My alarm went off at 4am as planned. What a feeling to be up at that hour knowing you're going to hear terrific music and witness one of the great American parades just blocks from home. The wife and kids, not this time, but I told them one day I'll take them too, wake 'em and take 'em. From the first time we saw a crowd of painted and powdered revelers walk by our window many years ago, I've been fascinated by the slave-days history and renegade spirit of the parade beFORE the parade. No permits! No amplifiers! Just drums, dancing and ritual. So free, so joyous, so unlike anything I ever expected to experience while growing up in hum-drum corn country.
By the time I reached Bedford Avenue I could see something was amiss. People headed the wrong direction. "Hey, the parade's up that way" I thought. Then I remember what happened last year, not much later in the morning actually. So I whipped out my phone and dialed up The Twitter. Two shootings, and it wasn't even official start time. I headed up Bedford and in EXACTLY THE SAME PLACE as last year was Vinnie Martinos of the 71st, next to the new C.O. They were in the middle of the road, and police cars and lights were everywhere. And still, people milling about, smoking the cheebah, dancing. The "sensible kids" as my neighbor calls them, many of them headed home, some after scattering wildly from not one but two crime scenes, then three.
In the leadup to the Parade there had been heated exchanges online between neighbors - some who I know and some I don't - trying to figure out whether the hysteria matched the threat. After last year's killing of an aide to the Governor, everyone knew security would be tight. But the floodlights on every block, the massive police presence, it was all a bit eerie in the days and hours leading up to the Big Event. A new resident posted his concern about getting home safely after a late night of working, and received a berating, then he lashed back, and from there the comments piled on. A woman posted a terrific piece on what J'Ouvert is all about and why it's wrong to draw conclusions about the parade based on fear and racism and media coverage, and the internet glowed with praise for the public takedown of "coded" language. I looked forward to "I told you so's" on Tuesday, but from the defenders of J'Ouvert not the feeders of fear. Turn a page, turn the corner, enlighten some minds. All good.
And yet now, all the yammering about blame and society's ills can't bring back two young people who didn't deserve to die in a morning of celebration.
|Tiarah Poyau - 22 years old. Gone.|
|Tyreke Borel - 17 years old. Gone.|
Each shooting involved a gun. That's about as much reason as I can derive. And the blame must fall on the shoulders of the perpetrators, at least until we get to the bottom of why anyone would shoot anyone at a parade, or anywhere for that matter. And even if we get to the bottom, even if we fix the wrongs, fights will break out. That's human nature. Must they always be lethal? Of course not. This is America's enduring shame...guns. Guns tamed the land, killed the natives, kept humans in chains, and now needlessly kill and maim our own citizens in epic numbers. Irony and tragedy, hand in hand, gun in hand.
Essential Post from neighbor Onyi Shimmys Adaora (who granted permission to repost)
MY RESPONSE TO THESE FLYERS PLASTERED ALL OVER OUR COMMUNITY AND A FELLOW NEIGHBOR:
Recently a member of this group posted innocently enough, a question asking the safest route for him to take home on the day of J'ouvert. Clearly he is concerned something bad may happen to him during this celebration more than any other day of the year.
Unfortunately, that question with undertones of ignorance, self-imposed fear, and double standards isn't as innocent as it appears.
For those that do not know...J'ouvert is a cultural event celebrated by many West Indians/ Carribeans. Originating in 1783, slaves banned from the masquerade balls of the French, staged their own mini-carnivals in their backyards. The origins of street parties associated with J'ouvert coincide with the emancipation from slavery in 1838.
Emancipation provided Africans with the opportunity, to not only participate in Carnival, but to embrace it as an expression of their newfound freedom and tribute to their spirit of survival. The breakdown of "J'ouvert" in French is dawn and daybreak -- which is why the festival starts well before dawn and peaks a few hours after sunrise.
The NYPD and members of the community recently posted the flyers (you see on this post) around certain neighborhoods. The verbage expressed assumes members of this community are unaware of laws and basic ethics of this great city we live in, and suggests at some point in time they promoted and encouraged violence. It's condescending, it provokes isolated fear of a group of people, and is simply done in poor taste.
It would have been just as effective to have a flyer that read, "We look forward to serving and protecting our neighbors during J'ouvert and West Indian Day celebrations -- Please be safe and respectful. And remember, if you see something, say something." This rhetoric is in sync with NYPD and MTA's campaign of safety. Instead, the flyers they posted creates mass hysteria and a negative perception to what is supposed to be a joyous and peaceful occasion.
You don't hear this rhetoric during Halloween, 4th of July, Pride Week, Columbus Parade, St. Patrick Day Parade, and a slew of other NYC cultural events. So why now? Why this? The unfortunate shooting that took place last year resulting in the death of aide to Gov. Cuomo, Carey Gabay, was not a result of J'ouvert, but rather senseless gang related activity.
To group isolated violence and associate them with a people and a peaceful cultural celebration is absurd and asinine. It fosters this disconnect people unfamiliar to the culture of a neighborhood harbor, and creates unnecessary fear and leaves people on edge. From cops, to new neighbors, to people easily moved by sensationalism. And we all know that never leads to anything good.
I can't for the life of me imagine anyone living by Union Square or Times Square asking about the safest route home or complaining about noise levels during New Year's Eve. At some point you have to question your decision to move to an area not conducive to your liking and personal interests.
This is not a new occurrence here. In fact, it's been around long before most of us were ever here. To demand or desire everyone and everything else change for you is as ignorantly narcissistic and inconsiderate as it comes.
An influx of new residents have elected to move to these areas for various reasons. Reasons like affordability, a sense of culture, or promises of gentrification that may prove beneficial to their advancement and come up. To not take it upon themselves to better understand said culture is reckless and negligent. The blatant and indirect offense is getting tiring. It's unproductive and not healthy to the relations of a community.
So to my fellow neighbor who posed the question on the safest route home? Simply use good judgment like you would any other day in your life here in Brooklyn. You chose to move into a neighborhood that has had a long existent cultural backdrop unique to them and this community. I think it critical to make efforts to understand the dynamics of a culture instead of being fearful of it..or worse, its people.