The Caribbean Festival Likely Won’t Happen This Year


Photo by PoPville flickr user rjs1322

Back in March a reader was curious about the status of this year’s Caribbean Festival given the violence of last year. Last night the Georgia Ave Task Force heard a presentation about the festival. ANC1B09 rep Lauren McKenzie tweeted:

“Caribbean Carnival pres & exec dir stated that unless something changes in 24-48 hrs there will NOT be a carnival this year.

They owe the city $210K from last yr. City officials arent responding to letters, calls etc to request help make this yr possible.”

A reader who attended the meeting sent the following summary:

Looks like carnival is dead, if no financial help in 48 hours. Need over 200k to pay security and clean up to carry on. Howard University impact study says it’s a benefit to community, says bring in 4 million in revenue. Not clear on tax revenue… Mr Graham still supports festival, but unrelated homicide last year has caused mayor office to remain silent in support. City said in Jan that it would not support if money can’t be raised, which was last meeting festival had with mayor.

By the end of meeting it became clear that if the money isn’t raised and a clear plan presented to city by end of April, then that doesn’t leave enough time to get the word out.

This is a failure and disappointment on many many levels. I stand by my final thoughts from last year.

Update from DC Caribbean Festival’s Facebook page:

This morning the DC City Paper wrote an article that states DC Carnival is Cancel. This is not true. We attended a meeting last night with the lower Georgia Avenue Business Community to provide an update on DC Carnival 2012. We express the financial challenges the Carnival is facing with respect to City services and that we are exploring alternatives to Georgia Avenue this year. We never mentioned canceling the Carnival but I guess this makes for bigger and better news. This confirm to us that we are facing an uphill battle to sustain our culture in this ever changing DC community. We no longer can depend on the City to help us. This is a wake up call for us to help ourself. If we do not mobilize as a community and show the City that we are important and we do make a difference then the headlines might prove to be true.

103 Comment

  • “Woot.”

    • Double that “woot.” Triple that “woot.” Quadruple it.

      This is seriously great news for the families of Parkview who were freaked out by how unsafe it was last year.

  • This reads like they just realized that they need to find $200K at the last minute. I would think they would have been fundraising all year?

  • thank…freaking…god

    Oh, and the whole “Howard University Study” on the benefits of this s*%t show were massively overblown.

    They assumed this thing is attended by 400K people and that it produced 21 million in taxable revenue! Hilarious…while it is heavily attended, if there were more than a tenth of that attendance number I would be shocked. Let alone there is no way the city sees that kind of taxable revenue considering all the Maryland vendors who line the parade route and the only thing the bodegas are selling along the route are singles of 40’s and cancer sticks.

    • As a Caribbean resident on DC, I’m sad to see this event go. I have many great memories of the carnival and I’ve never had a bad time there or felt unsafe. I was saddened to hear about the violence last year.

      Those of you who seem so pleased to see this colorful event shut down–have you ever actually attended?

      • I agree that it is a colorful and unique event. Unfortunately we did attend last year and our friends departed only to return to the house we were at moments later covered in blood (no lie!). Got caught in the mayhem down by Howard – fortunately it was spray and they didn’t get shot.

      • I am also a Caribbean resident of DC. I live just off of Georgia, and I too am sad to see it go. In years past, it was a wonderful event. However, I have noticed over the last couple of years it seems to suffer from a lack of management and organization. I did not attend last year and I was very upset to hear about the shootings. I will miss it – what is used to be was about culture and fun. Something had to give.

      • I live a block from Georgia and have attended the last three years. And I say good riddance after last year’s brawls and shootings, which clearly were related.

        • How were they clearly related? Were the shooters part of the carnival? or.. you assume it is related because there are NEVER any shootings in the area, and the day of the carnival we had a shooting?

          • gotryit

            The shooters were part of neighborhood gangs, but they clearly felt comfortable bringing their gang problems out in public, flashing guns, etc.

            The people who got shot were still out enjoying the festivities that continued long after the parade ended. Please explain how you see this as completely unrelated.

