Concerns about the future of New York’s annual West Indian Carnival

The Caribbean American community in New York City faces the daunting reality that convening and funding the West Indian American Day Parade and Carnival this year could become an insurmountable challenge. Failure to bring our community together to collectively meet this challenge could result in no parade and a major embarrassment for our elected and community leadership, as well as the Caribbean Diaspora as a whole. This result we cannot afford!

As you are aware, there are grave concerns about the future of the parade; the viability of the West Indian American Carnival Association (WIADCA) – given recent internal developments that “seemingly” precipitated a collapse of its organizational structures, consequently leaving supporters and the public confused at best; and WIADCA’s possible inability to retain the confidence of sponsors, given lingering perceptions — justifiable or unfounded, that last year’s parade was violent.

I therefore recommend that the leadership of our community give immediate consideration to an interim arrangement to ensure continuity of this event so as to preserve this vital aspect of our heritage.

Pursuant to the aforementioned, I propose the following:

(I) The leadership of the Caribbean-American community should immediately establish an Interim Carnival Authority (however styled) to oversee, direct and manage carnival 2012, which ordinarily would be convened by the West Indian American Carnival Association (WIADCA).

(II)The purpose of the Authority is to (I) ensure the successful and effective planning, convening and staging of the entire weekend of events that comprise Carnival celebration 2012 as well as the West Indian American carnival, a.k.a. the “Labor Day Parade 2012,” and (II) oversee the transformation of WIADCA into a viable, accountable, effective organization; be it via internal reform, partnerships or other means.

(III)In my view the Authority should: not be a governmental agency; not be appointed solely by government officials and must operate outside the control of government.

(IV)The Authority may comprise seven to nine members who shall be a statutory board. Initially, members should be elected/appointed by consensus or majority decision exclusively at an assemblage of elected officials and members of the general leadership of Caribbean-American community. The board shall make its own rules of operation by simple or two-thirds majority vote.

(V)WIADCA as well as all individuals and/or organizations that wish to participate in carnival 2012 shall sign an agreement recognizing the “Interim Carnival Authority” as the singular and supreme entity, convener and sponsor of the Labor Day Parade 2012 and related activities. In so doing they must also affirm that any and all decisions, actions, directives and rules established by the Authority pursuant to said agreement shall be legitimate and fully binding on all parties, their agents and representatives and shall be subscribed to, upheld, executed, carried-out, respected and followed without opposition, controversy or challenge.

(VI)The Authority shall immediately register as a not for profit organization and apply for tax-exempt status. Interim to its grant of tax-exemption, it should use a conduit for funding for the 2012 parade as well as make legitimate expenditures expressly in pursuance of its mission.

(VII)The Authority should be the sole permittee of the “Labor Day Parade” on the Eastern Parkway on Labor Day 2012, as well as for all other activities for carnival weekend.

(VIII)Because of its unique institutional knowledge and capacity, the Authority may commission WIADCA to manage all or various aspects of the Parade and related activates, subject to its direction and control.

(IX)In order to mitigate potential fallout that may derive from a perception by sponsors that the 2011 parade was blemished by violence, the ability to solicit and determine sponsorship for the 2012 Parade should be delegated the sole purview of the Authority.

(X)All permits for the Parade for bands, vendors etc shall be issued by WIADCA in the name of the Authority and shall be conditioned on the rules as set out by the Authority and WIADCA.

(XI)The Authority shall appoint its own interim personnel to liaise with WIADCA and all other parties and signatories, to ensure effective implementation of the agreement as well as competent implementation of its decisions.

(XII)Funding for the carnival shall issue to the Authority in the name of its conduit, and all legitimate expenses shall be honored by the Authority. Elected officials should guarantee “a measure” funding for the authority.

(XIII) No aspect of the entire weekend of events that comprise Carnival celebration 2012 shall be independent of the Authority.

(XIV) Once Carnival 2012 concludes, the Authority must issue an audited report and commence examining the viability of carnival as well as WIADCA, recommend fundamental reforms for WIADCA or implement permanent arrangements for future carnivals.

(XV)The Authority shall be accountable to the elected officials, leaders and members of the Caribbean community.

This proposal will not be a panacea for the myriad challenge we face and will certainly not be to amenable to all. But it forms a basis for discussion and a foundation for the modalities of a formal accord.

Rickford Burke.

The author is president, Caribbean Guyana Institute for Democracy (CGID).

The foregoing is the text of a letter to local elcted officials, including: U.S Rep. Yvette Clarke, State Sen. John Sampson, State Sen.Kevin Parker, State Sen. Eric Adams, State Assemb. Nick Perry, State Assemb. Karim Camara, State Assemb. Hakeem Jeffries, City Councilmembers Jumaane Williams and Letitia James.

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