New York City’s annual West Indian American Day Carnival, a celebration of Caribbean history, culture, music, food and people, is returning for its 52nd year to Crown Heights. 

The annual Labor Day parade along Eastern Parkway, stretching from Schenectady Avenue to Grand Army Plaza, will kick off on Monday, September 2, at 11:00am. With close to a million expected attendees, the streets will be filled with revelers, dressed in colorful costumes and dancing to the sounds of reggae, soca, calypso and dancehall.

Revelers who want to warm up for the grand carnival can begin the celebration with J’Ouvert, the annual predawn street party preceding the West Indian Parade.

Originating from French “jour ouvert” means daybreak or morning and signals the start of carnival. Steel band music is the dominating sound of J’Ouvert as revelers take to the street, throwing paint and baby powder on each other while wining and chipping their way in the early hours before the daytime West Indian Day Carnival.

As in recent years, the parade formation will begin at 6:00am on Flatbush Avenue from Grand Army Plaza to Empire Boulevard. The parade will then proceed south on Flatbush Avenue, east on Empire Boulevard and turn south on Nostrand Avenue to the finish area at Midwood Street.

Performers at the 2016 J’Ouvert Celebration

In an effort to cut down on violence and gang activity that has been plaguing the festival, the city and organizers have implemented strict screening processes since 2017, which the NYPD appears to replicate this year.

For J’Ouvert 2018, the NYPD dispatched hundreds of additional uniformed officers to provide security along the two-mile parade route, who screened participants and spectators for weapons and alcoholic beverages. In addition, backpacks and other large bags were prohibited. 

The Mayor’s Office to Prevent Gun Violence also deployed violence interrupters and community partners who understand current and past conflicts, and who circulated throughout the celebration in order to preempt and resolve any conflicts that may arise. Additionally, hundreds of light towers illuminated each entry point along the parade route to increase safety and facilitate the ease of entry.

The city has revealed street closures and parade routes for 2019; if there are any changes regarding security concerns, we will keep you updated.

And if one day of carnival is not enough: The West Indian American Day Carnival Association is kicking off its New York Caribbean Carnival Week, packed program of events leading up to Monday’s parade, on Thursday, August 29. For more details, go here.

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Andrea Leonhardt

“Made in Germany,” Andrea Leonhardt is the managing editor for BK Reader. Andrea holds a bachelor’s degree in political science, with minors in American studies and education, and a master’s...

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