J’Ouvert cancelled, heroes to be honored

Yvette Rennie, president of J’Ouvert City International.
Photo by Paul Martinka, File

Amid the coronavirus (COVID-19), the Brooklyn-based J’Ouvert City International has announced plans for the 2020 festival that is usually held in the pre-dawn hours every Labor Day Monday.

“As our state, our nation and our world continue to battle the COVID-19 pandemic, we are all challenged to find creative means of expression and honoring our traditions,” said the Caribbean J’Ouvert group in a statement.

“J’Ouvert City International is no different in this regard,” it added. “And so, though we are saddened by the reality that we are unable to hold our customary J’Ouvert parade, we are happy to announce that the day will not go unmarked.”

On the morning of Monday, Sept. 7, J’Ouvert City International said it and its affiliate organizations will host a press conference and breakfast to honor its heroes.

“These include our essential frontline workers, cultural stalwarts who were victims of the coronavirus, as well as some of the young leaders currently engaged in the national protest movement against the scourge of systemic racism in this country,” it said.

J’Ouvert City International said the honorees will include 15 essential workers drawn from a pool of nurses, aides, homeless shelter advocates, MTA workers and the Mayor’s Crisis Management System.

Several J’Ouvert masquerade and steelband groups who participated in the 2019 parade will also be among the awardees, the organization said.

In addition, it said special honor will be given posthumously to Martin “Dougie” Douglas, Hansel “Hanny” Leon and Oscar Williams — “three icons of the J’Ouvert Steelband movement who we sadly lost to the coronavirus, as well as Mr. Neville Jules one of the notable pioneers and innovator in the steelpan community (who) died in early February.”

“This year, 2020, we have decided to honor our heroes — essential workers who have worked tirelessly at the forefront of this battle with our faceless enemy called coronavirus,” said Trinidadian Yvette Rennie, president of J’Ouvert City International. “We have seen them cry, we bear witness to the battle scars of the mask lines on their faces; and yet, they have not given up.”

“Simultaneously, in the fight against the other pandemic of racism and police brutality, we have seen our young people fill the streets in peaceful protests,” Rennie added. “In recognition and appreciation of all these heroes and their outstanding, unselfish diligent effort to our community, we will proudly honor them on J’Ouvert morning.”

Rennie said 13 local elected officials, as well as the New York City Police Commissioner are invited to hand our citations and proclamations.

The staging area for this J’Ouvert morning press conference will be the parameter in front the Post office on Empire Boulevard, between Nostrand and Rogers Avenue, which is part of the usual J’Ouvert morning parade route.

“As such J’Ouvert 2020 will still be marked with the energy and spirit of the people who continue to put our culture on the world stage,” said Rennie, stating that the event will take place from 10:00 am. to noon.

“Our Caribbean cultural traditions are strong, and our J’Ouvert City International brand has been one of its most vibrant medium of expression in Brooklyn, New York for the past 36 years,” she added.

“For this year, COVID-19 may have silenced our street music, but it cannot stop the music in the hearts of our steelband and masquerade proponents,” Rennie assured.

For further information, please call 718-636-8029 or email: [email protected].

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