Despite heavy thundershowers, local and state politicians, as they do every year, were very omnipresent during the 52nd West Indian American Day Carnival Parade on Monday, Labor Day, on Brooklyn’s Eastern Parkway.
Politicians, of every stripe, made sure they were seen and heard during the parade, beginning with the pre-parade breakfast, at the Lincoln Terrace Park on Buffalo Avenue, at the start of the 3 ½-mile-long parade route.
“Are you proud of your heritage?” asked New York City Mayor Bill DeBlasio, as patrons responded affirmatively at the pre-parade breakfast.
“Are you happy to celebrate today?” he also asked, getting the same response.
“I’m proud of what people of Caribbean descent have done for New York City and all what the people of the Caribbean have given to New York,” said the mayor after asking for prayers for “our brothers and sisters in the Bahamas,” who were severely affected by the onslaught of Hurricane Dorian.
“We have to count the Caribbean community, or we’ll lose representation,” de Blasio added about the 2020 Census. “I will make sure the count is counted.
“Everybody, make sure we have a good time between the rain drops,” he continued.
First lady Chirlane McCray, who preceded the mayor, said: “There are much more than the fears we have inside.
“As leaders, we have to make sure we get people out to vote,” said McCray, who traces her roots to Barbados and St. Lucia. “I’m asking all of you to get counted in the Census. Don’t be afraid!”
Brooklyn Congresswoman Yvette D. Clarke, the daughter of Jamaican immigrants, said: “It’s great to show Caribbean pride on the parkway.
“Our carnival has been part of the Brooklyn community for decades now,” said the representative for the 9th Congressional District in Brooklyn.
“I could not miss the opportunity to address you all,” added Clarke, disclosing that she had earlier participated in the Caribbean J’Ouvert celebration.
“Remember, our unity is our strength,” she continued. “We have a tyrant in the White House. We have to make sure our unity counts.”
New York State Attorney General Letitia James said briefly: “Immigrants are responsible for the greatness of this city.”
New York City Comptroller Scott Stringer complimented the organizer, the Brooklyn-based West Indian American Day Carnival Association (WIADCA), for “a great parade in Brooklyn.”
And New York State Assemblyman Jamaican Nick Perry prayed – unsuccessfully – for no rain during the parade.
“We’re hoping that the rain wont spoil it,” he told Caribbean Life, as dark clouds hovered the city. “I hope the hurricane keeps all the water in the South (Southern United States) all day.”
Joel Toney, a former St. Vincent and the Grenadines Ambassador to the United Nations, noted the uniqueness of the West Indian American Day Carnival Parade.
“This is the largest parade in New York City,” the former candidate for the 40th Council District in Brooklyn told Caribbean Life under the pre-parade breakfast tent, as rain poured down heavily, for two uninterrupted hours, at the beginning of the parade. “A lot of people don’t understand the amount of money the parade generates for New York City.
“It’s a cultural affair,” added Toney about the parade. “There’s no other cultural affair like this one in the US.”
Unlike last year, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo was not present this year for the pre-parade breakfast, but he sent a congratulatory message to WIADCA.
“’The Empire State’ (New York) cherishes our multicultural population and values the rich diversity of people who strengthen the fabric of our society,” said Cuomo in his message in WIADCA’s souvenir carnival journal. “A vibrant community of individuals from the West Indies and Caribbean islands contributes significantly to our state, and takes special pride in the traditions they generously share with the people of all backgrounds.
“Within the Borough of Brooklyn, this population is a thriving presence of positive influence that continues to add to the social, cultural and economic foundation of daily life,” he added.
Cuomo noted that the five-day celebration, starting on Thursday, highlights the “music, food and heritage of the Caribbean community, culminating with the annual Carnival Parade, which draws more than 3 million participants and spectators on the streets of Brooklyn.
“These festivities are among the largest and liveliest in the United States,” he said, lauding WIADCA for “hosting this proud display of culture.”