J’Ouvert moves to daylight hours

Devil’s horns: A man with Jab Jab horns covered in powder. One of the highlights of the J’ouvert parade is people dressed as carnival characters.
Photo by Stefano Giovannini

New York’s Caribbean J’Ouvert festival has been moved from pre-dawn hours to daylight hours just before the massive West Indian American Day Carnival Parade on Brooklyn’s Eastern Parkway gets underway, organizers say.

Organizers, hoping for a fresh start at this year’s J’Ouvert celebrations, have a new weapon – sunlight – against gangs and gun violence that have plagued the annual festival in Brooklyn on the first Monday in September, Labor Day, according to New York’s Daily News.

The paper said on Thursday that officials are planning to hold the Labor Day festival during daylight hours for the first time.

Traditionally, J’Ouvert begins at about 2 am, but the new hours for the permitted procession will start at 6 am and end at 11 am, Trinidadian Yvette Rennie, president of J’Ouvert City, organizers of the annual Caribbean celebration, told the Daily News.

Rennie, according to the Daily News, said the change is being made specifically to stop the violence and is “a combination of all our concerns, because we are extremely concerned that darkness is when everything (bad) happens.”

Last year, two people were killed during the overnight revelry, despite an increased New York Police Department (NYPD) presence, lighting and other measures that were adopted, the Daily News said.

In 2015, it said the celebration of the Caribbean culture was marred by bloodshed when 43-year-old Carey Gabay, a Jamaican-American Harvard-educated lawyer and aide to New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, was caught in gang members’ crossfire and fatally wounded near the parade route.

J’Ouvert, which means “daybreak,” precedes Brooklyn’s West Indian American Day Carnival Parade, but is not affiliated with it, the Daily News said.

It said the notion to change the time was developed through a series of town hall sessions and meetings between New York City officials and grassroots groups.

“Based on what happened in those consecutive years, we felt that it was very important that we bring it more into light,” said Rennie, adding that her group proposed the time change.

She said several New York City agencies and the NYPD have been working with her group to keep the event and its spectators safe.

“We have all the agencies working with us,” she said. “The whole theme is, they are not going to shut down J’Ouvert. We are going to find measures to continue J’Ouvert.”

Rennie said J’Ouvert City, crisis management and grassroots groups, and city officials will host several anti-gang violence and educational events in the weeks ahead of the Sept. 4 parade.

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