2012 West Indian Labor Day Parade: Fêtin’ for Peace

On Monday, September 3rd Brooklyn’s West Indian American Labor Day Carnival will kick off for the 45th time, stretching from Crown Height’s to Park Slope. However, as vendor and mass camps prepare for this year’s New York City Labor Day’s festivities, many are hoping for a quiet and peaceful event.

History of the West Indian American Labor Day Parade

2012 West Indian Labor Day Parade: Fêtin’ for Peace

1948 image of West Indian Labor Day Parade (Taken from http://ccnmtl.columbia.edu)

“Fête” is the French word for “party” and is the Caribbean word “fête” is the frenzied revelry of Monday’s Brooklyn carnival. While this New York City Labor day festivity is kicking off for the 45th annual time, the West Indian carnival has a long history in New York City. As early as the 1920s, immigrants from countries such as Trinidad, Guyana, Barbados, Panama, and even Jamaica had been celebrating carnival in private spaces in Harlem.

In the mid-1940’s, a Trinidadian immigrant, Jesse Waddle, organized a Labor Day street festival on 7th Avenue in Harlem. However, after a purported disturbance, the festival’s permit was revoked. In 1951, a Carlos Lezama  headed a committee which gained a permit for the festival to be hosted on Eastern Parkway in Crown Heights, Brooklyn. Ever since, the West Indian American Day Carnival Association has headed up the festival.

Crime Problems and Public Scandal

Last year, while the carnival itself operated successfully, there were shootings a few blocks off of the route in which one civilian was murdered and two more were injured. Additionally, a New York City officer was shot in the arm.

Earlier in the day at pre-dawn “J’ouvert” festivities, there were five shooting victims and three incidences involving stabbings. These incidences come after a 2003 fatal shooting victim and a victim who was stabbed (not fatal). Shootings and/or stabbings were reported on or by the parade route in 2005, 2006, and 2007.

2012 West Indian Labor Day Parade: Fêtin’ for Peace

Councilman Jumaane Williams and Bill de Blasio’s Assistant, Kirsten John Foy after controversial arrests last year

Additional intrigue was added to the 2011 West Indian Labor Day Parade when city council members, Jumaane D. Williams and Public Advocate Bill de Blasio’s  assistant, Kirsten John Foy, were handcuffed and temporarily detained by  NYPD officers following an argument. Neither was charged with a crime. A group of on-duty NYPD officers were also targets of public intrigue after they were video taped  “making merry” with female parade participants.

Hope for Peaceful Parade

Increased police presence is expected at the 2012 West Indian American Labor Day Parade. However, both parade administrators and city officials are hoping such increased security will be enough to stem the trend of labor day violence.

New York City as a whole experienced 47 shootings Labor Day weekend. With recent high profile murders in New York City and across the country, all are hoping for a very fun and peaceful parade.



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