          • http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=S4CROInUth8
            For one, major brawls don’t usually happen in the middle of Georgia Ave. Second, the punks in the video are yellling about the fight that is going down at the Carribbean Festival 2011.

          • Gang and drug related issues are non-stop in our neighborhoods. They are not cause or related to this festival. Why blame the festival just because some thughs who were attending decided to do what they did.

            Those thughs do not represent the majority of people who come celebrate that day.

          • gotryit

            I don’t blame the festival, I blame the criminals. But I do ask that if we’re going to have a festival, let’s be smart about it.

            Just like you don’t blame a victim for getting mugged, but you do try to be smart about your surroundings.

            The parade organizers can’t ignore the fact that we have gangs in the neighborhood that won’t disappear for the event. If the same festival were held somewhere without gangs, then we wouldn’t be asking for as much security.

          • not_here, there’s a correllation between violence and the festival, but that doesn’t mean its causation you’re right.

            But as someone who lives a block away from GA Ave, the only times in the last four years of living here I have ever felt threatened walking around my neighborhood were the Carnival days. Very out of place violence for GA Ave in the middle of the freaking day. You cannot argue with that.

          • Yes, I agree with this. Let’s blame the criminals, and not the event. And you are right – the event should have safety standards that would decrease the possibility of this type of thing happening.

          • Duh! It was the Afro Caribbean during the festival….

    • That 400K attendance number was indeed a breathtaking overstatement, simply because such a number would overwhelm any and all attempts at crowd control in such a confined space. Did they mistakenly add a zero to 40K, which seems more correct? I mean, 400K is a number tossed around when talking about Woodstocks or certain presidential inaugurations, not local-based Caribbean festivals.

      • Most likely someone from Howard agreed to do the study and asked the proponents of the study to fill in the blanks on assumptions about attendance. My guess is an organizer fed the 400k number in, knowing that would help his cause when it came out “endorsed” by Howard researchers on the backside. Garbage in, garbage out.

    • I like the chart in the report that as the festival grows, revenue grows linearly and costs stay the same. I think this report took about 3 hours of effort and zero double checking

    • Howard should be ashamed of themselves for putting out such shoddy work. I always held them to high academic standards but I guess the fix is in.

  • Does this mean that the organizers owe $200 grand from last year on top of the money owed from previous festivals? I guess “unrelated” financial problems finally caused the city to shut it down.

  • Nice! Good riddance to this awful event. Maybe they should pay the money they owe from last year before trying to plan a new parade.

  • T

    I agree this is a failure and a disappointment. This festival has been both a failure and a disappointment year after year after year. You only get so many chances.

  • Boo freaking hoo

  • I don’t yet believe this thing is as dead as it should be.

    • agreed. I still see – unfortunately – a possible path forward for this event to occur.

    • I agree. This is part of the same historic pattern the festival’s organizers employ every year. Cry foul and demand the city step up and carry the weight. I hope someone keeps Vince Grey away from every conceivable communication device until this event is 100% canceled.

  • I would like to take a moment to invite anyone who is disappointed at the loss of the Caribbean Festive to consider trying something new this year in place of the time you would have spent there. Possibly you will find another event in the city you enjoy. Take a walk in East Potomac Park, Enjoy a leisurely stroll through the National Arboretum, Stop by one of the many Smithsonian Museums, Visit the National Botanical Gardens and Bartholdi Park, Plan a “clean up your street / neighborhood” day for yourself and invite your neighbors, visit your local library and get a library card and book, sit out in one of DC’s many many parks and read it. Try something you have not done before, see where it leads you.

  • It is a bit comical that it is just realized that paying off debt is part of running an event. It would’ve been completely irresponsible of the city to hold the event with outstanding debt (though they’ve done it in the past).

    It’s a shame a community so rich in Caribbean culture loses this event due to horrible organizers but that’s how it goes if you can’t PLAN properly and PAY off your debts.

