A year after two men, one a former aide to New York Governor Andrew M. Cuomo, were killed in Brooklyn in separate episodes amid the predawn celebration known as J’ouvert, New York City Mayor Bill d Blasio and the police are promising that the annual event will be safer this time.
de Blasio, other New York City officials and organizers of J’ouvert have outlined new security measures for the festivities, including additional cameras, floodlights and police officers.
They have also launched a public awareness campaign in spreading the word that J’ouvert would no longer be the unregulated event of the past, “where gang rivalries often overshadowed the carnival atmosphere,” the Times said.
This year, for the first time, the Brooklyn-based J’ouvert City International , a group that hosts a street fair and steel band competition, obtained a permit from the city.
As part of the public awareness campaign, which has a hashtag, #wearejouvert, clergy members have been enlisted to urge the public to act peacefully.
In the celebration last year, Denentro Josiah, 24, of the Bronx, was stabbed to death,as he tried to break up a fight, according to friends.
About two hours later, Jamaican Carey W. Gabay, first deputy counsel at the New York Empire State Development Corporation and a former assistant counsel to Cuomo, was caught in gang crossfire.
Gabay who was shot in the head died days later. Three men have been charged in his killing, however, Josiah’s death remains unsolved.
“The tragedy of losing Carey Gabay, I think, gripped this whole city and added to everyone’s resolve,” de Blasio said. “There was a real belief among elected officials and community leaders that something could be done differently while still maintaining all that was good about the celebration, all that it meant to the community.”
Trinidadian Yvette Rennie, president of J’ouvert City International, told reporters here that she believes “there was a younger generation who didn’t understand the culture.
“They came from the parties and thought it was a free-for-all,” she said.
On Saturday, Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams made a last-minute plea for peace, ahead of J’Ouvert.
Adams, a former cop, stood with reggae and Soca artists near Grand Army Plaza in Brooklyn, stressing that violence should not be a part of the Labor Day weekend festivities, according to the New York Daily News.
“Our J’Ouvert is a peaceful J’Ouvert,” Adams said. “Our West Indian Day weekend is a peaceful weekend.”
On Friday, the New York Police Department (NYPD) said they had arrested 34 “gangbangers” and seized 10 guns in a take-down timed to tamp down violence during the weekend, according to the Daily News.
Reggae singer Christopher Martin also told the paper that the festival should be peaceful.
“We don’t want it to be marred by any kind of violence whatsoever. Us Caribbean people are not about violence,” he said.
On Wednesday, cops and US federal marshals arrested Kenny Bazile in Palm Desert, California in connection with Gabay’s murder.
He is the fifth man to be charged in the shooting, the Daily News said. Gabay, 43, was killed on the morning of September last year.
In mid-September, with much fanfare, the West Indian American Day Carnival Association (WIADCA) launched its 49th annual carnival at the Brooklyn Children’s Museum, under the theme, “One Caribbean, One People, One Voice.”
Several area representatives joined carnival officials, other dignitaries and masqueraders in the launch of the extravaganza that got underway last Thursday and will culminate culminating with the grand parade on Monday – Labor Day, along Eastern Parkway, one of Brooklyn’s major thoroughfares.
“I think it’s great for America, for the culture and heritage of the Caribbean,” said State Sen. Jessie Hamilton, representative for the 20th Senatorial District in Brooklyn, in a Caribbean Media Corporation interview.
“We want to introduce the culture in the schools, so people can understand what’s going on.”
Trinidadian Jean P. Alexander, WIADCA board secretary and director of public relations and marketing, who has been a WIADCA member for 40 years, said over 45 Adult and 40 Children bands will participate in the carnival, which also features 12 steel bands, including one each from Toronto and Philadelphia.
She said 10,000 costumed masqueraders and over three million spectators are expected to converge on Eastern Parkway on Monday.
“We’re going to have a very secured and safe carnival,” Alexander said. “We want the world to know that – plenty, plenty mas.”
She also disclosed that, for the very first time, the Barbados-based Caribbean Tourism Organization (CTO), the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), the US Department of State and the American Foundation for the University of the West Indies (UWI) have expressed interest in partnering with WIADCA.
Trinidadian Yolanda Lezama, daughter of WIADCA co-founder and late president Carlos Lezama, said she was happy that the organization continues to promote Caribbean culture, adding that it is “important.
“It’s a huge reunion,” said Lezama, a former WIADCA president – “We look forward to the glitter and pageantry that are usually seen on the Parkway,” she added that North America’s largest dance party on Eastern Parkway” takes place on Monday, from 11:00 a.m. – 6:00 p.m..
The Grand Marshals include: Melissa Mark-Viverito, NY City Council Speaker; Barbara Atherly, Consul General of Guyana; Keith H.L. Tony Marshall, UN Ambassador of Barbados; and Conrad Ifill, the Trinidadian-born president and chief executive officer of Brooklyn’s Conrad’s Bakery.
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