West Indian American Day Carnival
Association producer of Brooklyn Carnival
|dies at 83: Carlos Lezama passed away on January 22,
2007 around 11 am Monday at Kings County Hospital following a
sustained period of illness.
|"This carnival was a labor of love. It was not about
money or anything but simple love of this beautiful culture that
brings people together from all races, classes and creeds.
Carnival is a beautiful thing. Its pure healthy fun and I am
glad that I helped to establish it as a major part of this
Carlos Lezama said when he retired in 2001
|For his efforts in promoting the rich culture of Caribbean
people and thus enriching the cultural life of New York City,
Mr. Lezama has been officially recognized and honored by four
Governors of New York State including Govs. Carlos has been
officially recognized and honored by scores of organizations and
by four Governors of New York State including Govs. Nelson
Rockefeller, Hugh Carey, Mario Cuomo, and George Pataki. In
addition, during their respective mayoralties, Carlos has
received numerous awards from Mayors John Lindsay, Abe Beame, Ed
Koch, David Dinkins and Rudy Giuliani
"Throughout our lives, my siblings, as well as my
mother, have been privileged to share my father with the millions who
are part of the carnival family. I am grateful that he has left an
impressive legacy of which we all as Caribbean people can be proud."
Yolanda Lezama-Clark (who is also the president of the West Indian American Day Carnival
EVERYBODY’S Caribbean Magazine publisher,
says, “As a young member and director of the West Indian-American Day
Carnival Association in the early 1970s. Lezama influenced, motivated
and inspired me. I knew what Mr. Lezama endured to develop the annual
carnival on Labor in Brooklyn. He brought recognition to the
Caribbean-American community, united us and played a major role in
enhancing the quality of life in New York City. He was admired and
respected by governors and mayors of New York State and City
respectively. He was a great and charismatic leader.”
In 2001 when Carlos retired as President of the Carnival,
Councilmember Yvette Clarke, 36, said
"Carlos has contributed mightily to the cultural understanding and
enrichment of New York City. "
"He’s a positive role model, a leader, and innovator and certainly
one of the finest people in New York. I applaud his contribution and
wish him all the best in his retirement," Clarke said.
Henry Antoine, former president of the International Caribbean
Carnival Association (ICCA), the international organization of
Trinidad-style carnivals in Canada, North America and Europe, that is
based in Boston, said that he’s known Lezama for about 34 years and had
high praises for him. Lezama is also a founding member of the ICCA and
its "president emeritus."
"Carlos has done a great job of bringing to the international
community the true meaning of Caribbean carnival and culture. He is
truly "the father if Brooklyn’s Labor Day Carnival."
In 2001, the Carnival route - Eastern Parkway – was renamed Carlos
Lezama Parkway for that year’s Carnival Season. And in 2004, the Carlos
Lezama Archives and Caribbean Cultural Center, located at the Lezama’s
family landmark home of 1028 St. John’s Place in Brooklyn, was
inaugurated as a lasting tribute to the man dubbed as “The Father of
WE LOST A LEGEND — THE HEART AND SOUL OF BROOKLYN’S CARIBBEAN COMMUNITY.
BY FOUNDING THE WEST INDIAN AMERICAN CARNIVAL IN 1967 AND MOVING IT
FROM HARLEM TO EASTERN PARKWAY — WHERE IT HAS GROWN INTO THE LARGEST
PARADE IN NEW YORK CITY —
CARLOS LEZAMA HELPED MAKE BROOKLYN THE PROUD CARIBBEAN CAPITAL OF
I LIKE TO JOKE THAT I’M A TRINI FROM TOONA POONA —
BUT CARLOS WAS TRINI TO THE BONE
--- I THINK HIS BIG HEART POUNDED TO A CALYPSO BEAT.
HIS DAUGHTER YOLANDA LEZAMA CLARKE HAS MADE IT HER MISSION TO ESTABLISH
NEW YORK’S FIRST CARIBBEAN-AMERICAN MUSEUM TO HONOR HIS MEMORY — AND I
PROUDLY SUPPORT HER.
SHE IS HERE WITH US TONIGHT — SO WE CAN ALL SAY— “JUMP UP” AND THANK
President Marty Markowitz's
state of the borough address
In lieu of flowers, the Lezama Family is asking that donations be
made instead to the not-for-profit the Carlos Lezama Archives and
Caribbean Cultural Center and mailed to 1028 St. Johns Place, Brooklyn,
NY 11213. For additional info. call 718-467-1797. –DONATIONS CAN BE
FOWARDED TO CLACC-C , 1028 St John's Pl , Brooklyn. NY, 11213
|Carlos Lezama spent his formative years in Trinidad
where he played Mas and learned to play the Steelpan as a young
man. In fact he played the Cello and was nicknamed "Celloman" a
name and position he enjoyed while working on a passenger ship
before migrating to the USA. In
those days, Carlos lived in Venezuela with his wife Hilary,
before he joined the early migration of Caribbeans to the United
States in the early fifties.
