Carnival Stalemate Continues in Brooklyn
As WIADCA Leaders play mas in Trinidad and Tobago, closed doors meetings continue in search of solution to current turmoil, a case of putting Humpty-Dumpty together again.
by Tony Best
Three weeks after turmoil erupted within the inner council of the body that organizes America’s largest single cultural festival, the West Indian carnival in Brooklyn, there is no discernible end in sight to the unsettling situation.
With Trinidad and Tobago’s colorful spectacle which spawned the West Indian parade along Eastern Parkway on Labor Day Monday nearing its end, and with many of the players in the New York City carnival drama now in Port of Spain, enjoying the sights and sounds of one of the Western Hemisphere’s largest festivals, leaving the West Indian American Day Carnival Association, WIADCA, without leadership, behind- the-scenes efforts are continuing to rescue the celebrations.
“This is a festival that means a lot to the City as a whole because of its cultural significance and the financial benefits that are generated from it,” said New York State Senator Eric Adams, a Democrat of Brooklyn. “This carnival takes place in my senatorial district and it’s our interest, all of us want to see it continue. We think it’s time for the carnival to turn the corner and secure the support it needs while building the solid infrastructure that’s vital to ensure at least another 30-year run on the Parkway. We are trying to guarantee its continuation and so it’s necessary to surround ourselves with people who know something about the history of the carnival so they can explain how we got here. It’s important that we hear from others such as the costume band leaders, the steelband players and those responsible for mas camps. We want to find out what’s needed to be done. The only way to achieve that is to listen and learn from the process and see how I can fit into that plan. I am not trying to dictate to them but simply trying to help, how do I utilize my expertize on the legislative level as well as with whatever resources we can come up with.”
Hence, the closed door meetings attended by members of WIADCA, community leaders and festival participants to come up with a way forward.
“We have been having a series of meetings for the past few weeks with the stakeholders. We were caught by surprise when we learned of the resignations of some members of (WIADCA’s) board. We are trying to find exactly what happened and how do we put the pieces back together,” the lawmaker said.
But with the long-serving president, Yolanda Lezama-Clarke, abruptly resigning several weeks ago, the decision by 10 executive board members to quit without explanation, and the interim leader, Ken Faustin, also walking away from the body, the big question remains: who is leading WIADCA and how key decisions are being made, seven months before the next carnival festival?
“No one seems to have an answer to that important question,” said Anthony “Ike” Hinds, head of the National Alliance of Steel bands. “It’s puzzling to say the least.”
For his part, Adams remains confident organizers, festival players and community leaders can put the pieces of the puzzle back again.
“This is definitely not Humpty Dumpty. It can be done, be put together again. We can definitely put the pieces back together,” he said.
Dr. Lemuel Stanislaus, a member of WIADCA’s board for at least 40 years, shares Adams’ confidence about resolving the troubling situation.
“We have faced this before and we were able with the help of Congresswoman Shirley Chisholm to find a solution in the early 1980s,” he said. “With people of goodwill and with the determination and cooperation of all concerned, a solution is not out of reach.”
What many are hoping is that when Carnival in Trinidad is over and the players return to the City decisions are made by Lezama- Clarke and other remaining executive board members that would end the stalemate.