    Finally Graham cracks me up, never wanting to lose a vote…what a politician

  • Excellent news. Sorry but all the drama from last year has not escaped my mind. I’m embarrassed to live near such a deplorable event. They should do it somewhere else where it is organized, family geared and celebrates the culture, not a hot mess, violent, dirty parade down Georgia Ave. I’m not talking about the shooting so much as all the volience down Georgia Avenue after the parade. And if they owe the city money even more of a reason so do it somewhere contained where they can charge an entrance or vendor fee to make money to keep the event going.

    • so.. you dont think it celebrates culture? I wonder if you know anything about Caribbean culture. Or is it only YOUR culture that can be celebrated? I guess anything else is dirty, violent and a hot mess!

      • I think the beautiful culture could be celebrated in a much more positive enviroment. It has grown to a huge event over the years and Georgia Ave probably isn’t the best place for it any longer. I’ve gone many a years before and I does keep getting bigger and bigger. Sorry, but when things change you have to make adjustments. . If you can’t see that, then I can’t argue with you. I’ve lived here for 10 years, not a new person on the block. My judgement isn’t about the culture or people, it’s about a poorly organized event.

      • How much trash did you pick up last year? Hoe many bottles did you clear from your front yard? How many fights did you break up? Did you get bloodstains on your clothes?

        You obviously are overlooking the huge shit this event is. I totally support a Caribbean Festival, but not the shit that happens in June on GA Ave. Totally disgusting tribute to their culture imo.

    • You are embarrassed to live near the festival?!? Well, I’m embarrassed to live near you, dcgirl53!

      • Wow. That’s a very astute point, fz. Your logic has not only won the argument, but changed my mind on so many issues.
        I might have said something like, “nu-UH!” or “Go back to the suburbs!” but your argument has equal weight and merit as either of those remarks would have had.

        Well played.

  • I really hope that the people with the negative comments here do not live in Petworth. Because if you do, you should have opened your minds and try to embrace a festival that – you may not understand – but it represents the beautiful diversity of our community.

    It really disgusts me the tone of contempt that many new residents have about the Carnival. I arrived to Petworth 7 years ago, the festival goes on half a block from my place. Overall, it is a fun festival celebrating the beautiful culture of our Caribbean neighbors. It may not feature the “mainstream” dance or music that most are used to – and, I can see how it can make some close minded people uncomfortable. But that does not give anybody the right to call the event awful and disappointing.

    The shootings that took place last year – had nothing to do with the carnival. Those who participated were not part of the Carnival. We know the level of violence that exists in our neighborhoods – unfortunately shootings are not rare in our neighborhoods. But those who hate the Carnival – decided to just use this as another excuse to get rid of it.

    I hope they try to get money from residents supporting the Carnival, because I would be more than happy to keep this great event in our streets.

    • Totally agree.

    • T

      1. The fight on GA ave was clearly related to the festival.
      2. The shooting was clearly related to the festival.
      3. The festival generates a huge amount of trash and festival management does nothing to clean it up.
      4. The festival is mismanaged.
      5. You justify all of the above as the “culture” that should be celebrated — is THIS the part of the Caribbean culture that you want passed down to your kids? I think not.
      6. Nobody said anything about the lack of “mainstream music making people uncomfortable” – I don’t think ANYONE takes issue with the type of music, or even the noise.
      7. The organizers should have started raising money months and months ago to pay off their debt if they wanted to host the festival again this year.
      8. Native Caribbean folk should be ADVOCATING the shutdown of this festival — it is a blight and an embarrassment and stands NOT for the aspects of their culture that are worthy of celebration.

      • +1 Nice to see people address the issues rather than “culture-bating” all those who disagree & who are new (as if 7yrs is a brightline). Get new management & bring it back as an example of celebrations, not a poor excuse.

        (although I suspect the violence last year was correlated, I cannot say for certain, so don’t use that as a main reference point).

      • I’d revise #2, and maybe #1, too, to read that the festival was used as cover for whatever gang stuff was going on that resulted in the shootings/violence, but I wholeheartedly agree otherwise.

