It’s a new sign of change, but the festival is staying the same.
Earlier this week the city’s police commissioner and the mayor announced that J’ouvert — the annual pre-dawn festive Labor Day parade — will see stricter security regulations similar to that enforced in Times Square during New Year’s eve, and will also start two hours later. With the new hours, J’ouvert will commence at 6 am compared to 4 am when it typically began. Despite the new change, many loyal participants are thrilled about it because they get to show off their designs, said the president of the parade’s organizing body.
“They all love it — because now they can showcase their costumes in the daylight,” said Yvette Rennie of J’ouvert City International. “The bands usually have beautiful costumes that are now more creative and they want them to be seen in the daylight — they prefer it.”
The new party hour is even more fitting because the parade never really started at the intended time anyway, added Rennie.
“In reality we never kick-off until 5:30 am, so our board and all of our affiliated mas and steel bands felt it was important that we move the time to 6 am and we all agreed to that,” she said.
Steel bands and revelers will continue to enjoy the dark and clear parts of Labor day morning as scheduled, and parade activities will continue as follows. “The concept is still there and it will still be in the pre-dawn hours because it’s still a little dark around that time,” said Rennie. “When the bands are coming into the formation area, they will have time to enjoy themselves in the darkness, but the kick-off of the costume and steel bands will be in a little light.”
The new time for the parade comes after mounting criticism from a few elected officials and locals after a shooting resulted in the deaths of two people last year. Rennie said since the incidents, she and her team have been mobilizing to determine new strategies for a safer event — something that she and many agencies and groups worked to resolve.
“This decision came from our groups not the precincts — we made our decisions collectively and worked together. This was a collective effort by us and the city,” she said.
Rennie said multiple meetings with clergy, police officials, and an educational series on J’ouvert were part of that mission. And one of the those results along with a new “Love Yourself,” concert created by Assemblyman Walter Mosley, to promote safety and peace happening on Aug. 28.
“We put everything in place for this. We did everything from research and looked to other avenues for prevention, and this is best we come up with and I’m very confident in it,” said Rennie. “Everyone did their bits and pieces, there were forums about J’ouvert, and now we even have a concert — there’s been all these awareness happening in our community.”
And with the 34th annual J’ouvert celebration under way, boasting of five new masquerade and steel bands, Rennie adds that she is happy a solution like this was reached instead of a cancellation.
“We are always looking for ways to correct but we’re not going to give up on J’ouvert, we are not going to remove it from anywhere,” she said. “Just as the city cleans other parades, they will help us keep it safe.”