In typical immigrant fashion, he worked hard at various jobs
until he joined the New York Metropolitan Transit Authority, in
the mid-sixties. At NYTA he moved up steadily for the next
twenty years until he became a machinist. In 1989, he retired
from that Agency.
Carlos and his wife Hilary Yolanda Lezama, a Trinidadian, who
also shared his love and dedication to the "Carnival," became
parents to a son Kenwyn, and a daughter Yolanda.
|The West Indian Day Parade was founded in the
1920s by Ms. Jessie Waddle and some of her West Indian friends
in Harlem. They staged costume parties in large enclosed places
— like the Savoy, Renaissance Ballroom and Audubon Ballroom
during the traditional pre-Lenten February season.
In the mid-1940s, Trinidadian Jesse Waddle
(sometimes spelled Wattle) organized a street festival held on
Labor Day, on 7th Avenue in Harlem. The parade permit for Harlem
was revoked in 1964 following a disturbance.
During the 1960's, another
Trinidadian - Rufus Goring, brought Carnival to Brooklyn.
In 1967, Mr. Lezama was passed the reigns to the Brooklyn
carnival by his friend, Goring.
1969, a committee headed by Carlos Lezama
obtained permission to parade on Eastern Parkway. That committee
became the West Indian-American Day Carnival Association, now a
rather well-established organization.
A key to the success and stability of the
Brooklyn Carnival over the many decades of Mr. Lezama's stewardship was
his vision of
integration with the Brooklyn Museum,
the jewel of Brooklyn's artistic heritage, into the
celebration itself. Through his leadership, WIADCA partnered
with a great and continuing legacy by
erecting a massive stage behind the vener able museum building
and of course the Caribbean village of vendors. It was here
Lezama was able to grow the Carnival and its dedicated
organization in a controlled organic fashion. By the
mid-nineties the Carnival had become arguably North America's
largest cultural celebration and a centerpiece to New York well
founded claim as the capital of the Caribbean, afterall
the New York metro area was aslo the largest Caribbean immigrant
community in the world, doing business in the world's capital.
Mr. Lezama had also worked for the MTA as a
machinist. Mayor Ed Koch told the AP, "[Lezama] was someone who
had a dream and saw it fulfilled. This was on his mind more than
Over the years
the Carnival underwent many changes prior to Labor Day - with Steelband Panorama, Dimanche Gras, Costume Competition, Calypso
Monarch, Kiddies Carnival and more replicating events of
Trinidad & Tobago's Carnival.
Resident of Crown Heights for over 30
years, site of disturbances with Blacks, West Indians and Jews
in 1991, Carlos is credited with an historic peace move that
resulted in bringing the factions together for which he was
aptly recognized by many Community Organizations. He ensured
that the carnival wasn't disrupted when critics objected to
then-Mayor Rudy Giuliani's participation as a grand marshal in
1995, when the carnival coincided with Rosh Hashanah in 1994 and
after the August 1991 disturbances in Crown Heights that were
triggered when a car driven by a Jewish man struck and killed a
young black boy.
He nurtured the organization and carnival
celebrations till 2001, when, due to his ill health he retired.
His wife Hilary also passed away that same year.
Events are held every year from the Thursday
before Labor Day through the weekend, culminating in the parade
on Labor Day itself which is always the first Monday in
September. The parade now proceeds from Utica Avenue along
Eastern Parkway to Grand Army Plaza. Highlights include a steel
band competition, a Dimanche Gras (Fat Sunday) extravaganza and
a special Kiddie Carnival which runs from President Street to
the grounds of the Brooklyn Museum of Art on Carnival Saturday.
Carlos was blessed to be able to celebrate
fifty years of marriage until his wife, Hilary's
death in 2001. Carlos Lezama is survived by four grandchildren and a
growing brood of great grandchildren.
Carlos continued to be involved with his
life's greatest love "Carnival" as the Chairman Emeritus of
WIADCA till he passed.
Aside from its economic impact, the Carnival
is an assertion of pan-Caribbean culture, bringing together
people from different island nations under one umbrella, and
demonstrating to the rest of the world the power and vibrancy of
the peoples of the Caribbean. Politicians from within and
outside of the Caribbean community are keen to make their
presence felt in Brooklyn on Labor Day, a day to see and to be