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Everything you need to know about J’ouvert, Brooklyn’s sunrise parade

Written by
Clayton Guse

In the wee hours of Labor Day, the annual J’ouvert parade will return to Brooklyn, bringing with it a celebration unlike any other in New York City. The early morning festivities are central to the culture of many of the Caribbean communities that inhabit the borough. In recent years, violence has cast a shadow over the pre-dawn celebration, but this year organizers have made a slate of changes aimed at improving safety along its route.

RECOMMENDED: A complete guide to the West Indian Day Parade

Here's what you need to know about this years J’ouvert:

What is J’ouvert?

The term J’ouvert is derived from the French word “jour” (day) and “ouvert” (open). In New York, the parade takes place in the early hours before the afternoon's West Indian Day Parade. The celebration typically marks the start of Carnival and is observed in cultures throughout the Caribbean. Central Brooklyn is filled with communities comprised of Caribbean ex-pats, so J’ouvert isn't your typical parade—it's a declaration of cultural identity for the many residents in the area.

When does it happen?

In previous years, J’ouvert has kicked off at 4am, but after a few of violent outbursts in recent years, organizers have pushed back the start time to 6am (which is just before sunrise). Don't think that the crack of dawn commencement deters crowds, though. Hundreds of thousands of people turn out for the event, so you're going to want to arrive early if you want to find a prime viewing location.

Where can I check it out?

The parade will begin at Grand Army Plaza and head south down Flatbush Avenue along Prospect Park. From there, it'll head east on Empire Boulevard, turn south on Nostrand Avenue and end at Midwood Street. We put together this handy interactive map for your viewing pleasure:

What are these improved safety measures you speak of?

Aside from pushing back the start time by two hours, the NYPD and Brooklyn borough president Eric Adams have made a few changes aimed at keeping everyone safe at J’ouvert. Unlike previous editions, this year's parade is officially permitted by the NYPD and has a route that has been approved by the city. The route will be closed to the public beginning at 11pm on Sunday night until the parade kicks off. Police will also be adding security checkpoints not unlike those found in Times Square on New Year's Eve. In order to enter, attendees must first pass through one of 12 checkpoints along the route, where they will be screened for prohibited items. 

Last year, the NYPD doubled the number of police officers at the parade compared to previous years, but two people were killed at the event. 

“[J’ouvert] is an event that is very important to the community, and about a quarter million people came," Mayor Bill de Blasio said in a press conference following last year's shootings, “but we are going to look at every conceivable way to make it safer.”

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