Feature stories

Island Pride

West Indian Day Parade led by Grand Marshal Mulgrew

Dave Sanders Scores of UFT members, many of them from the islands, turned out for the massive celebration of West Indian culture.
Dave Sanders Union members, including UFT Assistant Secretary Bob Astrowsky (right), astride the UFT float as it blasts calypso, dancehall and other distinctly Caribbean music.
Dave Sanders UFT President Michael Mulgrew is “pinned” with the red sash of a grand marshal at a pre-parade breakfast event.

Sights and sounds of the Caribbean dominated Brooklyn’s Eastern Parkway as the 44th annual West Indian American Day Carnival Parade, led by UFT President Michael Mulgrew, one of the parade’s grand marshals, marched by on Sept. 5.

Scores of UFTers were among the tens of thousands, dressed in colorful costumes, who marched in and lined the parade route from Rochester Avenue to Grand Army Plaza.

Mulgrew wore the red sash of a grand marshal, with which he was “pinned” at a private breakfast hosted by the West Indian American Day Carnival Association, the parade’s sponsoring organization, before the parade stepped off later that morning. He is the first UFT president to be recognized with this honor.

Addressing the breakfast attendees, including Mayor Michael Bloomberg, Gov. Andrew Cuomo and numerous other city and state politicians as well as various dignitaries from the islands, Mulgrew thanked the parade’s organizers for honoring him and promised the union’s continued support for the annual celebration.

“This is a great day,” Mulgrew said. “The reason the UFT has always and will always continue to support this event is because it is about the community and the diversity of the community.”

Marty Markowitz, the borough president of Brooklyn, the so-called “Caribbean capital of America,” generously praised Mulgrew and the UFT.

“Today, all you have to do is read the tabloids and you know they try to make unions look like the lowest,” the borough president said. “But if it hadn’t been for the UFT, education would have been starved of funding.”

Also swinging by the UFT float over the course of the day were elected officials including City Comptroller John Liu and Public Advocate Bill de Blasio.

Anthony Harmon, the UFT’s director of parent and community outreach, has organized the union’s participation in the parade for at least the last 10 years.

“The parade is a wonderful event that highlights the rich cultural contributions of our West Indian community,” he said of the annual event. “We were proud once again to not only be a sponsor but to have our president be a grand marshal.”

Decked out in a red UFT T-shirt made to mark the occasion, Jamaican-born Roderick Daley, a Spanish teacher at IS 340, marched alongside the union’s float.

“It shows our pride as a culture and our diversity, the same that’s reflected in the classroom, which makes our education more powerful,” Daley said of the celebration.

Also from the islands, Keith White, who was recruited from his native Trinidad and Tobago to teach in New York City public schools a decade ago, said he had come out to the parade in solidarity with 300 fellow Caribbean recruits who still have not received green cards 10 years after coming to the city.

“Some of them are being victimized by principals,” White said.

Paul Schickler, a teacher from an island of a different sort, Long Island, said he attended because most of his students at Brooklyn’s PS 181 are from the Caribbean or are the children of immigrants from the region.

“I’ve never been in the parade before,” the veteran educator said. “So even though I live close by, it’s a kick for me.”

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