Caribbean Institute Claims West Indian American Day Carnival Discriminates

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NYC Mayor Bill deBlasio and his family dance at the 2014 West Indian American Day Carnival.
NYC Mayor Bill deBlasio and his family dance at the 2014 West Indian American Day Carnival prior to his election in November 2014.

News Americas, BROOKLYN, NY, Fri. July 10, 2015: The Caribbean Guyana Institute for Democracy (CGID) says its filed a complaint with the New York State Attorney General’s office claiming discrimination by the West Indian American Day Carnival Association (WIADCA).

The CGID’s Rickford Burke claims WIADCA openly discriminates against Guyanese and non-Trinidadians but  WIADCA disputes those claims, insisting its “leadership and volunteers have roots in countries such as Grenada, Guyana, St. Vincent, Italy, the United States, Anguilla, Trinidad, Tobago, Jamaica, Dominica, Barbados, Haiti and Panama amongst others.”

“In fact, WIADCA has always embraced persons from other nationalities in its Membership and Board of Directors,” WIADCA said in a statement. “Persons from Guyana, Grenada, Italy, Jamaica and the US have been part of WIADCA for more than 35 years. The organization continues to seek out partners, members and volunteers with specialized expertise from a diverse set of cultural backgrounds and nationalities.”

But CGID claims that “WIADCA’s statement is an obfuscation of the issue.”

“It is as deceptive as the association’s scheme to profit from all Caribbean nationals but restrict its membership to Trinidadians only,” Burke said in a statement. “We will not allow this smokescreen to contend. WIADCA is a non-for profit organization that receives public funds from the State and City of New York, but engages in segregationism and systematically discriminates against Guyanese and other non-Trinidadians because of their national origin.  This practice is unlawful.”

CGID is urging the New York State Attorney General and the Kings County District Attorney “to investigate WIADCA’s financial propriety for compliance with non-for profit financial accountability and anti-discrimination laws.”

The West Indian American Day Carnival hosts the annual Caribbean Labor Day Carnival in Brooklyn each Labor Day weekend.

The carnival was founded by Jessie Wardell and some of her West Indian friends in Harlem in the 1930′s. During the 1960′s, another Trinidadian, Rufus Goring, brought Carnival to Brooklyn. In 1967, Goring passed the reigns over to Carlos Lezama, who became president of WIADCA and who nurtured the organization and carnival celebrations till 2001, when, due to his ill-health he retired and his daughter, Yolanda Lezama-Clark served as president till 2011. Thomas Bailey was elected president in 2012 and continues to serve.

The Parade down Eastern Parkway each year attracts over 1 million people and is the biggest in North America.