Save NYC’s West Indian Day Parade

Parade_1BM_t580This Op-Ed piece by Fordham University professor Christina Greer appeared in The Amsterdam News.

Each Labor Day weekend, thousands of New Yorkers gather to celebrate “One Caribbean, One People, One Voice.” People come from miles around to celebrate their heritage, learn about the great cultures of the Caribbean, observe the intricate and vibrant costumes and to be inspired by the music, food, love and beauty of Black people from across the Diaspora.

All Caribbean nations are products of slavery, colonialism and some of the most brutal acts committed by man. However, during the now famous West Indian Day Parade, multiple generations from many nations gather in Brooklyn to celebrate the beauty of their various and diverse histories and cultures. There are now clamors to cancel this celebration because of violence that occurred in the hours before the parade. Cancelling the West Indian Day Parade would not only rob all New Yorkers of a rich and necessary cultural celebration but also have severe and adverse economic effects on the local economy.

Unfortunately, there were two shootings this year in the early hours before the parade. I have read several op-eds calling for the suspension of the parade because of safety concerns. I am not buying this false outrage. The sad fact is there are shootings almost every weekend in Brooklyn. The real difference is, each year the composition of Brooklyn gets whiter and wealthier, and the parade is not seen as a beautiful cultural celebration by all.

Do not be fooled by census percentages. The somewhat steady percentages of Black families residing in Brooklyn does not seem to cause much alarm. However, looking more closely at the data, the influx of new non-Black residents, compared with the total population of Black families residing in Brooklyn, paints a different story. According to the 2013 census, the actual whole number of Black residents in Brooklyn is decreasing. As the neighborhoods along the celebration route continue to gentrify, what is the future of the parade?

Some new non-Black residents are quite open in their feelings about “fleeing the city” during the West Indian Parade. However, if the city decides to cancel the parade, the amount of income within the diverse Black community will be lost. There are so many vendors during the parade selling food, clothing, flags, souvenirs and more. What about the people who sew the intricate costumes or those who provide the music? All of the jobs that contribute to an enjoyable parade are actually real jobs for hundreds, if not thousands, of Black people. This economic activity is in addition to the necessary cultural celebration so many families look forward to each year.

We will never know the effects of this parade on a young child who sees thousands of beautiful and talented men and women dance, sing, play instruments and educate the masses about the pride they feel toward their other homeland. This duality is discussed in my book “Black Ethnics,” and it would be a disservice for all generations if New York City decided to cancel the West Indian Day Parade.

For the original report go to http://amsterdamnews.com/news/2015/sep/24/save-west-indian-day-parade/

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