Housing Complex

Parade’s Off: Caribbean Day Short on Cash, Forced to Cancel

Farewell, fun.

Brace yourself, Caribbean Parade lovers: Last year's was probably the last. Or at least the beginning of a hiatus.

The event's president, Roland Barnes, told the Georgia Avenue Community Development Task Force this evening that the challenges of debt from previous years, lack of support from the city, and the pall cast by last year's shootings had proven too great to overcome.

"Unless someone is able to wave a magic wand in the next 24 hours, there will be no parade on Georgia Avenue," Barnes said mournfully. "The reality of the last few years was that donations and sponsorships were in one direction, and costs were in another direction."

The parade is still about $200,000 in debt to the city, Barnes said, and would need at least that much again in order to put on the parade, which had been scheduled for June 23 and 24. While previous mayors have done what it took to make the event happen, this administration isn't interested.

"We have seen a 180-degree turn in terms of support for this event," added the event's executive director, Loughton Sargeant. "It was only a matter of time before the city was going to pull the plug."

The news comes after the release of a study by the Howard University School of Business quantifying the Festival and Parade's impact on local businesses. Researchers estimated last year's attendance at 400,000 attendees—which seems high—and figured they spent $21,637,166 total, generating $1,298,230 in sales taxes. Needless to say, every single one of the 50 businesses surveyed was in favor of continuing the parade, and even extending its route (it had to be cut short on account of finances last year).

Folks in attendance at the meeting were none too pleased at the news, and suggested that Barnes hadn't tried hard enough to raise the necessary funds. Stacey Lincoln, a special assistant to Councilmember Vincent Orange, reminded him that the mayor had just allocated $240,000 in the budget for a flashy Emancipation Day parade next Monday. Roger Neely, a local real estate broker, suggested they hit up the area's big developers—he figured he could raise $100,000 between Chris Donatelli and Doug Jemal.

Barnes listened, but didn't look optimistic that this thing could be saved. "It's somewhat disheartening to see it fold," he said. "It's a learning experience for us."

UPDATE, Tuesday, 6:03 p.m. - Organizers say they may have found a way to save the Festival—by moving it somewhere else.

Photo by Matt Dunn

  • Stating the Obvious

    "Researchers estimated last year's attendance at 400,000 attendees—which seems high—and figured they spent $21,637,166 total, generating $1,298,230 in sales taxes. Needless to say, every single one of the 50 businesses surveyed was in favor of continuing the parade, and even extending its route (it had to be cut short on account of finances last year)."

    I'd love to see where they got these numbers from. I've worked the parade before and it's more likely that there's 25,000 to 40,000 tops attending the parade and associated events. There's no way that $21 million is spent either....the only people who make any serious money are the corner stores that see snacks and beer and the pop up jerk chicken stands. Most of the alcohol is trucked in from outside the area and many, if not most, of the attendees are from Maryland.

  • Raoul

    What Barnes and Sargeant should do is open the books and explain where all the money they take in for fees and services goes, and that would just be what is reported. The big story here is that Barnes, Sergeant, et al have gotten rich off this event and could have always paid the city fees but like to pretend they are poor, small businessmen when they are really smooth talking operators skimming a lot of cash over the top.

  • anon

    He also later started that end of April was more like the drop dead date than 24-48 hours.

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  • thankgod

    Thank god...

    As a Columbia Heights resident, this parade has always been a full on hot mess that radiates for quarter of a mile along the whole parade route. Drunk people taking dumps in my and my neighbors front yards in the middle of the day, dozens of thrown bottles and empty 40's cans in my yard. Last year 4, of the 9 cars parked on my street were vandalzed within an hour and there were random people (looked like kids) having sex on the hood of a car across the street. We of course, haven't mentioned all the puke and trash elsewhere, murder, stabbings and mayhem elsewhere.

    I don't care what you say, this has never been about "culture", more of a bad rap video gone hideuously wrong.

