Queens Hospital Center shows boro’s diversity

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Hospital employees and community members took in a rich variety of performances, including African storytelling, Chinese opera, salsa dancing and Bengali folk singing.

"The spectrum of communities in Queens is very broad," said Omiwali Clay, who works in the hospital's Human Resources Department and was the event organizer. "There are oceans of culture that exist in Queens and much of it has passed through our hospital doors."

About 100 people saw the three-hour show held in the hospital auditorium, said Lata Vasconcellous, a hospital spokeswoman.

"Next year we will try to get a larger venue," she said. "In the last 10 years Queens Hospital Center has changed dramatically - there has been a tremendous influx of Bengalis to the neighborhood."

The audience was treated to a sizzling salsa dancing performance by the Second Generation South Bronx Kids, an organization which teaches children Puerto Rican-style dances.

"I like to work with kids and help them express themselves," said Jesus Nieves, the program's director.

Nieves is a full-time driver for Elmhurst Hospital, which like Queens Hospital Center, is overseen by the Queens Health Network organization. Nieves works with the group strictly on a volunteer basis.

"Cultural exchange is very important - it helps us get to know each other better," said Man-Li Lin of Flushing.

Lin performed several Chinese opera songs and put on a tai-chi demonstration as well.

"In Chinese opera every movement is symbolic," said Lin, explaining that no props are used to tell stories and performers instead rely on hand gestures. "The movement is like acting."

John Branch, director of the Afrikan Poetry Theatre, performed a spoken-word piece about the sensuous rhythms found in different forms of black music.

Mohammed Islam, who works at the hospital's medical clinic, introduced Selima Ashraf, the president of the Bangladeshi Institute of Performing Arts in Astoria.

Ashraf sang several love songs in Bengali while she played the harmonium, a Bangladeshi reed organ which uses bellows to produce sound.

Patricia McGlaughlin, who works at the call center in Elmhurst Hospital, performed an emotional rendition of "By the Grace of the Lord, I have Come a Long Way."

"My great grandmother first taught this song to my grandmother," said McGlaughlin. "I am the direct descendant of a slave."

The crowd was also energized by the upbeat tempo of an Israeli folk singer Yoel Sharabi, who sang a number from the Broadway show "Fiddler of the Roof."

An imam from a local Muslim organization offered a traditional prayer to begin the event.

Posted 7:17 pm, October 10, 2011
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