Students: Don’t shun troublemakers, welcome them

The Caribbean community should try to stop the bloodshed at J’ouvert by inviting troublemakers into the heart of the pre-dawn parade, instead of relying on police to root them out or blaming outsiders, said a Brooklyn College student leader at a panel discussion about the vibrant but violence-plagued morning carnival at the school on Nov. 3.

“We should welcome them to be grand marshals,” said Floyd Jarvis, president and coordinator of the Black and Latino Male Initiative at the college. “People on the panel were quick to shun them, quick to say they are not part of the parade or the community, but this is their community too and it’s their kids — the first, second, and third generation Caribbean-Americans, not African-Americans.”

The panel of community members, students, and local officials discussed the state of the annual parade, its history, and the violence at this year’s fest that marred the public perception of the gathering.

Gunmen shot four people and killed two at this year’s J’ouvert, sparking demands that the city must ban the three-decade-old street fest in the future.

Panellists Councilman Jumaane Williams (D–East Flatbush) and J’ouvert International president Yvette Rennie spoke against ending the Trinidadian-inspired fete. They say the event is marred by the same gun violence that affects the local community 365 days a year, with Rennie noting that one of the local politicians calling for its cancellation had a shooting in his district just days after J’ouvert.

“He should shut his office down,” she said.

Jarvis agrees and claims those proposing a ban are just not part of the Caribbean community and don’t understand its culture.

“Most of the people calling for cancellation are non-West Indians and non-Brooklynites, and people who don’t see the intrinsic value in it,” he said.

He believes the best solution to the violence is for the parade’s leaders to do outreach into the local community, educating and inviting the youth to take part.

But it must be done without any police involvement, because younger generations won’t respond well to law enforcement — especially given J’ouvert’s anti-establishment origins of encouraging self-expression and ancestral pride, said Jarvis.

“It should be officials and community leaders, absent of clergy and law enforcement,” he said. “These two groups come with a badge of respectability politics and law and order that does not appeal to many Caribbean youth as well as the essence of J’ouvert.”

Reach reporter Alexandra Simon at (718) 260–8310 or e-mail her at asimo[email protected]

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