By: Tony Best
As the West Indian American Day Carnival Association moves forward with plans for this year’s cultural extravaganza in Brooklyn, youngsters who were worried about their ability to hit the streets of Brooklyn in their colorful costumes have little to be concerned about.
Thanks to a corporate donation of $20,000 by the Municipal Credit Union, the kiddies carnival, which gives hundreds of school children a chance to play mas will be able to do so again this year and in the process show off their costumes and jump to pulsating Caribbean music during the Labor Day week-end. That indication came from highly placed sources in and out of WIADCA which has been staging America’s largest single cultural festival for more than half a century. It received the contribution a few days ago, allying fears that a shortage of funds would prevent the association from staging the ‘kiddies’ event. WIADCA is struggling to finance the colorful extravaganza that attracts more than two million revelers, spectators, vendors and others to Eastern Parkway on Labor Day.
With Timothy Bailey, the organization’s new President vowing to stage the festival despite a decline in corporate sponsorship and the absence of New York State funds, WIADCA is moving ahead with plans for four-days of festivities.
“We intend to stage the carnival as we have done for decades,” Bailey told the Carib News in a recent interview. “We are pursuing options to secure the funds needed to stage the various elements of the festival and we intend to live up to our commitment to hold it and do so as bright and colorful as it has been.”
The MCU contribution is also expected to cover the cost of the traditional breakfast which takes place a few hours before federal, state and city elected officials, WIADCA leaders, Grand marshals and others walk the parade route heralding the beginning of the festival.
“We decided to contribute to the festival because we think it is a valuable asset that generates considerable revenue to City and state coffers every year and entertains New Yorkers of all colors, shapes and ethnic origins,” said a corporate sponsor who requested anonymity. “It’s very important that we continue to have the West Indies carnival which highlights the culture of Caribbean immigrants who have made and continue to make a significant contribution to the city and the country.”
The financial and management problems which threatened to undermine the viability of the festival could be traced to the abrupt resignation late last year of Yolanda Lezama-Clark, the long serving WIADCA President. Her departure was soon followed by the exodus of several members of the organization’s board. Next through the door was Ken Faustin, who was elected as interim president but walked away from the job in a matter of weeks, a move that left the Association like a ship with a rudder and a captain. Eventually, Bailey was elected to the presidency and a slate of new officers was chosen and installed.
Both U.S. Congresswoman Yvette Clarke and New York State Senator Kevin Parker, two strong supporters of the festival, blamed the uncertainty over the Association’s leadership and unanswered questions about plans for this year’s parade for a fall-off in financial support. For example, New York State which in prior years made substantial sums available to WIADCA to assist in the staging of the parade isn’t contributing any money this year. However, the New York City Council and some of its elected officials are providing financial assistance.
At the same time, WIADCA has launched a public appeal for funds, urging people to make tax-deductible contributions at its website Wiadcacarnival.com. Com
Meanwhile, the Association owes several steelbands the prize money they won in last year’s Panorama steelband competition. It amounts to almost $40,000.