        I don’t need things to be “mainstream” in order to be comfortable with them. But any festival that generates violence, HUGE amounts of trash, massive public drug use/drinking, total disregard for neighbors’ property (cars being damaged, yards and alleyways being pissed and shat in), and that continually owes the city money needs to not happen until all those things are fixed.

    • me

      It’s not even about the violence that erupted last year for me, whether the individuals were a part of the celebration or not. It’s the money. Pay up, and I will attend this year as well. If not, then it is just too bad.

    • I completely agree. I’m a non-caribbean Petworth resident and I LOVE the caribbean festival. It makes me sad that it may not happen this year, but I’m more sad about the people here celebrating that it may not happen.

    • gotryit

      Thanks for complaining about people not appreciating diversity while at the same time making broad generalizations about “new residents”.

      Can I offer you a mirror?

      • My “broad generalizations” are based on the comments I read here and many other places.

        • gotryit

          You judge a whole group of people based on a blog… and you see no problem with that. Please try meeting people in person, you might find that your broad generalizations are a stupid as the broad generalizations put out by the people you criticize here.

          • ok… so, apparently I need to describe to you on great detail the conversations I have had, and the opinions and comments I have read in order to validate what I said? Yes, I made a generalization – and it obviously doesnt apply to everybody. I am a relatively new resident, and have always enjoyed the festival. And yes, I have talked to many people as well.

            But, are you going to deny that a lot of the opposition is coming from a lot of the new residents? There is blatant lack of support towards this festival. I agree that it is not managed correctly, and areas such as safety and just plain organization should be improved. But for the most part, people just consider it as a dirty noisy inconvenience!

            I think the picture that the City Paper chose to describe the festival is a good example of a lot of people’s attitudes towards this event: http://www.washingtoncitypaper.com/blogs/housingcomplex/2012/04/09/parades-off-caribbean-day-short-on-cash-forced-to-cancel/

            Why did they choose that picture, instead of a picture of the many dancers during the parade?

          • gotryit

            My problem with your generalizing “most people” is that you’re in the same boat as people who generalize what they think most black people must be like because they pass a few hooligans on the street.

            Do you know who was killed last year? Check it out – he wasn’t new to the neighborhood.

    • I live a block off of GA and was excited to attend last year for the first time. It was interesting for about 10 minutes. By and large, 10% was interesting costumes, 20% guys on trucks (not “floats” thats just laughable) smoking weed and blasting music to blow your ear drums out and the rest was just vulgar displays of women and men often simulating sex as they walked down the street. (although props to that balancing act). I am not a prude but I can’t believe that parents in DC think this is a “cultural” display for kids. then again, I can’t believe half the shit parents in DC think is ok.

    • saf

      Fine, I can play that game. I pre-date the festival. And I HATE the filth that the festival-goers leave all over my street and my yard. I also HATE the way the cops treat the neighbors.

      I’m cool with the IDEA of the parade and the festival, but it is VERY poorly run. They need to get better at the logistics.

  • Just curious…why do so many hate this event? I used to look forward to it every year! It was a blast. So many people and so much music and dancing. Yeah there was some violence last year but the parade has a long history peaceful fun.

    • I think the most vocal objections are coming from people who are angry because they can’t get their Prius across Georgia Avenue to get to Whole Foods on a Saturday afternoon.

      • Really?!? You think that’s the reason so many folks are complaining?

        How about the trash, noise, dudes peeing on my fence, guy sitting on the hood of my car drinking a beer, etc.

        THOSE are the reasons i’ve had enough.

        • attendees throwing rocks through house windows, defecating peoples lawn, vandalized cars, people shooting up on peoples front steps, the dozens of thrown bottles and cans along the length one city block, vomit all over the sidewalk…should I continue?

          Oh, and anyone who says this is a “family” event should be imprisoned for child abuse.

      • Rose colored glasses. Period.

      • this is thinly veiled rascism. and you are stupid.

