Cambridge Carnival Cancelled

Police Express Concerns About Safety at 2019 Celebration

Zoe Fritz-Sherman, Metro Editor

Cambridge Carnival
The annual Cambridge Carnival celebrates Caribbean culture.

On Sunday, September 8th, the 26th annual celebration of the Cambridge Carnival, a celebration of Caribbean culture, was called off because of “increasing safety concerns” after gang-related gun violence occurred at the Boston Caribbean Carnival on the 24th. Following the advice of the Cambridge Police Commissioner, the cancellation happened with the safety of the attendees in mind.

Jeremy Warnick, the Cambridge police spokesman, told the Boston Globe that “There [was] a concern about the continuation of the violence that was initiated in Boston.” 

Shortly before the Boston carnival began, shots were fired amidst the event’s colorful opening— the J’ouvert parade— and according to Cambridge Carnival organizer Nicola Williams’ statement at a press conference on September 6th, there was evidence that a gang was “planning to use our event as a venue to stage a retaliatory act of gun violence, potentially putting thousands of residents in the crossfire.” At the press conference, Williams also expressed her frustration that the Carnival had been canceled. “I am outraged that someone would try to use the carnival to divide and harm our residents,” Williams said. “To tear at the social fabric of what makes this city a home.” 

“[I’ve been going to the carnival] since I was 8 years old. It’s an annual cultural thing,” CRLS student Hadiya Clarke ’20  told the Register Forum. “Only a small amount of cities have this carnival. It was really special that Cambridge had it.” Clarke typically attended the event with family and friends, some coming from far away expressly to attend the celebration. “It was an event for us Caribbeans and the whole Cambridge community to enjoy. It was something to look forward to every year.”

“[I loved] reconnecting with old friends, buying trinkets from the vendors, and listening to the live bands,” longtime Cambridge resident Catherine Forde commented. “Carnival represents the communities of all the islands of the Caribbean, and parts of central and South America.” Forde has been attending the event since it’s inception and was disappointed and angry when she learned of the cancellation. “The cancellation was not justified. It’s no secret that gentrification has hit Cambridge along with the surrounding cities. It was racially motivated.”

It was really special that Cambridge had it.”

CRLS teacher Alejandro Hernandez shared Forde’s view of the cancellation being connected to the discrimination that the Latinx community faces in the US. “The cancellation made me think of the deliberate targeting of Hispanics in the recent killings at a Walmart store in El Paso.” Hernandez moved to Cambridge last year and hasn’t attended the Carnival yet, though hopes to in the future. “The cancellation made me wonder if there is an open and live manifesto of hate towards minorities circulating around the country, spreading with patriotic flames. It is another instance that brings images of insensible gun violence very very close. It reminds me that, because of political inaction, we live with fear.”

In past years the event has been a diverse celebration of African and Caribbean heritage. With the festivities exceeding 100,000 attendees, the Carnival was a dazzling example of the many different backgrounds of Cambridge residents. “The festival, as many other similar events, celebrates the cultures that are present in our community. It opens a window of opportunity to embrace, enjoy and unify our multicultural Cambridge,” Hernandez reflected. “However, [the cancellation was] a sacrifice. We gave into something that is spreading through our nation: fear, hate crimes, mass killings. We cannot cancel our way out of the main issue.”

This piece also appears in our September 2019 print edition.