Monday, September 5, 2011

West Indian American Day Parade features gospel concert to benefit Leiby Kletzky

Dressed in costume, Makeda Collymore, left, and others wait for the start of last year's West Indian-American Day Parade.

Dressed in costume, Makeda Collymore, left, and others wait for the start of last year's West Indian-American Day Parade.

New Yorkers with Caribbean heritage have been packing Brooklyn's streets for 43 years to celebrate the West IndianAmerican Day Parade.

But this year, organizers decided to add a religious element to the lineup - a gospel concert that featured calypso, hip hop and reggae with spiritual themes.

"We normally go for the party, but Caribbean people are people of faith," said the Rev. Caleb Buchanan of the Catholic Diocese of Brooklyn, who helped organize the event. "We wanted to showcase that."

The gospel concert was also intended to raise awareness and to prevent youth violence.

A chunk of the proceeds went to benefit the Leiby Kletzky Memorial Fund, set up in memory of the young Orthodox Jewish boy found butchered by a madman.

"We're a community that should be together, united and peaceful," said Yolanda Lezama-Clark, president of the West Indian-American Day Carnival Association.

"We saw that there was so much violence ... and we wanted to reach out that olive branch."

Flavia Edwards, a Rosedale, Queens, resident originally from the island of Dominica, said she came to the performance to hear good music and to show her religious devotion.

But Edwards said she took something else from it.

"We have to contribute to our community," she said. "It's important the kids get experience and hear music and get inspiration."

Cora Sandy of Canarsie, Brooklyn, said that the religious messages served as a reminder not to take anything for granted.

"Bringing gospel here is a very good thing," Sandy, 65, said. "People are interested in it and are thankful we're alive."

The 44th West Indian-American Day Parade will kick off Monday at 11 a.m. It will begin on Eastern Parkway and Schenectady Ave. and finish by 6 p.m. on Flatbush Ave. near Empire Blvd.

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