In lieu of the spectacular display of carnival costumes and revelry this Labor Day Monday in what would have been the 53rd staging of the spectacular West Indian American Day Carnival parade, amid the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, organizers are still promising a virtual Caribbean carnival extravaganza.
“We will not give in to COVID-19,” vowed Trinidadian Angela Sealy, Board chair and long-serving member of the Brooklyn, New York-based West Indian American Day Carnival Association (WIADCA), which usually hosts five days of carnival events, culminating with the massive carnival parade on Monday, Labor Day, a public holiday in America, on Brooklyn’s Eastern Parkway.
“We will celebrate our collective heritage, our joy and creative expressions in every way we can, safely,” Sealy told the Caribbean Media Corporation (CMC) on Saturday.
Trinidadian Cecille Ford, another WIADCA board member and Mas Committee chair, said: “COVID-19 might have slowed us down, but it’s not going to stop our show.
“We’re here today to tell everyone how this energy brought us to a new era of presentation,” he added.
WIADCA recently presented a virtual Youth Fest talent show highlighting young emerging Caribbean artists.
On Friday, the carnival group hosted Brass Fest, a virtual “at home’ jam featuring popular Trinidadian “musical ambassadors” Kes the Band; Tabou Combo, celebrating their 52nd year anniversary as Haiti’s premiere Kompa band; Trinidadian soca artist Nailah Blackman, on stage with Kes for the very first time; and Trinidad and Tobago’s Road March champ Iwer George, among others.
On Labor Day, Monday, WIADCA will open with “One Love” New York Carnival and a Virtual Road show, a 12-hour edition complete with live DJ music, allowing masqueraders to participate safely from home on Zoom.
All festivities culminate in a grand finale on Saturday, September 26, with “Panology: Origins,” a virtual steel band showcase featuring soloists from around the globe, and an educational journey.
In celebration of WIADCA’s 2020 theme, “Back to Love,” this year’s virtual and community marshals include members of the New York Police Department (NYPD), “essentials” from surrounding hospitals, city agencies and young professionals; WIADCA volunteers; and “other notables.”
Calvin Collins – also known as International DJ Spice, a WIADCA Board Member and Entertainment Committee co-chair – said: “We can’t wait to get back in the streets carnival-style to feel the love again.”
New York City Council Member Farah N. Louis, the daughter of Haitian immigrants, told CMC that the COVID-19 pandemic has “drastically changed cultural traditions” for Caribbean nationals in New York, noting that this year’s New York Caribbean Carnival will be “a virtual experience.”
Louis, who represents the predominantly Caribbean 45th Council District in Central Brooklyn, urged Caribbean nationals, as they celebrate Caribbean culture, to “avoid gathering in large crowds, continue to wear masks and practice social distancing.”
New York state and city agencies, as well as elected officials, also have urging Caribbean and other New Yorkers, for their health, safety and reduction of COVID-19, not to hold or attend large gatherings this West Indian Carnival weekend.
The New York Police Department (NYPD) has warned that it will break up large gatherings that violate city rules amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
In addition, a group of Caribbean clergy in Brooklyn, known as the GodSquad – headed by United States Virgin Islands native Pastor Gil Monrose, whose parents hail from St. Lucia – will be hosting a Pre-Labor Day Prayer Tour on Sunday “to engage the community in promoting non-violence.”