    Oh, and after years of the city "looking the other way" financially, I hope the city takes this loser to court to recoup the hundreds of thousands he owes the taxpayers of DC.

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  • http://citypaper double thankgod

    This is the worst "parade" if that is what you want to call this trashy street walk. I hope it is NEVER resurrected! Let it die or take it to RFK stadium.

  • JoeEsq 74

    Thankgod - This is not true "this parade has always been a full on hot mess that radiates for quarter of a mile along the WHOLE parade route"

    I used to watch the parade every year at the corner of GA Avenue and Madison. The parade used to start at Missouri & Ga Avenue. It was a celebration of culture, there were costumes, flags, (LOUD) music, cute kids on stilts (just like in a rap video right?)and dance. Neighborhood residents with their kids lined the sidewalks and it always starts off a nice orderly event.

    I think as the parade heads south the neighborhood troublemakers start to act up. (But we know there is no crime on that corridor or in Columbia Heights except on the day of the parade) Parade is canceled so this is moot anyway.

  • lovessoldier

    This is a sign of the times. Carribean carnivals that I have attended in NY & Miami have never been this bad. It makes me sad, most of the TRUE carribean spirit has left the DC, most of the Jamericans you see tearing up the city were born in the US and have NO sense of island pride left. Just as well, I would rather go elsewhere and feel the true spirit of the events than stay home and fear for the revelers.

  • Jay

    No mention of the countless fights that broke out during last years "parade" and are all over YouTube. Actually the fights are quite entertaining.

  • JoeEsq 74

    @ lovessoldier “tearing up the city” Really? Why are posters so inclined to talk in hyperbole?
    @Jay – I don’t want to come across as defending the behavior of bad actors but If you go to Gallery Place on Fri / Sat night you might see a fight or fights. A lot of people invest real time and effort into the parade. It is a family event and a source of pride for many. The unsupervised teens who fight at the parade, are not a parade problem that comes out once a year, they are a year-round problem in the city, the behavior at the parade is a symptom not the problem. A few years back they had the parade on Constitution Avenue, I don’t remember any fights because the police did their job and that type of behavior was simply not tolerated.


  • dave b

    400,000 attendees? Someone must have added a zero. 400,000 is basically half to one third of the Obama inauguration crowd that filled the mall from the Capitol to the monument.

    Not only that, but each one of these attendees spent $50+ dollars. Some of them were kids, so adults spent even more. I have been to H Street Festival all day and drank and eaten my face off at bar/restaurant/vendor prices and maybe spend in the $50 range.

    So there were 400,000 highly consuming adults at this festival in an small section of the city? Lets just say they drank beer at $5 each. 10 beers per person is 4 million beers. That might be conservatively low because maybe some people were paying corner store or Giant prices for beer @ $1 or $2 each. I know they werent all beer sales, but that is just illustrative of the quantity of products purchased. Maybe they were buying jewelry or something... But anyway, I really doubt that 400,000 number

    400,000 people cover about 20-24 square blocks standing shoulder to shoulder without buildings getting in the way (1/3 of inauguration crowd filling 2nd to 7th street, Constitution to Independence).

    The report doesnt mention how they estimate the crowd size.

    My favorite part of the report is near the end where they mention "returns to scale". They simply multiply number of people by the same amount of money spent per person regardles of how many people show up. So obviously total money spent will just rise linearly forever if this event gets bigger and bigger, AND THEY KEEP THE COST THE SAME REGARDLES OF HOW MANY PEOPLE SHOW UP. You dont need more police or trash pick up?

    This is a sorry ass report for an institute of higher education and the professors should have their PhDs revoked. I could understand if it was written by first semester freshmen...maybe

  • Caribbean in DC

    I see this as just trying to add a bad rap to what has been a very good cultural experience for non-Caribbeans. In the islands, we celebrate the creation of these costumes, music from the steelpans, calypsonians creating original music and a general atmosphere of good-spirited fun with minimal vulgarity and revelry.