  • This is a shame. Haters gonna hate

  • gotryit

    The shooters were part of neighborhood gangs, but they clearly felt comfortable bringing their gang problems out in public, flashing guns, etc.

    There is definitely an uptick in blatant drug selling during and after the event. (Howard University want to study that one?)

    While the parade may end, the event goes on all day, with parties in the neighborhoods going well into the evening. It’s a disgrace to keep doging the issues related to lack of security, drugs, public urination, etc.

    Throw a world class event worthy of our nation’s capitol, and I’d gladly get behind that.

  • Amazing news! I really hope this thing is dead, and doesnt get resurrected at the last minute!

    Simply amazing to me that people can watch the video of the idiotic violence at this festival and still argue in its favor. Only in DC.

    Good riddance.

  • It seems that the organizers did not have the ability to put together a safe, organized, financially-sound event, and it is may be a good thing that this particular group will no long be managing the carnival. Perhaps a new organization that has the capacity to make the parade a safer, more neighborhood-friendly event could emerge and host a Caribbean festival in the future. It seems a shame that this cultural celebration won’t take place because the organizers couldn’t address the many issues surrounding it. I could see it being a success if run differently, and hopefully that will happen.

  • SO HAPPY! i live right by the metro so i was effectively house bound the whole day because i was too nervous to go out . . .

  • I always thought the Caribbean Festival was a great idea. Then my friend got mugged by someone who was visiting the neighborhood for the festival and decided to take advantage of the opportunity. Never been a fan since. Oh yeah, and the insane amount of trash left afterwards.

  • I’m all for a funded, well-organized, properly-managed Caribbean festival. I’ve been to the parades and have a great time, but if you don’t pay your bills, how do you expect to roll?
    Since PoP brought up New Orleans and Mardi Gras, let me just say that the MG Krewes pay for the privilege to roll a parade. That money covers police presence (which is heavy), crowd control, and clean up. If they don’t pay they DON’T ROLL. Simple as that.
    Mardi Gras parades roll almost nightly for about two full weeks leading up to Mardi Gras, with multiple parades going on around town at once! The vast, vast majority of them go off without a hitch every flippin’ year. People show up, have fun, dance to the bands, then gather at bars or house parties (or just go home) afterwards. There aren’t roving bands of drunk people looking for street fights, destroying property and generally causing havoc. If there ever IS any violence, it’s a big news story because it’s so unusual.

    I’ve never in my life heard of so much trouble from one small parade, one day out of the year. DC just doesn’t know how to handle itself.

    • Emilie504

      +1

      When I was in high school Seattle kept trying to have Mardi Gras, but it kept turning into riots. As I recall, 4 out of 5 years Seattle tried to have Mardi Gras it ended in violence.

      It takes more than some pretty costumes and music to have a successful nonviolent parade.

    • + 1 million

    • Exactly. People, just read this post. It explains it all. Seriously.

    • Wow, I disagree. I love Mardi Gras and have been countless times, but I bet if you talk to people Uptown on/near the parade route their complaints would look remarkably similar the ones voiced in this thread.

      • I’m from New Orleans, lived uptown for over 10 years, near the St Charles route AND right ON the Toth route (which is bit of a calmer scene, I’ll grant you) and I stand by what I’ve said. The level of mayhem and chaos that seems to surround this event are not even in the same ballpark as what goes on in NOLA during MG. Apples and watermelons.

  • Violence is not a result of a festival. Violence is about the incredible number of young men who seem to worship it all day every day, carrying guns, calling each other *^&^#(), running open air drug markets, punching gentrifiers in the face, shooting each other every 3rd day, carjacking, masked armed robberies, outdoor gambling, proud crew signs. It’s about all of the faces on homicidewatchdc.org. It’s about the failure of DYRS. It’s about the failure of our society to create conditions to lead to a different outcome. It’s about the failure of MPD to follow up on last year’s videotaped brawl to make some arrests of folks disturbing the peace (or perhaps the community didn’t actually want police intervention). Somehow this rotten aspect of culture in the US needs to change. It weighs us all down.

