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Revelers still flock to J’Ouvert and West Indian Carnival after organizers called off events

A child walks along Eastern Parkway draped in the flags of Caribbean nations.
Photo by Lloyd Mitchell

J’Ouvert and the West Indian Day Parade returned in a scaled-back format to the streets of Brooklyn on Labor Day, Sept. 6.

Organizers had originally called off the festivities last week due to a resurgence of COVID-19 infections, but groups — both official and unofficial — decided to celebrate Caribbean-American culture in smaller numbers, with steel band music and colorful costumes taking over Brooklyn’s Eastern Parkway.

A costumed woman during the scaled down 2021 parade.Photo by Lloyd Mitchell

“New York City is proud to be home to one of the largest West Indian populations anywhere,” wrote Mayor Bill de Blasio on social media Monday. “Today’s parade had to look a little different than in years past, but the strength and spirit of this vibrant community is as powerful as ever before.”

In the early hours of Monday morning, revelers took to the street to kick off the day’s carnival with some unsanctioned J’Ouvert celebrations in the borough. 

Mayor Bill de Blasio and First Lady Chirlane McCray joined the West Indian Day Parade on Eastern Parkway and Nostrand Avenue later that day along with other electeds like Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer.

Mayor Bill de Blasio poses with parade-goers during the West Indian Day Parade.Ed Reed/Mayoral Photography Office

Parade-goers of all ages flocked to the central Brooklyn thoroughfare in feathered garb and body paint.

On Aug. 30, organizers proclaimed that the events would not return in their full glory for the second year due to concerns of spreading the coronavirus, joining a growing list of annual parades that were called off amid rising COVID-19 cases, such as the Mermaid Parade in Coney Island.

After virtual parades in 2020, organizers pivoted to a hybrid format this year, with smaller events and some virtual happenings, all in the theme of rebirth to show optimism for next year when the party planners hope to bring back the events in full swing. 

Revelers take part in an unofficial J’Ouvert celebration in Brooklyn, during the early hours of Sept. 6.

“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 an Aug. 30 press conference. “But that doesn’t say that carnival is not going to continue.”

This story first appeared on amNewYork.

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