    I admit, these hybrid carnivals in North America that were spring-offs of the true country of Carnival, Trinidad and Tobago, are really giving carnival a bad rap. I agree that the Jamericans and other youngsters who were born here lack the knowledge of what Carnival is supposed to represent. We should do some education on what is and what is not expected.

    I will be sorry to see it go. It is the embodiment of a proud talented culture. The fight on Georgia Avenue happened after the carnival. We cannot prevent the riff raffs from coming into the celebrations and bringing other worldiness with it. For years, I've attended Trinidad carnival celebrations. Never saw a fight. The first time I go to that NY West Indian Day Carnival, it was a hot mess. The DC carnival tended to be peaceful. I don't know what happened since the early 2000s. It got too big?

  • Parkview Resident

    I'm sad to see Caribbean Day not taking place in June. I've been in DC for 12 plus years and I'm always liked the diversity that the city had to offer. Now, it seems like the city is getting away from that. I hope the organizers of the parade use this year to rebuild and get their house in order. And people that have just moved into the area need to respect the culture of the event. I think the good far out way the bad.


    @ lovessoldier, there have been violence at the West Indian parade on Eastern Parkway in Brooklyn, New York. These carnavals have been too large and more violent. After last year's violence, I am glad to see this parade be canceled. Most of the people that attended lives in Maryland. Why don't they move the parade to PG County?

  • lovessoldier

    JoeEsq 74- As a life long Washingtonian, I have been to this carnival many times. Last year brought shame. It was disappointing to say the least
    1. Parade route was late
    2. Parade route was shortened
    3. Fights happened during the parade - prior to dusk.
    4. Disorganized routes. Compared to Miami/NY where the routes are the same each year, vendors are located in designated areas, not sprawled out throughout the event.
    5. No cover charges have ever been imposed to support this event. This practice has successfully curtailed unwanted participants in EVERY Other city including Toronto.

    It could be beautiful, but it is not an election year. The year before Gray, Fenty and others used the parade route to bolster their campaigns. So this year it is expendable.

    To the point of the kids tearing up the city: It was my experience last year no one over 21 in front of me deposited half eaten food containers in the street, threw fire crackers at little kids or passerbys, smoked mary jane in the street, weaved in out out of the crowd wrecklessly & with out regard. These were not carribean kids with their pants hanging down and shirts off either. This was my experience, please share yours if it differed.

  • not surprised

    I live 3 blocks from where the parade passes and where the masses accumulated and frankly i am glad to see it go. If this parade is to continue -they need better security and organization. People trash my neighborhood, dump garbage, engage in fights, get intoxicated in public and there is no police in sight.

    I am sure this was a true cultural experience before but now it seems just a sorry excuse for people to misbehave in the streets and disregard and disrespect neighbors of the Georgia Ave corridor.

  • Kingman Park Resident

    @double thankgod,
    Excuse me....please do NOT put other communities out there! We in the Kingman Park Community does NOT want this in our community! I need to wash your mounth out with soap!

  • Anna Costia

    I think as a cosmopolitan city, DC should take every opportunity to celebrate the cultures that come together to make this city what it is. It is sad that this event has caught such a bad rap. The cynical side of me feels that if the local primary were scheduled for the fall, councilmembers would be fighting to be the one to save this event. I think DC Carnival should be better organized and brought back. The schools/summer camps/rec centers should be incorporates somehow, so that the kids can appreciate this aspect of DC culture.

  • the griot

    This is a black event. So no one should be surprised it is being pushed out of the city. The new DC is for rich whites only.

  • DC Tax Payer

    Another dumb idea which may finally be eliminated.

  • BlackIrvingRdMan

    Sorry the groit, but it is people like you that give the "black community" a bad name. You think nobody can criticize this Parade without being anti-black? The event organizers said they owe $ to the City, and have not raised enough $ to have the event this year. That doesn't sound like anyone being "pushed" out of the City - that sounds like poor event planning. Now I loved the Parade, but recently, it has gotten dirtier, rowdier, and more unorganized. Hopefully they will take the time to do their jobs and actually organize the event for 2013.

