With New York Democratic Primary in mind, a number of New York legislators on Monday, Labor Day, used the massive West Indian American Day Carnival Parade in Brooklyn to seek votes in the Sept. 13 elections.
A virtual Who’s Who in New York politics were on hand at the pre-Labor Day Parade Breakfast at the Lincoln Terrace Court in Crown Heights, Brooklyn.
The legislators also marched, greeted three million-strong spectators and handed out campaign paraphernalia along the 3 ½-mile-long parade route.
Among the legislators were New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo; Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul; New York State Thomas DiNapoli; New York City Comptroller Scott Stringer; New York City Public Advocate Letitia James; and New York City Council Speaker Cory Johnson.
Caribbean-born and Caribbean American elected officials who attended the breakfast included US Congresswoman Yvette D. Clarke, the daughter of Jamaican immigrants; New York State Assembly Members Jamaican-born Nick Perry and Michael Blake; Perry and Blake’s Assembly colleague Rodneyse Bichotte, the daughter of Haitian immigrants; and New York City Council Member Jumaane Williams, the son of Grenadian immigrants and candidate for New York State Lieutenant Governor.
Though he is not contesting next week Thursday’s Democratic Primary, New York City Mayor Bill DeBlasio also attended the events.
He was accompanied by his wife, Chirlane McCray, one of the parade’s grand marshals, who traces her roots to St. Lucia and Barbados.
Cuomo made a big gaffe, but quickly correct it, by stating that Congresswoman Clarke’s Jamaican-born mother, former New York City Councilwoman Una S.T. Clarke, was among local elected officials who had recently passed on.
“Una Clarke, God rest her soul,” Cuomo told attendees at the breakfast.
After patrons expressed consternation and aides rushed to seek instant damage control, the governor retorted that the elder Clarke, the trailblazing first Caribbean-born woman to be elected to New York Council, “is with us here today.”
Una Clarke and her Jamaican-born husband, Leslie Clarke, were sitting, among patrons, beneath the large makeshift tent.
Cuomo announced, to applause, that he will turn the Bedford Armory in Brooklyn into a recreational center and name it in honor of his slain legal aide, Jamaican Carey W. Gabay.
Gabay was gunned down in 2015 in a hail of bullets by rival gangs during the Caribbean J’Ouvert in Crown Heights, Brooklyn.
In her brief address, Hochul said: “An event like this [West Indian American Day Carnival Parade] makes us incredibly proud to be New Yorkers.
“Let’s have a fabulous and safe celebration,” he added.
Williams, who will be challenging her for Lieutenant Governor, asked for Caribbean votes in the Primary.
“I want to make sure Caribbean people come out and vote,” he said.
“I’m still happy Una Clarke is still alive and kicking,” he added, taking a jab at the governor.
“We’re going to have a safe parkway [parade on Eastern Parkway],” continued Williams, who represents the predominantly Caribbean 45th Council District in Brooklyn. “We had a safe J’Ouvert. They’re not going to take J’Ouvert and the parkway from us.”
DeBlasio asked for “a huge round of applause” for the late West Indian American Day Carnival Association (WIADCA) president William “Bill” Howard, who died just less than a month before the 51st staging of the parade, and asked for a safe parade.
“Today, when you march, march out of pride,” the mayor urged. “But also march to send a message to Washington.
“We’re stronger because of immigrants,” he added. “March with pride, march with passion, send a message with pride.”
DeBlasio’s wife, Shirlane, of St. Lucian and Barbadian roots, said while the parade was “a happy moment for me,” it came against “a backdrop of divisiveness in our nation.
“I ask each one of you to take the time to learn the skills to be helpers in our community,” he added.
Speaking on behalf of his colleagues in the New York State Assembly, Perry, who represents the 58th Assembly District in Brooklyn, alluded to the alleged obscene language made by US President Donald J. Trump in referring to Haiti and African countries.
“No one of our countries are ‘…countries,” the senior Caribbean legislator said. “We’re going to demand respect.”
He urged Caribbean nationals to vote in the Democratic Primary, adding: “We’re here to say.
“We’re going to take over the parkway,” he said. “We want a peaceful ceremony, a peaceful celebration.”
Johnson presented a City Council proclamation to WIADCA in honor of Howard’s passing, and Congresswoman Clarke presented a US Congressional Citation to Trinidadian Jean Alexander, who retired earlier this year after serving for 45-odd years as WIADCA’s marketing director, among other things.