A street naming ceremony honoring the late legendary community leader Ramesh Dalchan Kalicharran (popularly known as Kali) was held on Saturday, May 25, 2019 on the block where he lived and worked for over 4 decades (169 street between Hillside and Highland Avenues in Jamaica, Queens, NY). The late Kali, a world-renowned iconic figure, is the first non-uniformed immigrant civilian of Indian, Guyanese, Caribbean descent to be honored in this way. After speeches and light refreshments, the gathering proceeded to the corner of 169th Street and Hillside Avenue which has been co-named. A newly minted sign Ramesh D. Kalicharran “Kali” Way was jointly unveiled by Councilman Rory Lancman and members of Kali’s family. This bill was signed into law by the City Council of New York in December 2018 upon the application put forth by Indian Diaspora Council (IDC) upon Kali’s passing in December of 2017 and the official ceremony program took place May 25, 2019. The event/program was organized by daughter, artist-scholar Romanee Kalicharran and was moderated by Arsalan Mohamed (popular radio and TV host of “Wake Up with Pradeep Kumar”) and leader of The Interfaith Council for Community Development (ICCD).
Few individuals were as dedicated to their neighborhood, community and culture as Kali. He was beyond ethnicity providing assistance to any and every group that requested his help; no one was turned away. He was equally loved and admired in the Guyanese, South Asian, and Caribbean communities as he was in the multicultural and multifaith society for his leadership in all humanitarian causes beyond race, status, faith and origin. There was a galaxy of prominent speakers at the event.
Guests were welcomed by Caribbean drumming by renowned artist Akoyaw Rudder and steel pan by HighLite Vibes Steel Combo (pannist Kevin and Kenrick Lowe). The ceremony began with an interfaith prayer (universal - by Arsalan Mohamed, Christian - by Pastor James Richmond, Muslim - by Arsalan Mohamed, Hindu - by Pujari Anil Mangal and Romanee Kalicharran. The traditional lighting of the lamp that was done by widow Judith Kalicharran, Councilman Rory Lancman and President of IDC Ashook Ramsaran. This was followed by the Pledge of Allegiance of the USA and National Anthem of America played on Steel Pan.
There was an interlude of speakers beginning with Councilman Rory Lancman and Indian Diaspora Council (IDC) President Ashook Ramsaran. They both showered glowing praises on Kali for his dynamic and unmatched impact. Mr. Lancman presented a replica of the street sign (named after Kali) to his widow, Judith who was accompanied by other family members. The program continued with the national anthem of Guyana on steel pan. The Council General of Guyana made heartfelt remarks describing Kali as a shining Guyanese of the diaspora and noting the day as historic for the entire country of Guyana. A groundbreaking rendition of national anthem of India “Jana Gana Mana” was performed for the first time on a Caribbean Instrument-Steel Pan in welcoming Deputy Council General of India Mr. Shatrughna Sinha. Mr. Sinha praised the work of Kali a cultural ambassador and pioneer of Kali Bharat Yatra Tour; the first to take Indo-Caribbeans to visit their Motherland of India. He added his deep sense of pride in Kali as the first Indian to receive such an honor.
Representatives of elected officials brought greetings and support of the historic event. These included Assemblyman David Weprin represented by Mr. Harpreet Singh Toor Special Assistant, Community Relations and the Queens Borough President, Melinda Katz represented by Community Leader and Queens Borough Community Coordinator, Dr. Mohammed Hack who presented a posthumous citation from Hon. Melinda Katz to the widow of late Kali on the occasion of the 53rd Anniversary of Guyana’s Independence as the late Kali was a freedom fighter. Mr. Hack also presented a proclamation sent by NY Senator Leroy Comrie which acknowledged the valuable and highest honor deserved by the late Kali.
Other honorable speakers included Community Board #8 Chairperson -Martha Taylor and Miss India NY (2017) Shivangi Maini who has been an advocate for the Kali tour events. Leaders of various organizations also delivered remarks. They included: the founder of Federation of India Associations (FIA), and International Hindu Federation of Non-Violence and Peace Inc.-Yash Pal Soi, founding Member of Global Organization of People of Indian Origin (GOPIO) & South Asian Council on Social Services (SACSS) Sudha Acharya, Guyana Cultural Association NY Inc- Dr. Rose October, Verna Walcott, Guyana Tri-State Alliance (GTSA) Patricia Jordon-Langford, Yvonne Chaliha, Lita Inderjit, Dr. Dhanpaul Narine of Jyoti Satsangh TV program and Community Leader- Rashid Mohammad.
A song dedication in the form of an original composition entitled “Pyara Rahega Tera Naam” (Your name will always shine with love) in traditional Taan/Baithak Gana Style was written and sung by Babloe Shankar and accompanied by musicians Ashley Annanpersaud, Anil Shionarain, and Romanee Kalicharran who conceptualized the item. Touching remarks were delivered by Kali’s brother Rayjendra D. Kalicharran “Prame,” sisters Juliet Tajeshwar and Shobna Tomescu, widow Judy and children Jagdesh, Romanee Kalicharran. Also present were son- Nadesh along with countless other family members and relatives were also present to be part of the historic event in honor of their beloved Kali.
Arsalan Mohamed announced the presence of the Office of the Mayor Bill De Blasio, Queens Borough Director Community Affairs, Kevin Morris, Members of Queens Community Board #8- Chairman of Youth, Education and Library Committee- Marc A. Haken., Area Chair- Kevin Forrestal, President of Fresh Meadows Homeowners Civic Association -James Gallagher Jr., NY State Committee Member Assembly District 24 - Dr. Taj Rajkumar, District Leader, NYS Assembly District 31, Richard David. He acknowledged the support by Former District Leader of Assembly District 25, Yolanda Dela Cruz Gallagher, Former President of Guyana, Honorable Bharrat Jagdeo, NYC Council Member I. Daneek Miller District 27, Member of the Democratic Party County Committee, Farouk Rahaman, Community Activists Salim Mohamad and Santram Dukhbanjan and NYC Department of Transportation. Romanee Kalicharran thanked the print and video media and civic, religious and community organizations, neighborhood of Jamaica, associates, relatives, family members and friends of the late Kali for their tremendous support.
The legacy of Kali lives on in the parades and organizations he founded, ongoing community initiatives and his businesses: R.D. Kali Realty, Arcel Driving School and Kali Travel, established over 36 years ago and still operating at 169-12 Hillside Ave. 2nd floor, Jamaica, NY 11432 sending life changing tours across the globe year round. Ramesh D. Kalicharran was the voice of the people, philanthropist, mentor, trendsetter and father of our community and beyond.