  • Gee

    I have been a part of the Parade for many year. Raised in here in America but enjoy my Caribbean culture. Many fights, sex acts and violences people speak of are not the people who are there to enjoy the Parade. They are your local hood rat next door neighbors you see everyday. stop blaming the parade for all the violence. Yes It will be a sad day for our children not to see this continue. Washington DC celebrates every other culture in DC but any black culture. Think about it they are not asked to pay no such fee's. I do agree that money should be accounted for and brought to the table. But as far as discontinuing what this culture brings to many Caribbean / American children will be a lost.




  • Ward1Resident

    The hyperbole of statements in here are mostly those who are UNINFORMED! The event itself is not one where you have revelers of the ACTUAL EVENT behaving badly, its the lack of parents who are allowing their poorly behaved children disrespect themselves and the neighborhoods where this event takes place. There is a celebration of culture and music and its being taken away from the lazy behavior of the planning committee along with the lack of support form the city. NO OTHER PARADE in the city gets the lack of respect that this parade gets YEAR IN AND YEAR OUT, residents who think its a bad rap video have NO CLUE as to what the actual event is about and thus pay more attention to the side shows that are occurring on the side streets which aren't in any way, shape or form a part of the actual parade.

    And this bogus claim as to 400,000 spectators is a farce! I guarantee you if this was the Gay Pride thing that goes on along with the other countless parades, the city would throw its unheralded support towards! Truly Disappointing!

  • the griot

    BlackIrvingRdMan....it's called selective enforcement. The city picks and chooses what it wants to underwrite. If the city wanted the parade to stay...it would stay. If this were a walk for PETA involving thousands of yuppies from Capitol Hill is would fully funded and supported by the city. Just like dog parks and bike lanes. White people get want they want in DC. White people wanted guns so they got it. They want to drink past 3:00 AM. The city is workin hard to change it. White man wants to live on a one way street. No problem. We'll change that. I mean seriously. Some people are in denial about what DC has become. It is a city by and for the elite. I give it two more election cycles before they have what they really want which is a white mayor.

  • LaJimmease

    I am so glad to see this jiggaboo festival go the way of the dinosaurs. Praise be to JESUS for answering prayer!

  • Not Surprised

    So sad. I'm not even surprised. The rawkus Definitely should not be blamed on the actual participants of the parade. We all know the nonsense comes from the growth of youngins that decide to come to the parade just to make a scene. As one said before, in the early 2000s, the parade was great. I also remember when it was on Constitution and it was very peaceful. So sad to see it go. I have to agree with @the griot though. I kinda do believe that if this was some other sort of parade mostly backed by Whites, it would definitely go on. And i would not be surprised to see a white mayor come soon. The reality is DC is definitely changing More and More. No more Chocolate City....

  • triniyankee

    like some of you said. its not the city, its the people who owe the city. the city is saying "you can have your parade, just pay what is due". my fam is from the caribbean and the rest of you are right. its not the people in the parade either. it is the local people or kids or teens that you see that are being this way. i ACTUALLY participate in the parade every year. im always in what people call THE MUD BAND...and trust me if a fight broke out YOU WOULD KNOW IT. its not the people within the parade nor the friendly families that view it, its the youth. the same youth you see who beat up old people on train stations. as far as where most of the people being from? maryland? how would you know where most of the people are from? actually the biggest number of people come from new york. yes. the main reason dc carnival is so big in numbers is because of new york. nevertheless....

    it could have been saved but there was absolutely NO promotion of festivities to help fundraise. i dont wanna hear nothing. i go to parties and i know djs and promoters and ALL have been silent. last year they did a fundraiser but this year i didnt see any such thing.

    lastly is the attendance 100,000 ? somewhere close to that number. 40,000? nah. the closest the numbers have reached 500,000 was in 2oo5 when jamaica had their own carnival truck and elephant man performed on it. that year, if you werent in a band, it was really hard to get thru the crowd let alone cut across. thats back when carnival would go until 8 pm. now the streets are cleaned by 3pm.

    so again i cant say who is responsible for trash and stuff in your neighborhood but what i will say is that in downtown dc you wouldnt have a trash issue. but then again the police(even though some police looked at it as a day off since police didnt really have to do much arresting nor patrolling) some police may not have cared or anything of that nature since their OT money went missing. imagine working and find out its for free???

    you want a carnival? pay your dues. you want police supervision? pay your dues. simple as that.

