J’Ouvert, the daybreak event usually marking the start of Caribbean Carnival in Brooklyn, has been canceled for the second time in a row due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, Mayor Bill de Blasio said.
At a news conference on Monday, the mayor called the celebration “one that is so important to so many New Yorkers, but that this year cannot happen the way it did pre-pandemic, [and] has been postponed again until 2022.”
The celebration is one of Brooklyn’s largest street parties. J’Ouvert was started by freed slaves after emancipation and has become a Brooklyn tradition.
“Never easy to decide that such a cherished event needs to be postponed again,” he said. “It’s never easy.”
“As keepers of this beautiful culture we were hoping to host our event this year, but the cons have overweigh the pros,” said Yvette Rennie, president of J’Ouvert City International in New York City.
The celebration takes place before the West Indian Day Parade, which features Caribbean costumes, dancing and food. The parade has also been canceled for the second year in a row.
“It has been a trying two years for us,” said Rennie. “We are saddened that we are going to cancel another year but this give us time to mobilize our organizations to make sure that each and every one of them understand what happened and why we are doing this. At the same time we know our culture is alive.”
Rennie outlined a number of efforts to keep the J’Ouvert spirit alive with things like youth workshops and training for young people to become tour guides on the culture’s history in the area, featuring a stop at the African burial ground at Bedford and Church Avenue, where the remains of enslaved Africans have been found.
Officials also urged people to refrain from holding their own J'Ouvert celebrations.
Last year, video showed a large crowd marching near the intersection of Nostrand Avenue and Crown Street, despite the cancellation of that year's celebration. A 15-year-old was charged in a shooting at the celebration, which injured a 6-year-old and his mother, among others.
The West Indian Day Parade this year will be a mix of virtual and smaller in-person gatherings from Sept. 2 to September 5.
“This is never easy for people to postpone a cherished tradition, but it's the right thing to do and the great alternative has been put together that will link us from this year to next year when we can bring everything back,” said the mayor.
Mayor De Blasio said that J’Ouvert will be back “full strength” in 2022.