New York Organizers Bump Up J’Ouvert Time To Combat Crime
New York's rendition of Carnival has thrived over the years but has also seen a series of tragedies. J’Ouvert, a precursor to the West Indian Day Parade, is undergoing several changes in an effort to reduce crime.
Brooklyn Paper reports that organizers of the parade changed its start time from 2 a.m. to 6 a.m., citing "darkness" as an outlet of crime. “We are extremely concerned that darkness is when everything happens,” J’Ouvert International president Yvette Rennie said Thursday (Jul. 28). “We felt that it was very important that we bring it more into light.” Other changes include a lighted walkway for participants along Brooklyn's Grand Army Plaza to Prospect-Lefferts Gardens, and 12 police checkpoints where everyone will be screened for guns and alcohol. The event will end at 11 a.m.
In the past two years, the Sept. 4 event has garnered attention for the increase in crime, mostly caused by gangs. Carey Gabay, a former aide to Gov. Andrew Cuomo, was fatally shot by a stray bullet in 2015. Last year, Tyreke Borel, 17, and Tiarah Poyau, 22, were the victims of gun violence. Participants from the Caribbean neighborhoods claim authorities have changed the narrative of J’Ouvert (Creole for "daybreak"), which was created to celebrate the emancipation from slavery. Now that the timing of the celebration has changed, the community believes the lack of respect for tradition could bring forth new problems.
“It’s f**ked up that they’re moving it up, like that’s the tradition,” Bailey-Ann Clarke, 26, tells The New York Post. “Officially, they can do what they want. Me and my friends are going to just keep doing what we did, except now I guess it’s just unofficial.”
The parents of the victims are also torn about the event. Vernity Brown, the mother of Poyau, believes her daughter would be alive today if there were better resources for J’Ouvert. “We need better lighting, because where my daughter was killed there was no lighting,” she said.
Alima St. Clair, the mother of Borel, doesn't think the time change will make much of a difference. "People shoot and kill anybody at any time," St. Clair said. "I mean, day or night, it doesn't matter what time of the day, they do it." St. Clair says she's still in mourning because her son's killer hasn't been caught. "I need to be held every year because he's two days before me," she said. "How can you live with yourself? How can you go on living day by day enjoying life, knowing that you took a life?"
Organizers and city officials are also hosting anti-violence events before the celebration. In Feb. 2016, VICE explored the layers of J’Ouvert with the documentary J'Ouvert: Brooklyn's Dirty Masquerade. VIBE also took part in Antigua & Barbuda's Carnival and J'Ouvert celebrations.
Check it out here.