New York Caribbean Carnival and J’Ouvert debut their plans to celebrate Labor Day in the COVID-19-era

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A report by Jared McCallister for the New York Daily News.

The organizers of Brooklyn’s New York Caribbean Carnival and the J’Ouvert parade have announced their plans to hold alternative Labor Day weekend celebrations this year, with the coronavirus pandemic in mind.

The events’ officials debuted their 2020 Labor Day weekend plans before Mayor de Blasio instituted a citywide, COVID-19 precautionary ban on large events, which extends through Sept. 30.

The West Indian American Day Carnival Association — organizers of the New York Caribbean Carnival and Parade — are presenting a grand event-filled virtual affair, instead of its crowded precarnival happenings and its Labor Day parade, which attracts millions of spectators.

And in lieu of its annual predawn procession of costumes and traditional steelpan music, the J’Ouvert City International organization will hold a Labor Day morning affair to honor essential workers, along with J’Ouvert masquerade and steel band stalwarts.

 

Two weeks ago, J’Ouvert City International — which organizes the festive Brooklyn celebration — announced its plans to hold an awards presentation instead of its music-filled, costume parade through the borough’s Crown Heights and Prospect Lefferts Gardens neighborhoods.

 

“For this year, COVID-19 may have silenced our street music, but it cannot stop the music in the hearts of our steel band and masquerade proponents,” said J’Ouvert City International President Yvette Rennie, announcing the press conference-awards presentation, which will take place Sept. 7 from 10 a.m. to noon outside the James E. Davis U.S. post office branch, at 315 Empire Blvd., near Nostrand Ave.

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“Though we are saddened by the reality that we are unable to hold our customary J’Ouvert parade, we are happy to announce that the day will not go unmarked,” said Rennie.

 

“Heroes” will be recognized at the 2020 J’Ouvert City International event — “including our essential frontline workers, cultural stalwarts who were victims of the coronavirus, as well as some of the young leaders currently engaged in the national protest movement against the scourge of systemic racism in this country.”

 

Among the honorees are “15 essential workers drawn from a pool of nurses, aides, homeless shelter advocates, MTA workers and the mayor’s crisis management system.”

“We have seen them cry, we bear witness to the battle scars of the mask lines on their faces and yet they have not given up,” Rennie said of the “hero” essential workers.

The annual pre-dawn J’Ouvert procession (above) won't happen this year, but COVID-19 won't dull the powerful spirit of the cultural affair, which will be represented in 2020 by a Labor Day morning affair honoring masquerade and steelband masters and essential workers.
The annual pre-dawn J’Ouvert procession (above) won’t happen this year, but COVID-19 won’t dull the powerful spirit of the cultural affair, which will be represented in 2020 by a Labor Day morning affair honoring masquerade and steelband masters and essential workers.

The awardees also include J’Ouvert masquerade and steel band groups that took part in the 2019 J’Ouvert parade. “Three icons of the J’Ouvert steel band movement” who succumbed to the coronavirus — Martin “Dougie” Douglas, Hansel “Hanny” Leon and Oscar Williams — and steelpan innovator Neville Jules, who died in early February, will be recognized.

“Our Caribbean cultural traditions are strong and our J’Ouvert City International brand has been one of its most vibrant medium of expression in Brooklyn, N.Y., for the past 36 years,” said Rennie.

 

For information, send email to yerennie@gmail.com.

Meanwhile, the New York Caribbean Carnival-organizing West Indian American Day Carnival Association proudly boasts that, “The WIADCA legacy continues uninterrupted,” as plans for “online virtual offerings” of “art, music performances, fitness, health and culinary masters” were revealed last week before de Blasio’s ban was announced.

Using “technology and digital media,” WIADCA officials will present their virtual happenings for “our youth, families and seniors,” addressing mental health and wellness, youth development, minority business enterprises, “moral uplift and edification and local economic stimulus” in these trying times.

 

The virtual 2020 New York Caribbean Carnival will begin with a “Youth Fest” and then continue with a virtual “Music Fest” featuring popular performers and a “steel band showcase,” focusing on “history, musical masters, pan virtuosos.” And a “Solidarity March will be the 2020 carnival’s grand finale.

 

To get information updates and follow the virtual programs, visit wiadcacarnival.org and follow WIADCA on social media platforms. For questions or more information, call (718) 467-1797.

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