Caribbean Summit Set to Discuss Parade and Other Issues
By MOIRA BYRNES, Hartford Guardian Writer
The Hartford West Indian Day Parade is the oldest parade of its kind in North America.
Today, 44 years after it begun, it attracts thousands. But many have realized the parade has lost its vibrancy.
In an effort to reignite the fire and bring back the spectacular cultural flavor to the parade, the Connecticut Alliance for Better Communities, Inc. is sponsoring the Caribbean Issues Summit. The summit, a kick off event for West Indian Celebrations Week, will begin 10 a.m. at City Hall Atrium.
The summit will include discussions about the parade’s inadequacy and how Hartford residents can capitalize on this vehicle to bring millions of dollars and jobs into the city.
All parties on all sides agree. The parade and the celebrations week need work.
“Problems exist,” said Milla Riggio Professor of English at Trinity College and author of the book, “Carnival Time.” “The parade is encoded with a rich history and culture. It needs to be marketed in ways other than a party week.”
Val Coleman, the Executive Director of the West Indian Cultural Dance Troupe, agrees.
Coleman and other West Indian groups are no longer participating in the parade.
“The parade use to be spectacular,” said Coleman, whose group has won best costume and performance every year they entered the competition until four years ago. Coleman said she also tried to introduce her yearly and successful extravaganza show into the week to keep the parade’s flavor and inject options besides dancing and was told the event would “encroach on the week.”
Hugh Freeney, chair of the parade committee, acknowledged problems exist. But, he said, committee members, though few, are working to address them.
“We’re not afraid of the truth,” he said. “We know progress is slow. But at least we’re working on it as oppose to those who stay away.”
The Caribbean Issues Summit will address these and other problems with the parade. It’s scheduled for July 22, 10 a.m. at City Hall Atrium. All Hartford residents who want to voice opinions about West Indian Indpendence Celebrations Week are invited, organizers say.
In addition, discussions will focus on how to boost support for the Hartford Public School new arrival program for immigrant children. Besides Coleman, Riggio and Freeney, other panelists invited to discuss this matter are Romain Dallemand, Assistant Superintendent of Hartford Schools, Ron Fernandez Director of the Latin and Caribbean Cultural Center at Central State University, Leslie Perry, West Indian Independence Celebrations Committee, Doreen Forrest, president of the West Indian Social Club, Denise Welsh, president of the West Indian Foundation and past teachers and students of the program.