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Editor / Publisher Jennifer Parker Staff Writers Jennifer Ffrench Parker Ken Watts Graphic Design Curtis Parker Assistant Editor Brenda Yarbrough Front Office Manager Catherine Guy Circulation Manager Jami Ffrench-Parker

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May 30, 2015

Thousands of people from the Caribbean call DeKalb home. The Carnival was an exhibition of their culture.

County dropped the ball with Carnival trash Jennifer Parker (in white) poses with paraders at the Caribbean Carnival on Covington Highway on May 23 when it came to DeKalb for the first time.

As I See It Jennifer Parker

On May 23, I went to Carnival. Yes I did, and I didn’t even have to fly to New York City, or Toronto, or Trinidad, or Rio de Janeiro. I didn’t even have to drive to the city of Atlanta. I just went up to Covington Highway in Decatur. And what a spectacular event it was. Big bodacious costumes, the colors of the rainbow were everywhere. Bodies of all shapes and sizes gyrated to the strains of the pan. It was a sight for sore eyes, music to the ear, and balm to the spirit. Everybody was having a good time because that is what a Caribbean Carnival does to people. Spectators were snapping photos or dancing along on the sidewalks. I even saw a DeKalb Police officer taking photos or a video with his cell phone. Joycelyn Dorsey from the Greater Towers Community grabbed my arms as I walked by to tell me how happy she was to see Carnival on Covington Highway. DeKalb Sheriff Jeffrey Mann was glad he brought his lawn chair so he could sit through the fourand-a-half-hour parade. Yes, that is how long it took 7,000 people to dance their way to the festival village across from the MARTA station. For a moment I couldn’t believe I was in DeKalb County. Then I tried to find a trash can for an empty water bottle and reality set in pretty quickly. The Atlanta Carnival Bandleaders Council brought thousands of people – including tourists from as far away as New York City – to DeKalb County, but DeKalb Sanitation and its Keep DeKalb Beautiful arm had not bothered to line the parade route with trash cans or recycling bins. So the 7,000 paraders and the estimated 8,000 people who lined Covington Highway had nowhere to put their trash. It was a sunny day and, of course, everyone was guzzling water and soda. Being the upstanding citizen that I am, I crushed my bottles and stuffed them in my pocketbook. But after quenching their thirst, the paraders, dancing down the streets in large headdresses and tiny bikinis, had nowhere to store their bottles. The spectators too tried not to litter, but with nary a trash can in sight, they had no choice. A lone trash can at a MARTA bus stop filled and overflowed. Someone tied up some trash in grocery store plastic bags, and to no one’s surprise, the waves of people left empty plastic water bottles in their wake.

Jami Ffrench-Parker / CrossRoadsNews

With no trash or recycling bins along the parade route, spectators did the best they could. Some wrapped their trash in grocery bags at left.

Jennifer Ffrench Parker / CrossRoadsNews

Once again, I was left asking – why DeKalb? Did DeKalb County not understand what was coming? Yes they did. Organizers told them that the parade alone would have 7,000 people. Did no one think that those people have friends and family members who would come to cheer them on? Did no one in the county understand that curious DeKalb citizens would want to see for themselves what Carnival was? Did no one in the county know that large numbers of people generate large amounts of trash? Three days later on Tuesday, May 26, after the organizers were forced to hire a crew of 14 people to clean up the street, DeKalb Sanitation still had not hauled away the bags of trash sitting along the sidewalk and in the MARTA parking lot. Thousands of people from the Caribbean call DeKalb County home. The Carnival was an exhibition of some of their culture. Many of them are voters. I saw three elected officials at the event – DeKalb Commissioners Larry Johnson and Stan Watson,

who were parade grand marshalls – and Sheriff Mann, who was a spectator. The Carnival was a big boon to businesses along the parade route. The RaceTrac convenience store did a booming business. The line was through the door at the Roti House, at This Is It BBQ, and all the small shops along the route. County and state government got their share too from the sales taxes collected on all the drinks and food that were sold. Organizers paid for 43 DeKalb Police officers to man the parade route. So why didn’t the county ensure that its citizens and visitors had someplace to put their trash? After two days of going back and forth with Keep DeKalb Beautiful, ACBC President Charles Baker said that he finally just hired a private trash removal company on Wednesday to haul the trash away. Why didn’t DeKalb County have trucks to cart away the trash when the event was over? In New York City, where Carnival has been taking over Eastern Parkway for decades, city government moves in with street sweepers and trucks to haul away the trash

when the parade ends. They do the same in the city of Atlanta. That’s just what governments do to keep their cities and counties clean. Why can’t we do the same in DeKalb County? As a taxpaying citizen, when I go to a big event on county/city streets, I expect county/city services – including trash cans. And when the event is over, I expect trash to be hauled away. Is that asking too much? The Caribbean Carnival has the potential of becoming a destination event for DeKalb County. Organizers proved that on Saturday. Given all the bad news emanating daily from DeKalb, the Carnival was a breath of fresh air. With marketing, the DeKalb Convention and Visitors Bureau could fill hotels with visitors, restaurants could do booming business, and this could be an economic boon to the county. Besides, it’s about time that DeKalb begin to show that it is really the most diverse county in the state and that it embraces the cultures of all the people who call the county home. Of particular note, with the thousands of people who participated in, and who watched the parade, DeKalb Police spokeswoman Mekka Parish said that there was no incident of crime reported. By Sunday, organizers got complaints about the lingering trash. Some Avondale residents sent emails complaining about the loud music. The parade took twice as long as organizers estimated, but that and the music volume is something that can be fixed for next time. Does DeKalb have the will to do its part in making this event an annual success for the county? County press secretary Burke Brennan said Thursday that they underestimated the magnitude of the event. “It is something we regret,” he said. “We are going to learn from it for next year.” Jennifer Parker is the editor and publisher of CrossRoadsNews.

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