My carnival love story started with Atlanta-Dekalb carnival back in 2015. Every year, I look forward to returning “home” to pay homage to the event that literally transformed by life. Over the years, there have been issues with some bands, and every year there has always been shit-talking among the rivaling associations. Yes, there are two “Atlanta” carnivals, and it has been that way since I started.
On May 10th, it was announced that 6 major bands had left Atlanta-Dekalb carnival and moved to the original downtown Atlanta parade. Citing a reduction in allowed music and ancillary trucks on the road, several bands needed to merge together to make things work. I did an interview with Chigga, the president of the ACBC, who reassured that there would still be a great experience to be had by all, and was impressed that this complication spoke to how much the event has grown. I was optimistic.
What happened this year was beyond egregious.
I heard rumblings of a cancelled carnival from reliable sources, but chose to wait to say anything until official word was received. It wasn’t until after 11pm that evening that the ACBC announced the Atlanta-Dekalb carnival parade was cancelled, citing their permits had not yet been signed, and that Dekalb police could not hire enough people to cover the event.
Last minute move to downtown.
I contacted the band leader, who said they were working to figure out if they could go downtown. Around 7am, I saw an IG post notifying us of the move. I slept like a mummy to preserve the makeup from the night prior, and headed downtown around 9:30 to secure good parking. I will discuss my road experience later.
The following day, rumblings of news articles and media coverage surfaced regarding the mess left in the downtown carnival village, along with complaints from the neighborhood as masqueraders urinated on their property.
Patricia Henry, the leader of downtown Atlanta Carnival, pointed fault to the Atlanta Dekalb revelers that came downtown.
It should be noted that not all bands were able to join the downtown parade. It should also be noted that the community was not notified that were were coming through. Most importantly, it should be highlighted that downtown Atlanta’s parade route was changed days before their parade
It's the lack of accountability that makes me angry.
The ACBC knew one week before their permits were not approved. They blamed the Dekalb County police department the night before the parade.
Instead of taking responsibility for failing to notify the local community and ensuring proper staffing for trash cleanup, the downtown event president pointed fingers to Dekalb revelers.
I believe a leadership change MUST happen if we want to see Carnival in Atalnta next year…. BOTH associations.
I know the outcome is not my fault. My coverage of the Atlanta Carnivals was out of pure love, and was in no way sponsored. And yet, I feel responsible because I cherish my influence. As a military professional, a leader, I’m used to taking responsibility for things that are not in my control. This is something that I will continue to struggle with for some time to come. This is definitely not my cross to bear.
It breaks my heart knowing that I will be sitting out future events for some time. As always, I will always root/cheer for every Carnival event out there. Successful events mean everyday people will fall in love with Carnival, like I once did. And so, I’ll be patiently waiting and watching to see when I can come “home” again.