Saturday, August 1, 2015

Slow Saturday Special: Joyless J’ouvert

"Caribbean fest’s parade shortened; After woman was killed in crossfire last year, officials cut route of J’ouvert celebration" by Evan Allen Globe Staff  July 25, 2015

Wiley Shipman and Shaquille Crawford used to love J’ouvert, the wild celebration of daybreak held each year to kick off Boston’s Caribbean Carnival festival. Revelers often party all night, and as the sun rises, they don elaborate costumes, coat themselves with oil, paint, and colored powder, and dance down Blue Hill Avenue.

But in recent years, the brothers said, they stopped going because J’ouvert had grown dangerous, with gang members trying to make a name for themselves or settle scores. Last year, Crawford watched in horror as Dawnn Jaffier, 26, crumpled to the pavement with a fatal head wound after she got caught in a gunfight between two gang members.

RelatedThe last hours of Dawnn Jaffier

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At bottom it was still a fun time for all.

“A lot of stuff isn’t worth it if you value your life,” Shipman said.

Well, there is that.

This year, after an outcry from neighbors, elected officials, and the Boston Police Department nearly led to the cancellation of the festivities, J’ouvert will be cut nearly in half in an effort to contain what authorities say had become a chaotic and unpredictable event.

“It’s one reason and one reason only: public safety,” said Police Commissioner William Evans. “J’ouvert has outgrown its size and our ability to make sure it goes off safely. I’m not about being the anti-fun type guy. But I’m concerned about the children.”

In the past, the celebration has stretched from Morton Street to Columbia Road and lasted for about four hours. This year, organizers say, it will start on Talbot Avenue — just about the halfway point on the old route. It will be held Aug. 29.

“I personally feel that having the J’ouvert, it’s a privilege, it’s not a right,” said Shirley Shillingford, president of the Caribbean American Carnival Association of Boston Inc., which organizes the Caribbean festival and this year will run J’ouvert. “We have to do everything in our power to make it safe, and also to be understanding to the community.”

When J’ouvert began more than 20 years ago, said one of its founders, Andre Modestee, it was during a “crazy” period in the city, when attendance at the Carnival celebration was dropping in part because of high crime.

The J’ouvert celebration was intended to bring people back, he said.

The parade, he said, is part of a rich and joyful tradition.

“A lot of people come from everywhere for this celebration,” said Modestee. “For you to really know what’s going on, you have to see the madness: How people can be celebrating early in the morning. The music. Everything.”

Modestee said he was upset that the route was cut.

“We’re being picked on,” he said. “This is people having fun. We deserve to have fun because we’re taxpayers of the Commonwealth.”

Where did you ever get that idea?

Officials, however, said that residents have complained for years about the celebration because of the rowdy crowds it drew.

“People were literally urinating in people’s yards, making a lot of noise,” said state Representative Russell E. Holmes, who represents the neighborhood where J’ouvert is celebrated and who helped create the new rules.

Hey, that's AmeriKa!

Residents, he said, “were very bothered by the assembling of people doing nothing in the neighborhood.”

And after drinking all night, woooooo!

But the final straw was the death of Jaffier just after 8 a.m. on Aug. 23, 2014. Two men have been indicted on murder charges for engaging in the gunfire that sent bullets flying through the crowded street; the shots hit Jaffier and another woman several blocks away. The second woman survived.

Police statistics show flare-ups in crime in the city each year on the weekend J’ouvert is celebrated. Last year, there were eight nonfatal shootings, six nonfatal stabbings, and one homicide — of Jaffier. While 2012 and 2013 were quieter, 2011 saw two homicides, 15 nonfatal stabbings, and three nonfatal shootings; 2010 saw four homicides, four nonfatal stabbings, and four nonfatal shootings.

Evans said much of the trouble arises because of the all-night party that precedes J’ouvert, during which celebrants are out in the neighborhood drinking.

But Shillingford said it was unfair to assert that J’ouvert was responsible for the violence. She pointed out that Jaffier was shot blocks away from the celebration.

“When it comes to the shooting or stabbing, it happens every day in the city,” she said. “J’ouvert didn’t make it happen. But my experience is that people tend to blame everything that happens around that time on J’ouvert.”

That is certainly true.

Officials said there would be no changes made to the afternoon Carnival event, which they said was safe, family-friendly, well-organized and fun.

Out on Blue Hill Avenue, reactions to the news that J’ouvert will be shortened was mixed.

“It doesn’t make any sense to me,” said Nora Ambrose, as she waited for her bus. “It’s people enjoying themselves for one day, it’s not like a week.”

But some who said they were sorry to see the event shortened also understood why officials had to act.

In the area where Jaffier was killed, flowers and a T-shirt still mark the spot where she fell, and opposition to J’ouvert was strong.

“Young kids, they start drinking, they have access to weapons. It’s a recipe for disaster,” said Ronald Boudreaux, 46, as he walked from his home past the small shrine. The shooting last year, he said, was tragic but not surprising.

“It’ll happen again this year, mark my words,” he said. “Maybe they should just cancel it and have a memorial to the people who died in past years.”


Related: Pitching Pedro

"Jurors deliberate defamation suit targeting Maine activist" by David Sharp Associated Press  July 24, 2015

PORTLAND, Maine — A lawyer for a Haiti orphanage founder on Thursday likened a Maine activist to a cyberbully and vigilante whose reckless accusations of child sexual abuse ruined the man’s reputation and cost a charity several million dollars in donations.

The lawyer for activist Paul Kendrick told jurors hearing the defamation lawsuit that they would have to ignore the testimony of seven accusers in order to award damages.

The jury began deliberations Thursday after hearing closing arguments in the suit brought by Michael Geilenfeld, founder of St. Joseph’s Home for Boys in Port au Prince, and a US charity, Hearts with Haiti, which funded the orphanage.

Geilenfeld’s lawyer, Peter DeTroy, told jurors that Kendrick was out to ruin Geilenfeld from the beginning by publicizing unsubstantiated claims.

‘‘He has one goal: ‘I’m going to destroy you. I’m going to bring you down. I’m going to put you in prison.’ And he did,’’ DeTroy told jurors.

Kendrick, an activist for sexual abuse victims, launched a campaign in late 2011 in which he sent out e-mail blasts to hundreds of people accusing Geilenfeld of being a serial pedophile and Raleigh, N.C.-based Hearts with Haiti of refusing to do anything about him.

DeTroy likened the accusations to an indiscriminate Scud missile attack that rewrote the adage, ‘‘The pen is mightier than the sword.’’

‘‘The computer keyboard is a lot mightier than the pen and the sword,’’ he told jurors. Falsehoods spread via electronic communication ‘‘can eviscerate one’s reputation,’’ he said.

Kendrick, 65, of Freeport, helped to form the state chapter of lay group Voice of the Faithful at the height of the clergy sex-abuse crisis that rocked the Roman Catholic Church.

He is known for dogged, in-your-face tactics.

Geilenfeld contends Kendrick’s accusations caused him to be falsely imprisoned for 237 days and cost Hearts with Haiti $2 million in donations.

He was released from jail in Haiti in April after a judge cleared him of criminal charges in a one-day trial.

Haiti’s justice minister has said the verdict was improper, and lawyers for the accusers are appealing.


The sad truth is many of the adoption and child welfare organizations have shown to be nothing but covers for elite pedophile ring procurement.