WIADCA – PRESERVING THE RICH CULTURE OF THE CARIBBEAN
Caribbean Carnival is a colorful, creative, infectious and scintillating feature of Caribbean culture, which in the early days was celebrated as the last opportunity for the release of all the expressive and joyful emotions, before the beginning of the forty penitential days of Lent. It was French colonizers who brought this hitherto Christian celebration to the Caribbean.
However, it was not until the abolition of slavery in 1839 that the freed African slaves were allowed to participate in the celebration which gradually became an expression of French, Spanish, English and African cultures.
With the migration of Caribbean immigrants to North America and especially to New York in the mid-1980s and early 1990s, they brought with them that feature of their culture, true to the axiom, that you can take people out of their country but you cannot take the country out of them.
Thus was begun in New York the annual carnival celebration, the week end preceding Lent, in the form of costumed balls and masks, in the dance halls in Harlem - The Renaissance and the Savoy. This time of the year, being winter, there could be no outdoor festivity and revelry as is enjoyed in the Caribbean, therefore an enterprising, visionary but practical Trinidadian woman, Jessie Wardell, obtained the first street permit to celebrate carnival outdoors on Lenox Avenue on Labor Day.
As the demographics changed with the migration of Caribbean Americans and African Americans from Harlem to Brooklyn, another Trinidadian, Rufus Gorin, took carnival across the river to Brooklyn where, with the help of a Venezuelan Trinidadian, Carlos Lezama, an organization was formed, the West Indian American Day Carnival Association (WIADCA), which over the years brought about the growth and development of West Indian carnival 45 years later, to become the largest cultural festival in city, state and nation, attracting annually to the environs of Brooklyn's Eastern Parkway, over 3 million people.
Today, the West Indian American Day Carnival Association (WIADCA) is the custodian of Caribbean artistic and musical culture and a major player in the preservation and promotion of this culture that has enriched the ethnic and racial diversity of New York State.