WIADCA connects with Caribbean Diaspora

Politicians at beginning of last year’s Labor Day March.
Photo by Nelson A. King

For more than 55 years, the Brooklyn-based West Indian American Day Carnival Association (WIADCA) has connected New Yorkers and the Caribbean Diaspora through year-round community programs.

Over the years, WIADCA’s partnerships through Caribbean costuming, music, dance and food presentations have sustained local businesses, artisans and entrepreneurism. This exchange continues to drive New York City and the State’s economy.

Founded in 1967 in Brooklyn by Rufus Goring, WIADCA has successfully produced North America’s largest Caribbean cultural festival.

Originating in Harlem, the organization and founding members boast a legacy that began in the 1920s with Jessie Wardell, transitioning to Goring then to Carlos Lezama.

Today, the organization services many throughout New York City with year-round (virtual and live) programs, much-needed resources and services and cultural education and awareness.

WIADCA said its aim is “to promote and expand access to Caribbean culture, arts, music and talent to the masses.”

Since 1967, Brooklyn has been home to New York Carnival Week (NYCW), an extravagant cultural festival that celebrates the traditions and spirit of Caribbean people.

Complete with live entertainment to include musical performances by premier Caribbean artistes, cultural competitions and artistic showcases for adults, families and children, NYCW concludes with the signature New York Carnival Parade.

About 2 million spectators and vendors congregate, along with costumed masqueraders perform, in the street parade on the famed “Cultural Row” (Brooklyn’s Eastern Parkway).

The colorful parade is led by notable community leaders, elected officials, celebrities, partners and sponsors.

The year-round programs and workshops include Caribbean Cuisine in Motion, a culinary arts series with catering by local chefs, minority- owned restaurants, mixologist and eateries; and Eat Caribbean, formerly Caribbean Restaurant Week that provides visibility and exposure to minority-owned /run businesses, and supports community employment.

Masquerader Adori Collis and mom, Missy Gural, who designed costume during last Labor Day March. Photo by Nelson A. King

Last Labor Day, amid the COVID-19 pandemic, Caribbean carnival lovers and masqueraders, who were anticipating the usual, massive Caribbean carnival parade on Brooklyn’s Eastern Parkway, had to settle for a relatively short walk, as organizers of the annual spectacle cancelled the gigantic event for the second successive year.

Instead, politicians, a handful of service and community organizations, masqueraders and the press were among just over 200 who were allowed by WIADCA, to march for just over an hour along the Parkway.

They began marching at Nostrand Avenue and Eastern Parkway, heading south to the Brooklyn Museum, near Grand Army Plaza, culminating with a press conference.

Among march participants were virtually Who’s Who in New York politics, including Mayor Bill DeBlasio; New York Mayoral Democratic nominee Eric Adams; Sen. Chuck Schumer; Reps. Yvette Clarke and Hakeem Jeffries; Rep. Tom Suozzi of Long Island; Public Advocate Jumaane Williams; Councilman and Brooklyn borough president contender Antonio Reynoso; Council Members Dr. Mathieu Eugene, Farah N. Louis and Vanessa Gibson; Democratic Party nominee for the 40th Council District in Brooklyn Rita Joseph; State Assembly Members N. Nick Perry and Stephanie Zinerman; State Sens. Roxanne Persaud, Jabari Brisport and Kevin Parker; Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer; and Brooklyn District Attorney Eric Gonzalez.

They frequently interrupted their march to pose with the few masqueraders, gigging to Caribbean rhythms blaring from a disc jockey.

“It’s carnival morning,” blurted out Michelle Gibbs, WIADCA’s Guyanese-born chairperson, during the post-march press conference. “Lord, we’re here. We finally made it on the parkway (Eastern Parkway). We’re grateful to be here. It took a while for us.

“This is the ‘Rebirth’,” she added, partially echoing the theme of last year’s New York Caribbean Carnival, “Rebirth: Future Now”. “This is New York Carnival.”

Former New York Assemblyman N. Nick Perry, now US Ambassador to Jamaica, with Congresswoman Yvette D. Clarke (L) and Clarke’s Brooklyn Manager Anita Taylor. Photo by Nelson A. King

After asking all the children to stand, Congresswoman Clarke, the daughter of Jamaican immigrants, who represents the largely Caribbean 9th Congressional District in Brooklyn, said that, though many of them were born in Brooklyn, “they got the Caribbean whine (gyration).”

“We love you, Carnival Rebirth!” she exclaimed. “And, as my mother (former New York City Councilwoman Dr. Una S.T. Clarke, the first Caribbean-born woman to be elected to the City Council), would say, ‘you’re good in whining, be good in your books.’”

Trinidadian Rhea Smith, a WIADCA director, told the press conference: “We had a very successful Carnival Week.”

WIADCA said this year’s New York Carnival will take place during Labor Day week from Thursday, Sept. 1, 2022 to Monday, Sept. 5.

“As the organization celebrates 55 years of cultural representation, we look towards those that came before us for guidance, so that we may carry on their legacies,” said WIADCA in a statement.

For information on upcoming events, vending or sponsorships please visit www.wiadcacarnival.org.

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