Caribbean pride on display at scaled-back West Indian Day Parade

NEW YORK CITY (WABC) -- The popular J'Ouvert celebration was canceled in Brooklyn because of coronavirus concerns for the second year in a row, but still, Caribbean pride was on display with a smaller scaled-back celebration of the West Indian Day Parade.

It was a small yet mighty gathering in Prospect Heights for Brooklyn's annual event, and for a group of ladies from Newark, it was a first.

"It's all what you make it about," one said. "Go listen to music, eat food, and have fun, will be great regardless."

This year's festivities were dialed back over COVID concerns and particularly the delta variant, but still, scores of people once again marched along Eastern Parkway before dawn.

And for the first time in recent memory, no shots were reported fired and no one was injured.

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A few hours later, a smaller contingent kicked off the parade.

Even with J'Ouvert officially canceled, organizers were committed to doing something this year.

"We're here to stay," said Michelle Gibbs, with the West Indian American Day Carnival Association. "We wanted to make sure the youth had some place to be."

Also front and center were Mayor Bill de Blasio and Senator Charles Schumer.

"We all know so many people here today, during COVID, frontline workers, health care workers, bus drivers, kept the city going," Schumer said.

But the image didn't sit well with some, including vendor Dinetta Gilmore, who has worked the parade for decades.

"You didn't cancel it," Gilmore said. "You canceled it for us, but you let the politicians have a photo-op, which is exactly what happened."

Band leader Kenneth Antoine also felt somewhat robbed, as he has several bands that take part in the parade -- but not this year.

"They contact me and tell me 15 kids (limit)," he said. "Fifteen kids. My kids' band is over 200-plus kids. You canceled? I told them can't do it."

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Still, some believe it's a start and a step in the right direction.

"I'm from Trinidad and Tobago," one participant said. "I'm proud to be here today. This is our culture."

The parade also included a component of virtual events to allow people to show their Caribbean pride.

Several in-person events were also held over the weekend behind the Brooklyn Museum.

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