J’Ouvert and West Indian Day Parade called off again because of COVID

Thousands parade through Crown Heights each year to celebrate Caribbean culture.
File photo by Paul Martinka

The J’Ouvert parade has been canceled for the second year, and the West Indian American Day Carnival will happen in a smaller version with a virtual component, due to renewed concerns about the spread of COVID-19, organizers behind the two major Caribbean-American celebrations said Monday.

“As keepers of this beautiful culture we were hoping to host our event this year, but the cons had overweighed the pros,” said J’Ouvert City International President Yvette Rennie at Mayor Bill de Blasio’s daily press briefing Aug. 30. “We looked at the bigger picture of the health, of the safety of our people… and we have chosen to cancel again this year.”

J’Ouvert usually happens in the early morning hours of Labor Day and signals the start of Carnival, which unfolds in a burst of color and steel band music on Brooklyn’s Eastern Parkway every year.

The festival was held virtually in 2020, but this year, J’Ouvert City International will instead host workshops to help young people “succeed in life,” along with tours visiting local cultural heritage sites, like an African burial ground at Bedford and Church avenues in central Brooklyn, according to the group’s leader.

The West Indian American Day Carnival will happen in a hybrid form without the grand parade from Sept. 2-5, with smaller events behind the Brooklyn Museum and remote happenings online, according to that event’s organizer.

“I know we’re all disheartened by this, but unfortunately, our parade on Eastern Parkway is canceled,” said West Indian American Day Carnival Association Chairperson Michelle Gibbs at the press conference. “But that doesn’t say that carnival is not going to continue.”

This year’s carnival will be themed as a rebirth, connecting to next year when the cultural groups hope to come back in full swing, according to de Blasio.

“This is never easy for people to postpone a cherished tradition, but it’s the right thing to do and a great alternative has been put together that will link us from this year to next year when we can bring everything back,” the mayor said.

The two events are among several popular gatherings that were called off again this year, such as the much-loved Mermaid Parade in Coney Island, as the more contagious Delta variant of the coronavirus drives a resurgence of the disease with severe impacts predominantly for those who have not gotten a COVID-19 vaccine.

For more information on the changed event lineup for the West Indian American Day Carnival, visit www.wiadcacarnival.org

This story first appeared on amNewYork.