The future of the Caribbean Day parade is up in the air, with organizers' optimism bumping up against a lack of funding and what they say is lack of support from the city.
The parade’s president, Roland Barnes, told the Georgia Avenue Community Development Task Force on Monday night that there will not be a parade on Georgia Avenue -- "unless someone is able to wave a magic wand in the next 24 hours," City Paper reported.
The paper interpreted this to indicate the parade was canceled.
Not so fast, say parade officials. The event’s executive director, Loughton Sargeant, said the event will happen -- just not on Georgia Avenue.
"Gaining support from the city and raising money for the parade is a challenge, but we haven’t canceled the parade," Sargeant told us.
A posting on the Caribbean Carnival's Facebook page Tuesday reads in part:
"[Tuesday] morning the DC City Paper wrote an article that states DC Carnival is [canceled]. This is not true.... 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."
"Uphill battle" may be apt teminology: The Caribbean Carnival owes the city about $200,000.
There's also a perception among some D.C. residents that the event is dangerous. Four people were shot, including innocent bystanders, and one person died when two men exchanged bullets along the parade route last year. Authorities said the incident was part of an inter-gang dispute.
And while this year's event is scheduled for June 23 and 24, the location is still up in the air.
"We are meeting with city officials soon, but for now people can register in May to participate in the parade," Sargeant told us.
While previous mayors have come to the parade's rescue to make the event happen, Stacey Lincoln, special assistant to Councilman Vincent Orange, said this administration isn’t interested, City Paper reported.
Lincoln said the mayor is thinking more about the Emancipation Day parade next Monday, the City Paper said, than this summer's Caribbean Day parade.
Local business owners probably are thinking about Caribbean Day, though. A recent Howard University School of Business study shows that 400,000 attended the festival last year, and they generated $1,298,230 in sales tax.
Each business owner surveyed in the study gave their stamp of approval.
As for Sergeant, he said he hopes to get a location approved soon. "We are pushing and hoping for more support," he said. "But the parade will happen."