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Caribbean carnival lovers and masqueraders, who were anticipating the usual, massive Caribbean carnival parade on Brooklyn’s Eastern Parkway on Labor Day Monday, had to settle for a relatively short walk, as organizers of the annual spectacle cancelled the gigantic event for the second successive year because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Instead, politicians, a handful of service and community organizations, masqueraders and the press were among just over 200 who were allowed by the Brooklyn-based West Indian American Day Carnival Association (WIADCA), organizers of the annual extravaganza, to march Monday morning, for just over an hour, along Eastern Parkway.
They began marching at Nostrand Avenue and Eastern Parkway, heading south to the Brooklyn Museum, near Grand Army Plaza, culminating with a press conference.
Among march participants were virtually Who’s Who in New York politics, including Mayor Bill DeBlasio; New York Mayoral Democratic nominee Eric Adams; Sen. Chuck Schumer; Reps. Yvette Clarke and Hakeem Jeffries; Rep. Tom Suozzi of Long Island; Public Advocate Jumaane Williams; Councilman and Brooklyn borough president contender Antonio Reynoso; Council Members Dr. Mathieu Eugene, Farah N. Louis and Vanessa Gibson; Democratic Party nominee for the 40th Council District in Brooklyn Rita Joseph; State Assembly Members N. Nick Perry and Stephanie Zinerman; State Sens. Roxanne Persaud, Jabari Brisport and Kevin Parker; Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer; and Brooklyn District Attorney Eric Gonzalez.
They frequently interrupted their march to pose with the few masqueraders, gigging to Caribbean rhythms blaring from a disc jockey.
“It’s carnival morning,” blurted out Michelle Gibbs, WIADCA’s Guyanese-born chairperson, during the post-march press conference. “Lord, we’re here. We finally made it on the parkway (Eastern Parkway). We’re grateful to be here. It took a while for us.
“This is the ‘Rebirth’,” she added, partially echoing the theme of this year’s New York Caribbean Carnival, “Rebirth: Future Now.” “This is New York Carnival.
“Guys, we could not have done this without you,” Gibbs continued. “It took a lot, but we made it. This is Carnival Monday.”
Anne Pasternak, director of the Brooklyn Museum, said she was “so proud to see all of you today,” noting that, for years, the museum has hosted WIADCA carnival activities.
“Thank you, WIADCA, for being part of our community,” she said.
After asking all the children to stand, Congresswoman Clarke, the daughter of Jamaican immigrants, who represents the largely Caribbean 9th Congressional District in Brooklyn, said that, though many of them were born in Brooklyn, “they got the Caribbean whine (gyration).”
“We love you, Carnival Rebirth!” she exclaimed. “And, as my mother (former New York City Councilwoman Dr. Una S.T. Clarke, the first Caribbean-born woman to be elected to the City Council), would say, ‘you’re good in whining, be good in your books.’”
After removing a large Grenadian flag, draped around him, Williams, the son of Grenadian immigrants, noted the beauty of all flags on display.
“Those flags are beautiful, but one is more beautiful,” he said to laughter, waving the Grenadian flag, with the colors — green, red and yellow.
“Next year, we’re coming back strong; J’Ouvert, too,” Williams added. “We’re going to mash-up the parkway.”
Instead of grand marshals, who are normally selected for the massive parade, WIADCA named four march marshals for the Labor Day March, recognizing them at the press conference.
They were New York City First Lady Chirlane McCray, who traces her roots to Barbados and St. Lucia; Rabbi Eli Cohen, executive director of the Brooklyn-based Jewish Community Council; Dr. Henri Paul, of the Brooklyn-based Haitian Medical and Disaster Relief Organization; and posthumously Montserratian-born Dr. George A. Irish, former head of the Caribbean Research Center, dean of the School of Liberal Arts and professor of Caribbean and Latin American Studies at Brooklyn’s Medgar Evers College.
After Dr. Patricia Ramsey, the new and first woman president ever of Brooklyn’s Medgar Evers College, introduced Dr. Ken Irish-Bramble, the Montserratian-born son of Dr. Irish and professor of political science at Medgar Evers College, Dr. Irish-Bramble said that WIADCA’s work is “a reflection of his (Dr. Irish) ideals.”
Congresswoman Clarke said “no one is a greater example than the person who we’re honoring today,” referring to McCray.
“We’re breaking barriers and building bridges,” Clarke said. “Our First Lady is honored to make it possible to drop the stigma of mental health. Women across the city and across the country are struggling.”
McCray said “’Rebirth’ is about growth” (choking up), but we can do this; it’s about self.
“Mental health is just as good as physical health,” she said, urging march participants to go to the website, mentalforall.nyg.gov, “and share with at least three people.
“It will show all the resources that the city provides,” added McCray, stating that the public can also call 888NYCWell for more information.
In leading up to Monday’s carnival march, WIADCA hosted a series of carnival events, starting last Thursday with the sold-out “Vibes w/Voicey Concert Tour.”
On Friday, the Caribbean carnival group featured “Welcome Back! New York Carnival 2021”, a Caribbean music fest featuring artists and music from the Diaspora, including Iwer George (2020 Power Soca Monarch Trinidad); Blaxx (Trinidad); Linky First – Mr. “Rock and Come In” (Jamaica); and Adrian Dutchin & Dem Guyanese Boyz.
During this event, DJ Stakz paid tribute to the late Haitian Jacob Desvarieux, guitarist and lead singer of Kassav; and another Haitian, Herman Nau, co-founder and drummer of Tabou Combo.
Saturday featured the Virtual International Youth Fest 2021, described by WIADCA as an end of summer Caribbean talent showcase, “where all performances are welcome.”
Among the featured acts were Trinidad All Stars Youth Steel Orchestra, Kezia Sealy, Besties, KiMarli Jeffrey, Kamarly Simpson (Da Big Show), Kai-Anthony Salazar, A’Janae King-Fraser, Dabria Baptiste, Kurlise Bentham, Mitchila Williams, Shola Roberts Dance Troop, Impression Dance Theater and Batingua Arts.
Saturday also highlighted “Pan Jamboree,” “complete with live performances from New York’s premiere bands,” such as D’Radoes, Steel Sensation, Hearts of Steel, Pan Evolution Steel Orchestra, Metro Steel Orchestra, Khuentertainment and Harmony Music Makers, WIADCA said.
Trinidadian Rhea Smith, a WIADCA director, told Monday’s press conference: “We had a very successful Carnival Week.”
Gonzalez, the son of Puerto Rican immigrants, said: “We couldn’t do this without you.
“We had a tremendous Safety Department,” he added.
New York Police Department (NYPD) Chief of Department, Rodney Harrison, disclosed that there was “no incident” Sunday night.
“It’s really a great team effort,” he said.
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