The Steelband Raids

Has the City Declared War on the West Indian Carnival?

"I just opened your new firehouse," Clarke reminded the firefighter. Suddenly, he said, "We don't see a fire," and ordered his men to pull back. With elected officials like Clarke, Perry, Sampson, and Owens applying pressure, the steelband players were allowed back into the buildings temporarily.

On August 18, just as the cops promised, Department of Buildings inspector Anthony Carbone showed up at the premises. In the presence of the police, Carbone declared 670 Parkside Avenue "hazardous" due to a "failure to maintain [the] building." He found that the "roof joists at various locations [were] cracked and water-rotted." The roof itself was "collapsed in several locations." In his summons, Carbone recommended that the steelband players "make conditions safe immediately" and "upon completion [they were to] submit a letter of stability from a professional engineer." Despite the violations, Carbone declared that the building "essentially" was structurally sound, according to the players' complaint.

"Unfortunately for us, when the inspector came it was raining and the roof was indeed leaking," says Philip. "He gave us some time to pull out the instruments and then told the police to close us down. It would have been that or the instruments would be locked up in the building." Later that evening, a crew of building inspectors returned in the company of Chief Fox. The inspectors ordered the buildings vacated and again locked out the players.

Pan on the move: young steelband rebels defy police raids.
photos: Michael Sofronski
Pan on the move: young steelband rebels defy police raids.

"We brought in an engineer but then the landlord changed his rules," Philip charges. "He began to ask for rent, repairs, and liability insurance. Then he said he didn't want any activity in the building. He told me, 'We need our building.' He stacked the deck to make it impossible for us to do repairs." On August 21, the sanitation department hit the players with a $250 summons for having "steelband floats, steel drums, [and] wooden platforms . . . completely blocking [the] sidewalk." Says Philip, "We received at least three more citations."

A bewildered Philip wonders what will happen to the scores of young steelband players that he and others like Anthony Joseph and Anthony Trebuse mentor. "Nobody is helping us with transportation for these young people who we bring to this place every night," he sighs. "We don't get a dime in federal endowment monies."

Additional reporting: Amanda Ward

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