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September 08, 2019

J’Ouvert Fest: Remembering Tiarah Poyau Killed for Saying No to Man at NY Street Party in 2016

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In one swift moment, a day set aside for celebrations turned to a sour reminder of the worst form of tragedy for the family and friends of Tiarah Poyau, a victim of senseless violence. 

The J'Ouvert festival is a long-time tradition of Carribean natives. Parties are held across the streets all over the Carribean islands, and anywhere else the good people of The Carribean decide to come together, like in New York.

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The first J'Ouvert carnival in New York took place on September 1, on Lenox Avenue, and it's been an annual occurrence ever since. Dancing, drinking, loud music and costumes become the order of the day.

However, on the 5th day in September 2016, tragedy struck at a street part in Crown Heights. Reginald Moise, a party animal, made advances towards Tiarah, aged 22; she reportedly yelled "get off me" as he tried to grind on her.

It was at this point that Reginald pulled his weapon and shot Tiarah in the head. Tiarah had a long life ahead of her with a bright future.

She was a graduate student at the St. John College, pursuing a masters degree in accounting. She also had a job waiting for her at PriceWaterhouseCoopers, having interned there in the past. 

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Tiarah's mum and aunt testified in court to their pain and irreparable loss in an effort to secure a conviction. 

"J'Ouvert is a festival that is supposed to be about peace and love and [Moise] turned it into a nightmare," said Vertina Brown, Poyau's mother.

Talking about Tiarah's career and education, Vertina further stated that, " she [Tiarah] will never spend one day enjoying the life that she worked so hard for" 

"I sort of brushed her hair away from her forehead, and that's when I saw a small little bullet hole in her temple. I have lost count of how many times I have relived that image," Tiarah's aunt said. 

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Reginald Moise also apologized for the pain he caused the family, saying "I'm sorry… for your loss and what y' all going through." 

"This is the most tragic case I've ever come across. In one selfish act of idiocy, you destroyed the incredibly bright future of a promising young woman," said Supreme Court Justice Donald Leo.

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Reginald's drunken state at the time of the crime and his statement to the police that he had no recollection of the crime played a role in his somewhat favorable sentencing.  He was found not guilty of murder and manslaughter and was instead convicted of criminally negligent homicide and unlawful possession of a weapon. He was sentenced to 17 years and four months in prison.

Tiarah's death wasn't the only tragedy that struck on the day of the carnival in 2016. A 17-year-old, Tyreke Borel was also shot and killed that night.

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J'Ouvert carnival is here again! #SayNoToGunViolence

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