haitian music parties, covid parties
A flier advertising an upcoming party. COVID-19 measures required appear in fine print. Photo by Garry Pierre-Pierre

Since January dawned, many people have felt a sense that Covid-19 is behind us, that we should throw out wearing masks and following social distancing guidelines. While the U.S. has been making strides in inoculating people at a fast clip, we’re not out of the woods yet. 

On Wednesday, officials released data showing that New York, Michigan, Florida, Pennsylvania and New Jersey had more than 196,400 of the country’s 453,360 cases reported in the prior week. Meaning that three out of the four states – New York, New Jersey, Florida – are home to the largest Haitian communities in the United States.

That’s not good news at all. 

Imagine how astounded I was to find out that promoters have been holding parties with hundreds of people in attendance, most of whom are presumably not wearing masks or practicing social distancing measures. These events are basically superspreaders that will provide fuel to the Covid-19 fire still raging. 

Easter Weekend is traditionally a boon for the Haitian Music Industry and despite the pandemic, parties were held last week. Although low key, words began circulating through the community. On Saturday, many people I spoke to in Brooklyn were worried about these parties and the impact they will have in combating the spread of the coronavirus. 

Some were even hoping that the authorities would get wind of the party and monitor the crowd to ensure that the club was compliant. 

As I strolled along Flatbush Ave, dotted with Caribbean restaurants of all stripes, I found a flyer advertising another party for April 17, featuring the band, Disip, at Bentley’s night club in Brooklyn. Vaval, a well-known media personality, is hosting the “anniversary gala.”

In the fine print, the promoters tell the public that the party has limited capacity. However, I’m sure following social distancing guidelines is the least of the promoter’s concerns. 

Under Governor Cuomo’s orders, venues are allowed to host up to 100 people indoors and up to 200 people outdoors. Social distance and face coverings are required.

It’s been a tough year for all of us and I understand the urge to go out and party. The people are restless; promoters and musicians have been in dire financial straits. Club owners are hurting. 

But hold tight, party people. We’re almost there. 

Parties are high risk, with low reward

If we want to be honest, the music industry was not a lucrative endeavor even during the best of times, recently. Things went south back in 2007 as the country was going through an economic recession. Back then, for a party to be financially successful, you needed to pack at least 800 people inside a venue to cover expenses. If there were more than two bands playing, it’d be a wipeout.

This is not the moment to flaunt the rules that will set back the progress we’ve made against this deadly invisible adversary.  Besides, these parties are lose-lose enterprises. The promoters lose money and put people’s lives at risk in the process. 

So I want to reiterate: Covid-19 is not over. Just a few weeks ago, the wife of a prominent member of the Association of Haitian Physicians Abroad died from complications from the disease. A friend contracted Covid-19 and was in bad shape. 

We are making inroads but lately we’ve been sliding back a bit. That is dangerous according to health experts and scientists. 

To make matters worse, there is deep reluctance to take the vaccine among Haitians. I have become a sort of vaccine evangelist urging everyone I meet to take the vaccine. 

Unfortunately, I found that too many people I try to proselytize are timid, reluctant and some are defiant, vowing not to take the vaccine. To my amazement, such attitudes are common among some health care workers.

A year ago, the community was shaken and afraid. We bore the brunt of the disease because we are overrepresented in the medical field and the other essential workplaces. I’m still feeling the emotional impact of having to write and publish stories about so much death and destruction. It was macabre, but essential.

We felt strongly that we have to chronicle this historical moment so that we can remember how real this pandemic has been and the toll it had on us. It also shed some light on our attitude vis-à-vis Covid-19 and  how that impacted our response. 

I urge you promoters to be smart and follow the science. The money is not there right now. Come summer, we can party like it’s 2022.

Garry Pierre-Pierre is a Pulitzer-prize winning, multimedia and entrepreneurial journalist. In 1999, he left the New York Times to launch the Haitian Times, a New York-based English-language publication serving the Haitian Diaspora. He is also the co-founder of the City University Graduate School of Journalism‘s Center for Community and Ethnic Media and a senior producer at CUNY TV.

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