Asian American Hidden Communities | Sri Lankan Community in Staten Island

Asian American Hidden Communities | Sri Lankan Community in Staten Island


>>>Staten Island is the
least populated borough in New York City and that may
be why it’s home to the largest concentration of
Sri Lankan Americans in the United States. >>>What we have here is
the Pahana. You have this when you have an opening and
you would have the chief guests or the people who helped you out
to achieve this goal to light this candle. It’s a
whole welcoming tradition we do.>>>The first Sri Lankan
art and cultural museum, outside that island nation,
just opened on Staten Island in New York City. It’s a dream
come true for its founder, 19-year-old Julia
Wijesenghe. She’s been planning it and sourcing
artifacts since she was just 15.>>>I was going on
different trips and visiting different historical places and
I was always interested. As I was growing up,
it was a struggle to represent who I was. When
I would meet new friends and they’re like, “oh where
are you from?” I’m like, “Sri Lanka.” and they had no
clue where Sri Lanka was. Then I thought, Oh. A
Sri Lankan museum where I can represent my parent’s
country. >>>How Staten Island became
home to the largest concentration of Sri Lankans in
the United States is a bit of a mystery.>>>Ask anyone. They have
no clue. A lot of Sri Lankan came to Staten Island.
They like to connect each other and help each
other so what they do is like, “Oh, I live on the island. You
know what, the better place to stay is in the island because
I live here.” It’s like that kind of a concept. But you know,
everyone has their own perspective. [Chanting]>>>Why do you think Sri Lankans
settled in Staten Island? >>>Because of that first
person or the first family. Their relatives and friends came
here. And then their friends and relatives came here.
This is how it grew.>>>I wanted to find the
pioneer who left the island country of Sri
Lanka in the Indian ocean for New York City’s
southernmost borough. Nirosha Premasiri had
some answers. >>>Nirosha, one of the
biggest Sri Lankan communities is located
here in Staten Island. Why?>>>My grandmothers brother was
one of the first Sri Lankans to actually settle in Staten
Island.>>>Leslie Gunaratne was
part of a new wave of Asian immigrants who came
to the United States after President Lyndon
Johnson signed the 1965 immigration act which
lifted the discrimination against non-European
immigrants.>>>With my signature, this
system is abolished. We can now believe it will never
again shadow the gate to the American Nation with the twin
barriers of prejudice and privilege.>>>With the U.S. opening its
borders for Asian immigrants, Leslie Gunaratne arrived
in New York City in 1968. I called Leslie
Gunaratne in Houston to ask him one pressing
question. >>>Why did you move to
Staten Island? >>>I simply fell in love with
Staten Island. It was quiet, calm, not over populated.
Not too many people. And not even too much traffic.>>>Leslie says the island
was affordable and downtown Manhattan where
he worked was just a short ferry ride away. Soon his
siblings were here too. >>>I didn’t know I was
starting something. I was only trying to help
my immediate family and the blood relatives. That’s about
it. And the people that were connected to my family through
marriage. That was all I was trying to do.
I was not trying to build anything to last 50 years. I had
no idea what I was doing.>>>Today, Staten Island
is home to more than 5000 Sri Lankan Americans. >>>I remember going on
vacation to Sri Lanka and bringing suitcases full
of spices and everything they needed for like a few
years to survive until they went back again to
get more. It’s totally different now. It’s like
going to Sr Lanka when you go to Victory Boulevard and you
see all the stores. >>>Baseball diamonds are
next cricket pitches. The Buddhist temple
serves as an anchor for the community. And breaking bread at
restaurants like Lakruwana can transport Sri Lankan
immigrants back to their island nation. Here, dishes like
deviled chicken, kale sambal, and hoppers, a rice
crepe cooked with an egg, are served up just like home
because it’s a family business. Julia’s parents who
met on the Staten Island ferry more than 30 years
ago opened the very first Sri Lankan restaurant in
midtown Manhattan in the 90’s.>>>Then we moved it to
668 Bay Street where we are now.>>>While the family
restaurant celebrates the taste of Sri Lankan
culture, Julia hopes that her museum will be a
cornerstone for the community. I’m Rayner Ramirez for Asian
American Life.

Author: Kennedi Daugherty

27 thoughts on “Asian American Hidden Communities | Sri Lankan Community in Staten Island

  1. She is so beautiful ❤️❤️❤️ im also half srilankan my dad is from jeffna srilanka and my mom is British 😁👍

  2. She is gorgeous, Any way migration is wrong word ,suppose to be immigrant. Migration using for An Animals and Birds. My dad and mom from Ceylon Jaffna. I am Canadian.

  3. Juliya, you are doing great. You are good example to most of the Sri Lakans. Really admire and thank you for everything you've done. Wish you all the happiness and success!

  4. She's just bullshiting people Sri Lankan who lives in Staten Island they don't care about their country even though don't care about the Easter Sunday bombing they're just acting the Sri Lankan communities not together they always fight each other believe me… even some of the Sri Lankans who were born in Sri Lanka and who were arrived here yeah shame to speak their own mother tongue… especially Sinhala people…. they always cut each other…. this is just b***** don't believe this s**…. even their children are like that…. I have seen some Sri Lankan girls after they come here that means to Staten Island they don't like to date Sri Lankan guys…. I don't know what kind of people are they anyway what is b****** do not believe this f**** Liars…. There are many Sri Lankans in Staten Island but the community is not together…. so did Sri Lankans adjust activate that's it

  5. I accidentally came across this documentary which I thought was unique to most of you, who visited the big apple (NYC), but never knew that a part of Sri Lanka and its culture dwells at it's door steps.
    I am very pleased with Julia who is playing a very prominent role to promote Sri Lanka and its unique Culture in Staten Island, NYC. I saw this young lady when she was around 8 years, and noticed her talented strong character at that young age. Her father Ruwan Wijesinghe , is one of my close childhood friends in the same village schooled together with me, running the best Sri Lankan restaurant in the whole world out side of Sri Lanka (in my humble opinion). I still remember the best "Kotthuwa" I ever enjoyed at his "Lak Ruwana" restaurant in Staten Island almost a decade ago. Don't forget to pay a visit to the Staten Island which is a short ferry ride from Manhattan, when you visit NYC next time and to visit Julia's Sri Lankan cultural museum . Highly recommend to enjoy a classic Sri Lankan meal at "Lak Ruwana" too!

  6. Guy's dont get me wrong looks like you guy's missed so much your mother land and may i ask why you people left your country ? It's like you have lost in between two worlds.

  7. Proud To Be A Sri Lankan❤️🇱🇰 My Grandma Is American….I’m Live In UAE But I Luv My Mother Land SL🇱🇰❤️❤️

  8. Damika you don't know what is happening in SL because you people supported by government. I want to tell you a real story just happened within a month, it's example for Buddist monks tolarence and behaviour. I red a news and watched a vedio how monks fight with Tamils in Tamils' land. The land is private property and historical Hindu temple in that land. A monk by forcely build a Buddha's statue in their land. After few months monk died because of cancer. I think monk name is Gnanasera, he was in jail, wanted to cremate the body in Hindu temple back yard, even though the court ordered not do. They didn't obey the court order and they did. Not only that they kicked the lawyers too. In SL monks don't have decepline, don't believe they really learned Buddha's teachings. All riots happened against Tamils by monks. These all happened and happening in SL.

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