Community leaders call for peaceful celebration of J’ouvert

Suzanne Kreiter/Globe Staff

Carl Smith of the Branches Steel Orchestra worked with his drums in preparation for the festivities.

By Laura Crimaldi Globe Staff 

Hours after the carefree street party known as J’ouvert was interrupted by gunfire last year, Ian Jaffier appeared at a news conference with Boston police, holding a picture of his smiling daughter and pleading for help in solving her murder.

A year later, he has one wish for revelers participating Saturday in the daybreak celebration and afternoon parade for Boston’s Caribbean Carnival.


“Have a peaceful day,” Jaffier said Friday. “Leave the guns and knives at home.”

Jaffier’s 26-year-old daughter Dawnn had just stepped out of the J’ouvert procession around 8:17 a.m. on Aug. 23, 2014, when prosecutors say she got caught in a gunfight between two gang members and was fatally shot in the head on Blue Hill Avenue in Dorchester.

Two men have been indicted on first-degree murder charges for engaging in the gun battle that killed Dawnn Jaffier and grazed the leg of another woman.

She was recently remembered at the West End House Boys & Girls Club in Allston, where her life was celebrated with an event called “The Biggest Fun Ever!” As a child, Jaffier attended the club, and she later joined the staff.

“I can’t tell anybody how much pain I’m in,” Ian Jaffier said. “Every day is painful. I miss my daughter. I love my daughter and I don’t wish this on anybody else’s family.”


When J’ouvert commences early Saturday morning, partiers will face a host of new rules and a shortened route, stretching from Talbot Avenue to Franklin Park.

Suzanne Kreiter/Globe Staff

Marguerite Springer worked on the decorations for the Branches Steel Orchestra.

Boston Police Commissioner William B. Evans has said public safety was the reason for abbreviating J’ouvert, which some participants attend after partying all night.

Police said Friday that there will be increased patrols throughout the weekend, particularly along the routes of J’ouvert and the afternoon parade.

The new J’ouvert rules take into account public health and safety concerns and advice from city officials, according to the nonprofit Caribbean American Carnival Association of Boston Inc., which took over the event this year.

“It’s a Caribbean community event and it is open to everyone,” said Mary-dith Tuitt, the association’s recording secretary. “We have to think about the community, the safety, and health aspects.”

Some of the rowdier elements of J’ouvert like throwing paint and powder are off limits. Oil and chocolate, which some celebrants coat themselves with, are prohibited, as well as dogs and snakes, which some people have been known to bring.


Portable toilets will be available in three places along the procession route and the rules forbid participants from urinating in the streets and yards, a practice that had raised the ire of neighbors.

Organizers estimate up to 4,000 people may attend J’ouvert, Tuitt said. They have been spreading the word about the rules and shorter route on the association’s Facebook page and at community meetings, she said.

Reaction has been mixed, according to Tuitt. Some people have said they plan to boycott the event, she said.

“This is the first year and we’re asking everybody to help and support us to make sure we have a safe and successful day,” Tuitt said.

Carl Smith, the association’s vice president, said he was initially opposed to the shortened route, but later changed his mind.

“It’s not that short,” he said. The new route also passes more parking lots and parks, which will make the procession less disruptive to residents, Tuitt said.

Smith said Carnival Day should not be blamed for violence that has no connection to the festivities or its participants, but takes place during the hours of celebration.

“If something happens on Carnival Day, we get the blame and it’s unfair to us,” he said.

J’ouvert is scheduled to end at 10 a.m., and the Carnival Day parade is set to begin at 1 p.m. on Martin Luther King Boulevard in Roxbury and end at Franklin Park, organizers said. They said an estimated 600,000 people will visit the city to participate in the festivities.

“There will be a lot of security,” Smith said. “We are looking for a positive day from the beginning to the end.”

Boston police said officers will enforce laws around public drinking, open containers, and providing alcohol to minors. They advised people hosting parties along the route that they are responsible for their guests and should refrain from watching the processions from unsafe rooftops.

Police also warned revelers against fighting, throwing beverages, and destroying property.

Ian Jaffier said his daughter enjoyed attending the festivities because they honored her West Indian heritage.

He said carnival should be a time of celebration, not violence.

“If we could do more to get the guns off the streets that would help tremendously,” he said. “As a father, my heart is always going to be wounded. It’s just something that I have to live with.”

Suzanne Kreiter/Globe staff

Carl Smith of the Branches Steel Orchestra worked with his drums in preparation for the festivities.

Laura Crimaldi can be reached at
Follow her on Twitter @lauracrimaldi.