I am a first-generation American of Trinidadian and Panamanian heritage and a resident of the District. I love D.C. Caribbean Carnival. It is my favorite event in the city. I have proudly danced and sang down the parade’s Georgia Avenue route covered in mud, paint or jewels for five years.
For many onlookers, the annual carnival is merely a fun time. But for me, it has been the origin of creativity in my life. As a child growing up in Miami, Carnival was my outlet. It replaced the need to succumb to peer pressure, drugs and violence. As an adult, it continues to be my personal emancipation from the pressures of life.
These experiences are one of many reasons why I am so disappointed that the June festival may be canceled this year. D.C.’s Caribbean Carnival is an authentic representation of what began in Trinidad and Tobago in the 1800s as a form of celebration of emancipation. By dancing and singing in unison in the streets, emancipated slaves celebrated their new freedom and promise of equality — a struggle that people of color still fight for globally some 200 years later.
Carnival is a vital component in the fabric of the history of the world the we continue to celebrate. It also is the story of the residents of African descent that make up about 50 percent of the D.C. population. D.C. Carnival must be preserved.
Anyone who has ever attended this celebration knows that Carnival is an exuberant experience. The event brings an energy that draws hundreds of thousands of people to the District during the weekend celebrations. It also boosts local commerce along the Georgia Avenue corridor - an area often forgotten by other major city-wide events.
I understand the concerns from D.C. city officials: They will not sign off on the Caribbean Carnival until the event’s organizers pay off hundreds of thousands of dollars owed to the District for police and other services provided for the 2010 and 2011 carnivals.
Although financial difficulties are a reality, they are not insurmountable. The city could include Carnival in its budget as a cultural component of city development as well as arts and culture. I also recommend that D.C. leaders seek support from Carnival fans young and old to gain a new perspective on the ways to continue to make this event mutually beneficial. D.C. Carnival is deserving of further consideration and innovative resolutions.
I hope that we can turn this struggle into a success for all and position the D.C. Caribbean Carnival as a consistent piece of the fabric that makes the District the great city that it is today.
D.A. Lovell is a resident of the District who grew up in Miami. She is a lifelong carnival reveler and has participated in carnivals in Miami, the District, Boston, Toronto and Trinidad.
Read more on The Root DC