WIADCA mourns death of ‘Carnival Queen’ Joyce Quamina

Joyce Quamina.   WIADCA/Rhea Smith
Joyce Quamina.
WIADCA/Rhea Smith

The Brooklyn-based West Indian American Day Carnival Association (WIADCA), organizer of the annual massive carnival parade on Brooklyn’s Eastern Parkway, says it’s “deeply saddened” over the passing of one of its former stalwart executive members, Trinidadian Joyce Quamina, described as WIADCA’s “Carnival Queen.”

Quamina, a long-time Brooklyn resident, died on March 1 – incidentally, the same day as “Carnival Tuesday” in Trinidad and Tobago – at Mount Sinai South Nassau Hospital in Oceanside, Long Is., her only daughter, Michelle Quamina told Caribbean Life. Quamina was 85.

“A true community stalwart and lead on our Pan Committee, Auntie Joyce steered our organization through some rough days where she served in many other areas,” said WIADCA in a statement about Quamina, who, for over 40 years, was affiliated with the carnival group, more than 20 of which she served as business manager.

“Her eyes saw many transitions, her wisdom guided us through many successes, she taught us the importance of listening to, respecting and honoring those who came before us,” added WIADCA, stating that Quamina’s motto was: “’I am only responsible for what I say, not for what you think I said or what you hear.”

“She is now with the ancestors, witnessing a heavenly ‘Carnival Tuesday’, greeting her friends and family, and chatting with the master whom she loved dearly,” WIADCA continued. “Auntie Joyce’s work will continue throughout the pan fraternity and our organization.

“Please keep her family and friends in prayer, as we mourn together a great loss,” it said.

Another WIADCA longtime executive member, Trinidadian Angela Sealy, former treasurer and chairperson, told Caribbean Life on Sunday that Quamina was also director of judges for more than 20 years.

During her tenure, Sealy said Quamina implemented the Children’s Carnival and, along with Marta Vega, developed the Stay in School Concert, now known as Youthfest.

She also started the Jamboree at Brooklyn’s Boys and Girls High School, as a fundraiser for the Mas’ and Steelband groups, “where artists donated their time,” Sealy said.

In addition, she said Quamina “negotiated for the Daily News to sponsor CASYM Steel Orchestra and provided educational scholarships to the youth.”

“As a cultural ambassador, she represented WIADCA and supported other carnival groups in Toronto, Miami, Boston, New Jersey, Washington and Baltimore,” Sealy said. “She spent time mentoring youth, community members and prison inmates about Caribbean culture.

“Over the years, she continued to support the organization as co-chair of the Steelband Committee, assisting the groups to get practice space, and worked alongside the NYPD (New York Police Department) on sensitive cultural and community matters affecting them.,” she added.

“Joyce was dedicated to WIADCA and all its members, and enjoyed sharing her knowledge of the early days,” Sealy continued. “She was well respected in many circles and will be truly missed.”

Michelle Gibbs, WIADCA’s Guyanese-born new chairperson, said Quamina, who was born in Port-of-Spain, the Trinidad capital, migrated to the US in 1969 and settled in Brooklyn.

“A participant of carnival in her native Trinidad, Quamina was a spectator of the original West Indian American parades in Harlem, New York and became an active participant when the parade began in Brooklyn,” she said, stating that Quamina was the founder and organizer of the Kiddies Carnival, “an event in which children between the ages of infancy and 16 participate in their own mas or masquerade parade.”

“She was also a contributor to the Westchester County Caribbean Carnival in White Plains, New York,” added Gibbs, disclosing that, after retiring from WIADCA, Quamina continued as a business consultant for the association.

“Rest in peace my Carnival Queen,” she continued.

Michelle Quamina told Caribbean Life that her mom was involved with carnival up to her passing.

She said Quamina was director and, thereafter, vice president of the Westchester Carnival; director of the Caribbean Muzik Festival in the Bahamas for 10 years; consultant for Western Union, the money transmitter, in past carnival events; vice president of the International Caribbean Carnival; and one of the founding members of the World Carnival Commission.

Micelle said her mother also lectured and conducted carnival workshops at John Jay College of Criminal Justice, City University of New York; Hofstra University; Ossing Penitentiary; and Folsom Prison.

For over 40 years, Michelle said Quamina’s name was synonymous with the “Brooklyn Labor Day Carnival,” and that she was “a dynamo in nearly every capacity in the staging of the event.”

Michelle said the late Calos Lezama, the founder and former WIADCA president, had recognized her mother’s organizational skills and expanded her role to include business manager.

“As she said recently, ‘I ended up doing some of everything: mas, pan, the kids, the vendors on the parade route, you name it. I had my hands full,’” Michelle said.

She said that, after nearly 30 years of service, Quamina, in March 2002, tendered her resignation from WIADCA.

“But it was not the last,” said Michelle, disclosing that, in 2010,” her mother was “recommissioned to coordinate what is perhaps the most difficult event on the carnival calendar, the Steelband Panorama, which she successfully did for the last 10 years.”

“My goal is and will always be cultural awareness, enrichment, talent development of younger children and young adults,” Michelle quoted Quamina as always saying. “I am, and will gladly be, involved in my culture as long as God continues to bless me with life, health and strength.”

Quamina’s funeral service will be held on Saturday, March 12, at Harmony Funeral Home, 2200 Clarendon Road, Brooklyn.

Viewing will be from 11:00 am to 12:00 noon. Service will take place from 12:00 noon to 2:00 pm.