  • This is the best news I’ve heard all day. Anybody who supports an event that devolves into violent thuggary like this one *always* does is an idiot. If DC is ever going to get any better, we need to shut down events that draw street violence from punks. Score one for the city!

  • As a homeowner who lives a block and a half from the parade row, I say good riddance. Unless this parade can be conducted like an actual parade (ie: there is a difference/controlled line between audience and participants), its a dangerous proposition for all. To pull that off, you’d likely need about 10x the amount of crowd control they’ve had, which clearly isn’t affordable.

  • I’m a homeowner who lives half a block form Georgia, and I’m sorry to see it go. I’ve always really enjoyed myself at the parade, and I’ve never felt threatened or unsafe there.

    Looking at their 990, though, they just don’t have the financial wherewithal to host the event. They’re heavily in debt (I guess mostly to the city), and the event just doesn’t raise much money for them. That’s not surprising – I only paid to get into De Savannah once in the 7 or 8 times I attended. Every other year they haven’t made a dime off me. The food vendors on the street did well, though.

  • Pity… not sad at all to see this one go.

    If you want to host a huge party like that you need to pay for it.

    I think the lack of financial support clearly indicates a lack of interest.

  • Homeowner two blocks from the festival, couldn’t be happier it is gone. See above comments, and I agree completely with all the people against it.

    Extremely poorly run by a bunch of lackeys, and they don’t pay their bills/pick up trash. Just overall a horrible event run by garbage promoters. Super happy that it is done.

    Would be happy if they resurrect it under new management, but the current version needs to go.

  • As a resident of Col. Hghts I was always looking forward to seeing Caribbean festival and parade go thru my neighborhood. Problem is over the years is that this event has grown to big and popular for such a small residential area of the city. The combine population of 20009&20001 zip codes is close to 90,000, I uses those zip because they are the closest to the parade route, but there are more 90K for Caribbean fest. This is too big for the area, the organizers and city should be working to find a better location. Organizers should also pay $$ before the conversation goes forward.

  • My original comment was never posted and I didn’t say anything racist or bad. My comment is good riddance to this Carnival because it out grew Georgia Avenue, NW. Most of the people that came to this Caribbean Carnival lived in Maryland, not the District. Why not take the Carnival to PG County, Maryland. I was tired of hearing the loud noise and the traffic congestion. I live on 14th Street, NW and traffic and people were parking their vehicles with Maryland and out State tags on my block. I am a Howard University graduate and the voilence that took place in front of Howard after this festival was appalling. I hope this festival never comes back to Georgia Avenue, NW. The Latino festival that use to be in Adams Morgan became so huge, they took it downtown on Pa. Avenue, NW. Later, it came back to Adams Morgan and in the end, the huge Latino festival was canceled.

  • Homeowner on Georgia ave very happy to see it go. Invited friends over last year to BBQ and watch the parade and did not expect them to duck for their lives. Spectators and participants have zero regard for the residents and the neighborhood.

  • Maybe it should be replaced by a community clean-up day…

  • Happy to see it not happen, as I fear that all of the work that the city put into fixing up Georgia Ave proximate to the Metro station would be laid to waste. Those commenting above that the festival would be a fine thing for the neighborhood to support IF they organizers did a better job of managing the event are spot on, and hardly guilty of snobbery or ethnocentrism.

    Besides, the bottom line in all of this is crystal clear: the organizers are deeply in debt to the city. Does anyone here really think that Vince Gray is prepared to stick his neck out for an event team that not only can’t get its act together financially and logistically, but that is (rightly or wrongly) indirectly associated with several high-profile violent crimes? Give me a large break.

  • Just wanted to add that IF the Festival is somehow allowed to go on, why would it not be expected to run another $200k deficit? I believe we’re looking at the definition of insanity here.

  • Good riddance. Please don’t come back.

  • Wow, a lot of sad comments here.

    +1 to not here and Lizzy in this thread.

  • Caribbean Festival should be renamed to People Act Like Savages and Get to Degrade Women Festival.

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