of the highest Asian student enrollment rates among CUNY colleges which includes many Indo-Caribbean students. According to a press release from David, in 2015 Asian students were the second highest ethnic group among the freshman class after African-Americans.

But although the Indo-Caribbean community comprises such a large part of the city, community leaders have had to fight hard to gain visibility. According to vice-chair of ICA, Artee Perumal, the alliance was started just for this reason 10 years ago. The course has promoted on ICA’s Facebook page as something that was “five years in the making.”

“We want students to feel a sense of pride in their culture and history,” said Perumal, who worries about second- and third-generation Indo-Caribbean young people not being able to connect with their heritage. “I would have loved to take an elective like this.”

The course, known as HIST 401 on York College’s campus, is one of the most important new courser offerings in a generation, according to Dr. George White, chairperson of the Department of History, Philosophy and Anthropology at the college.

“There is so much about this vibrant community and so much to learn about ourselves through the eyes and voices of these Americans. And you won’t find another course like this anywhere in the United States.”

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