On Labor Day Monday, for the 52nd year, the Brooklyn-based West Indian American Day Carnival Association (WIADCA) put Caribbean culture on the world’s stage, with the mammoth annual carnival parade on Brooklyn’s Eastern Parkway, according to newly-elected president Dominican Dr. Jean Joseph.
“It’s because of you (why) we’re still standing today after 52 years,” Joseph told patrons at the pre-parade breakfast at the Lincoln Terrace Court, on Buffalo Avenue in Brooklyn, at the beginning of the parade route.
“On behalf of the West Indian American Day Carnival Association, I extend a hearty welcome to all gathered here on this festive carnival morning, as we get ready to kick off the most colorful parade in New York City,” added Joseph, a certified public accountant (CPA).
“Despite the economic and political uncertainties of our times, I am convinced that Carnival 2019 will be one of the biggest and brightest we have seen in years,” she continued.
Joseph said that WIADCA offers, among other things, year-round programming — such as educational programs for the youth and costume design construction — and Eat Caribbean Restaurant Week.
She said 90 percent of WIADCA staffers are volunteers, “who work diligently with our community-based, corporate and government partners to keep Caribbean culture alive.”
“With suborn determination, our carnival pioneers helped to reshape the cultural landscape of this city,” she said. “Today, we are privileged to stand on their shoulders, as we remember and honor them.
“In so doing, we are guaranteed that, for generations to come, the Brooklyn carnival parade will be an avenue of artistic expression for everyone, regardless of color, class or race,” she added.
Joseph also recognized all those who shared “a passion for culture and made Brooklyn’s Caribbean carnival an ongoing success story.”
She said WIADCA is “especially grateful for the generosity” of its loyal sponsors.
Additionally, she acknowledged the “collective endeavors” of elected officials and city agencies.
“On a personal note, I recognize and thank the Board (of Directors), members and volunteers of WIADCA for their long days and even longer nights of hard work in making this year’s carnival a success story worthy of being told,” Joseph said. “We all look forward to another 52 years of celebrating this outstanding New York cultural institution.
“Hope to see you all ‘catching the vibe’ on the parkway,” she added. “Have a safe and enjoyable Carnival 2019.”
Joseph has stressed “safety and quality” as hallmarks of her tenure.
“Our focus this year is on safety and quality,” said Joseph, who replaced Jamaican Dr. Ionie Pierce in April, after serving for just one year, during WIADCA’s general elections, in announcing plans for the staging of the 52nd Carnival spectacle.
Historically, Trinidadians have dominated and led WIADCA’s Board of Directors. Joseph and Pierce are the first non-Trinidadians to head the organization.
Joseph said WIADCA had met with “the relevant authorities in devising strategies to keep the parade on its sustained track record of safety.”
“To help accomplish this, we have implemented a public awareness campaign reminding both masqueraders and masses that preservation of our culture and our parade is the key,” she said.
“We continue to promote the idea that this is our culture, and the parade is our stage,” she added. “Therefore, it is imperative that they be preserved for future generations.”
Along with a new board, WIADCA said its new president “has been infusing the organization with ‘new blood’, particularly incorporating the ideas of younger people.”
“We are in the process of establishing a youth arm of the organization to help move this agenda forward,” said Joseph, WIADCA’s 7th president.
WIADCA’s first president was the late Trinidadian Carlos Lezama, who brought West Indian carnival to Brooklyn, from Harlem, in 1967, serving as its president until his retirement in 2001 due to ill health.
“Joseph brings her business acumen and years of experience in corporate America to the organization in particular in the areas of internal control and marketing,” WIADCA said.
Besides Joseph, the newly-formed WIADCA Board of Directors comprise: Co-chairpersons Angela Sealy and Valarie Katz McLeod; Patricia Warwick, second vice president; Karen D. Williams, treasurer; Cecille Ford, board secretary; and general board members Anne Rhea Smith, Deborah Benjamin, Leah Clark Brisard, Christine McLeod, Karen Crawford, Calvin Collin, Dr. Pierce, Michelle Gibbs and Michael Young Lao.
Board lawyers are Frank R. Seddio Esq., general counsel, and Lucericia Messiah.