  • Rico

    (Thankgod -) <----- GET A FUCKING LIFE,. because all your saying is BS and you know it and probably NEVER been to the Parade on Georgia Ave.,..... maybe your still thinking about GEORGIA AVE. DAY,... NOT DC CARNIVAL !!

  • Rico

    and Triniyankee is on point,.. PAY YUH DUES,... in any business you MUST have people at the top that know about running a business,.. the same thing will happen to any business if your not paying yuh due,.. that business will fall under fast, just as you would get booted out of that fancy condo

  • thankgod


    I live on Kenyon street a block and a half from GA Ave. Everything I described above happened last year. It has all happened in years past as well. You can pretend that this "parade" isn't a full on disaster for the neighborhoods surrounding the parade if you like, but you are simply lying to yourself. My street looks like a landfill afterwards and despite what you think, the only day of the year we have people having sex on random peoples cars, or defecating in peoples yards is "shocker" carribean day.

  • MrCNT

    @thankgod, what you described is not any worse than what happened at other major outdoor events in the city (Black or White). When you have over 30,000 people gathered in one location, these things do happened. It's one day out of the year. Get over it. Now for those dancing over the festival "grave" it's not over until the fat lady sings; Thanks to this article that started a chain of media bliss about DC carnival, pressure is on the Mayor office big time to make it happen. They already issued a press release this morning apologizing for not reaching a deal with the DC Carnival Committee...in other words, stay tuned.

  • TriniBlue

    It certainly is a shame that people couldn't get this together. However, I want to dispel some myths. One I go to the real carnival in Trindad every year. It is the most wonderful cultural experience you can have. This nonsense that is seen during the DC Carnival is where people that live in your neighborhood everyday find a place with a lot of people where they can hide and do their dirt. I know Kenyon street and it's certainly no eutopia (thankgod)...the projects are still right around the corner and every summer people get shot several times between 14th street and GA. There are so many fights around there the police set up satellite lights every night during the summer to stop some of the violence. So the carnival just gives these same people a place to hide among the masses and do what they have been doing. That said the organizers need to pay their due. What makes carnival in Trindad great and safe is security! Every Mass Camp has security to keep out the riff raff. And the police are ontop of their jobs at every event looking for trouble and stomping it out. The organizers have not been ontop of making sure this is a tip top event and it shows. Last year was a disater with the shorten route and the disorganization. Finally, however...the racist comments are really disgusting. One of the things that I hate about living in DC is its lack of responsiveness to all cultures. Why does everybody want to come out to the DC Carnival? Because there is not a damn thing for people to do in this city if you aren't white or gay. Where are the places on 14th street that cater to good soul or caribbean music (patty patty boom boom...Please). Black people in DC are culturally starved out and that's not about the DC Carnival at all. That's about people coming into neighborhoods and pushing people out. That's about gentrification and its certainly real. The last piece of anything that we had that was fun (for many reasons mostly poor organization) is gone. For those of us who were just partying and having a good time (not having sex, throwing trash, or deficating on the street)this is really sad.

  • http://www.studiolafoncette.com StudioLafoncettePhotography

    They say a picture says a thousand words. Lots of soundbites in the comments section and a provocative image in the article set the stage for high emotion and little analysis or understanding of the carnival or the culture. Perhaps next time the City Paper might choose to use images such as these: http://studiolafoncette.com/2010/06/ or even these: http://studiolafoncette.com/2011/06/ to illustrate a heritage matters to those of us who call ourselves Caribbean.

