New York Haitian Heritage Parade
Illustration by Go West Now

Overview:

A recap of key developments in the Manhattan Haitian Heritage Parade that led to the fight for control between organizers.

BROOKLYN—The lawsuit that put a stop to planning for the NYC Haitian Heritage Parade held in Manhattan stems from disagreements that began brewing even before the inaugural event kicked off in June 2023. According to the legal complaint and supporting documents filed in New York State Supreme Court, here’s how the matter went from a coordinated show of Haitian unity to a legal battle.

Attorney Emmanuel Depas – who is representing defendants Jensen Desrosiers, Glenda Elie and Stephanie Pierre – said and his co-counsel Wilson Antoine are committed to ensuring that the 2024 parade actually takes place as scheduled for June 1.

“We want the parade to go on for the culture,” Depas told Go West Now on Monday.

It was not immediately clear who is representing the other defendants – Little Haiti BK, Jackson Rockingster and Gerard Cadet.


Parade idea floated

2017 – Haitian Flag Day Parade created

Lionel Lamarre creates the Haitian Flag Day Parade (HDP) to support Haitians and cultivate Haitian culture around New York City. 

2018 – Discussions begin about organizing the parade with city officials Lamarre meets with Eric Adams, then the Brooklyn Borough President, to discuss establishing the parade.

2020 – Eric Adams is elected mayor

The former Brooklyn Borough President is elected Mayor of New York City.

Parade organization & team formed  

July-November 2022 Application filed for nonprofit status

Haitian Day Parade Inc. applies for and receives 501(c)3 nonprofit status. Planning begins, with Lamarre covering all expenses, according to Lamarre in court filings.

July 2022Meeting held with the Mayor’s office

The planning team goes to the Mayor’s Office to apply for a permit to hold the parade on Fifth Avenue in Manhattan. At the meeting are:

August 2022Appointments made

Lamarre appoints Elie as secretary of HDP and Desrosiers as Vice Chair.

Parade planning begins, vendors hired 

September 2022 Between $20,000 and $30,000 sponsorship promised Lamarre meets with Jackson Rockingster, executive director of Little Haiti BK, to seek sponsorship.

  • Rockingster, who at the time led Little Haiti BK along with its Vice Chair Gerard Cadet, agreed to provide sponsorship of $20,000 or $30,000. It is not yet clear why the court documents list two different amounts in separate instances.
  • Lamarre also contracted with Little Haiti BK to help provide costumes, floats, sound, light and staging for the parade.

October 2022Application for permits filed

Debbie Louis submits the permit application. She is listed in court documents as both the parade director and executive director of the Haitian Day Parade board, but Louis recently wrote to Go West Now saying she was never in these roles.

December 2022 Lamarre falls ill

Lamarre becomes ill and is hospitalized, according to the suit.  

Some time in 2022, Lamarre and HDP rented space from Desrosiers for $4,500 for production activities. However, Lamarre alleges, Desrosiers refused to let them use the space. Lamarre then turned to Rockingster for space, paying him rent monthly. 

Inaugural parade produced & executed   

January 2023Meeting held with Brooklyn Museum

Pierre arranges a meeting with the Brooklyn Museum about having Josué perform there, with Lamarre “[assuring]” Josué would.

February 2023 Meeting held to discuss parade route

Mayor’s Office holds a Zoom meeting to discuss the parade route. In attendance are Bichotte Hermelyn, Elie, Desrosiers, Debbie Louis and [Mahadya] Mary, listed in court documents as the organization’s treasurer. 

March 2023 Permit granted. Allegations of sabotage begin

  • The city grants a permit for the parade to be held on June 3 along Central Park West.
  • According to Lamarre, Elie begins to sabotage the parade by failing at duties such as sending letters to Senator Chuck Schumer’s office to help expedite Josué’s visa from Haiti.

June 2023 Parade is held

The parade is held on June 3, 2023, with Adams and Councilmember Farah Louis among leaders of the procession. 

Claims made over money allegedly owed

  • Soon after the parade, Pierre said she and her company are owed money, according to Lamarre.
  • Lamarre alleges in court that “In retaliation for allegedly not paying TMP’s entire bill, TMP has claimed to have an equity interest in HDP.”
  • Pierre & TMP claimed ownership of HDP’s website and domain, as well as over images, trademarks and other intellectual property belonging to Lamarre and his company.

Reimbursement scheme allegations emerge

June 2023Assemblywoman decides to allocate funds

Bichotte Hermelyn announces she will allocate funds to cover the 2023 parade’s expenses, which Lamarre says in court papers amounted to more than $500,000.

  • Elie and Desrosiers meet with Bichotte Hermelyn to discuss the funds.
  • Elie allegedly said her company, Elie Enterprises, was due the money because Desrosiers’ company, JD & Associates Global, and the Melanin Project were her vendors.
  • Elie and Desrosiers then asked Lamarre for invoices and receipts Lamarre had accumulated, allegedly to pass off as their own expenses for reimbursement.

Permit filing & museum show disagreements unveiled

July 2023Little Haiti BK submits application for 2024 edition of parade

Elie and Little Haiti BK submit a permit application to hold the 2024 parade, using HDP’s information and permit number without Lamarre’s knowledge.

August 2023Brooklyn Museum performance held

Erol Josué Presents Pèlerinaj” held August 5, with the museum describing the event as a partnership with The Melanin Project. “Instead of promoting HDP, TMP and Pierre made not [sic] mention of HDP and solely promoted her own company and business in breach of their agreement,” Lamarre’s suit states.    

November 2023 Lamarre submits application for 2024 edition of parade Lamarre goes to file his permit for the 2024 parade to be held June 1.

December 2023Assemblymember steps in again    

  • NYPD emails Lamarre saying that Elie Enterprises and Little Haiti BK had already submitted an application, using the HDP name and permit number.
  • Bichotte Hermelyn emails the NYPD saying Elie is the proper owner of the 2024 permit. 

Lawsuit filed, 2024 planning interrupted

January 2024Elie and Desrosiers accuse Lamarre

The couple hosts a Zoom meeting where they said falsely that Lamarre had “committed a felonious act for which he may be arrested,” according to Lamarre. 

March 2024 Lawsuit filed

Lamarre files the initial complaint accusing the former collaborators of trying to “steal” the parade. He lists several counts – including conversion, breach of contract, breach of good faith and fair dealing, breach of fiduciary duty, tortious interference with prospective business relations, slander – depending on Lamarre’s accusations against each party.

April 2024Lamarre requests emergency action

On April 11, Lamarre’s attorney files for an emergency injunction to stop planning for the 2024 parade until the ownership can be worked out.

May 2024 Court hearing scheduled

Parties due go to court to argue who rightfully owns the permit for the 2024 parade.


Sources: New York State Supreme Court, HAITIAN FLAG DAY PARADE INC. et al vs. ELIE, GLENDA et al.

Macollvie J. Neel, a writer and communications consultant, serves as executive editor of Go West Now. Her company Comms Maven LLC helps mission-driven professionals and organizations tell their stories in workplaces and media spaces. Her professional development ebook — Scripts for Success: Workplace Communication Templates to Advance Your Career — is available on Bookboon.

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1 Comment

  1. Why's should they celebrate Haiti days my folks black Americans people help build this country my slave relations helped build this country not them we don't have a day or months go back to Haiti and take care there's country

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