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Keeping J’Ouvert Relevant During the Pandemic

by J’Ouvert City International

Brooklyn, New York, USA - As keepers of a culture grounded in artistic expression and national pride, the officers and members of J’Ouvert City International are saddened to announce that for yet another year the pre-dawn parade on Labor Day has been cancelled. Recognizing the importance of this event to both the cultural and fiscal health of the City, the 37-year-old organization had hoped to be able to stage some adaptation of the festival.

“Once the city began to slowly open up after a year of being shut down due to COVID-19 we hoped to put some innovative aspects of J’Ouvert on display,” said Yvette Rennie, President of J’Ouvert City International. “Sadly, the cons outweigh the pros when we look at the bigger picture of the health, well-being and safety of our participants and the viewing public as well.”

Winning Traditional Mas - Carenage United - J’Ouvert 2018 - Brooklyn
Winning Traditional Mas - Carenage United - J’Ouvert 2018 - Brooklyn

Like its counterpart of the colorful Eastern Parkway parade, the J’Ouvert early morning parade is an event which takes months of pre-planning, band rehearsals and creating the costumes worn by revelers. Moreover, in order to bring their creations to life for the moving street theatre, the mas and steelbands leaders associated with J’Ouvert promote events during the year to raise the necessary funds.

“With occasions to socialize at crowd level greatly compromised due to the [COVID-19] pandemic, fundraising opportunities came to a screeching halt,” said Rennie. “And even though our city has opened up for business, the Delta variant of the COVID-19 is now so much of a concern that it quelled our desire to congregate even in some small measure.”

D’Radoes Steel Orchestra on the road for Brooklyn J’Ouvert 2016
D’Radoes Steel Orchestra on the road for Brooklyn J’Ouvert 2016

Despite these limitations, J’Ouvert City International has not been dormant during the pandemic but has found ways to keep the cultural flames alive with several virtual educational events. In collaboration with the Brooklyn Arts Council and under the banner of “Bringing J’Ouvert to the Forefront,” the organization successfully produced a wide range of informative and practical workshops. They included: Making Media Write: a how-to in accessing media; Standing at the Gate: a free security guard certification course and Nightlife within our Cultural Experiences with representatives from the Mayor’s Office of Nightlife. A series in organizational building included: How to Get Corporate Sponsorship; Branding & Marketing Techniques and Pathways to Grant Writing. Two hands-on cultural workshops were geared toward Steelband Making Techniques and a Costume Making and Design Workshop which included the art of wire bending. The series concluded with an exciting bus tour aimed at teaching young people how to become cultural tour guides. 

Upcoming plans include a walking tour of historical buildings along the J’Ouvert route in Flatbush and East Flatbush. The tour will commence at the Brooklyn Public Library, Grand Army Plaza branch and conclude at the recently discovered African Burial Ground located at the corner of Church and Bedford Avenues.

“J’Ouvert City is not limited in our view of promoting culture,” said Rennie. “Our vision includes showcasing the depth of our cultural expressions which include dance, music and artistry. So, though I am saddened to miss another J’Ouvert parade, I am encouraged because J’Ouvert City continues to expand our scope and is making an indelible contribution to quality of life in our City.”

With a promise of coming back “bigger and better in 2022,” J’Ouvert City International is confident that the cancellation of this year’s parade is the “most responsible thing to do at this moment in time.”

Greenhouse Jab Jab - New York J’Ouvert 2013

For further information please contact J’Ouvert City International @ 718-636-8029 or

ABOUT J’OUVERT CITY INTERNATIONAL: J’Ouvert City International, Inc. is a non-profit 501.c3 organization which has been in existence for the past 36 years in the New York TriState area. Our organization’s goals are the maintaining and preserving of Caribbean Culture, Indigenous Art Forms and Heritage. Programs are designed to educate and teach all people about the origin and history of our culture. Also, the importance of merging cultures from diverse backgrounds which will be beneficial to all children in the communities.

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