  • triniyankee

    well dc carnival is like a minimized labour day carnival. every year in brooklyn...(although brooklyn has more west indians than you think) i hear black people hispanic people latino . EVERYBODY talk about goin jouvert and to the parade. try catching a subway carnival monday in brooklyn. just see what the trains look like. and people kinda feel the same way with dc carnival. its just not as big. as far as white people, i seen white people jump up in the mud band cuz its not about trash its not about black people. i see plenty white people taking part. so all who feel that this should go away, i just think you either dont want to take part or you are just plain scared to take part. because there are tons of white people who would like for it to stay. and yea kenyon street is no garden of eden. i lived not too far away from georgia ave. dc carnival was so successful that they took part of GEORGIA AVE DAY and incorporated it into carnival. thats why the marching band for the kids are still in it. goergia avenue day is what got cancelled because of the violence. prior to last year there was no violence for dc carnival

    but i blame media and internet too because(although it happens yearly)brooklyn carnival got shut down because of the same thing. even TORONTO..someone was shooting at their carnival. i just think its everyone's fascination of wanting to be apart of WORLDSTARHIPHOP. they wanna be on tv or on the internet. so they bring camcorders and phones and try to shoot any kind of video they can.

  • Patricia

    @ Raoul. Let me get this clear Raoul. You are accusing Barnes and Sargeant of skimming! If you are then what you have done is reprehensible. Disgusting. It's a lie. The plan to eject the carnival from Georgia Avenue has been escalating for quite some time. Are you one of the new 'gentrified' residents of the Georgia Avenue corridor who benefits from this plan? Then fight on honorable terms! There is very clear evidence that the Carnival has made very little money from its inception; that in fact, the City saddles the Carnival with punitive police fees. The festival is assigned hundreds of officers and staggering overtime fees. As gentrification of Georgia Avenue has gained ground, the fees have increased. By the way, cancelling the Carnival is getting rid of the means to by which the organization could make up this bill. If it’s that urgent for you to get rid of the Carnival, then you need to petition the City to get rid of these fees that were wrongly charged to the event. No I am not a member of the Carnival committee. But I am a very aware Caribbean American citizen with the full right to be here and to vote. Here’s the problem. People like you, whatever your color or orientation, are too comfortable keeping ‘others’ out. America is a land of immigrants or have you forgotten. Some have just been here longer than others. Here are the facts. Certain factions within the City took advantage of a group of people they don’t consider to be a viable community. Second, the new gentrified agents of Georgia Avenue are by any nefarious means, ridding the city of the celebrations of that community. Spreading lies about the Carnival group is unethical and also unnecessary! It is very clear from this newest set of developments that this frenzied march to gentrification isn’t a win-win effort – it’s no better than the Colonialism of the past. It means pretty lawns for some and for others it’s a destructive force. Surely you have it in you to be ethical and to fight more cleanly. Stop spreading disgusting lies about these innocent people who want to celebrate their culture.

  • Patricia

    @Triniblue. I hear you on how sad it is and that Black people are culturally starved in DC. It’s very misleading though to compare the Trinidad Carnival to the one in DC without pointing out that the Trinidad Carnival is heavily subsidized by the government. The security you are talking about in Trinidad is free for the people participating in the Carnival. The security in DC is heavily billed by the DC government and actually cost more than the carnival brings in each year. This is the reason for the deficit. Very few Carnivals outside of Trinidad, being held in the US will ever able to enjoy the same kinds of freedoms as in the Caribbean. America will not allow it, unless of course you have political power. Caribbean-Americans don’t have political power. Unlike other groups they are going to be charged a lot more to do things in the City. That’s a fact. Whether you respect DC Carnival or not, it doesn't give persons the right to say libelous things about the Carnival organizers. It's just wrong.

  • Gee

    Kudo's to Patricia and StudioLafoncettePhotography love the real pictures of carnival....

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