The last weekend of one of the hottest summers in the city closed out with a festive celebration of African American culture and contribution in Harlem USA. Billed as the largest Black Parade in the Nation, it certainly lived up to the hype. It’s also becoming one of the longest parades rivaling St. Patrick’s, the Puerto Rican, and West Indian parades. It’s becoming larger with groups coming in from 12 states and more community groups getting involved. One thing was clearly evident in the grand celebration of the 46th annual event…everyone brought their A game to the parade. Starting with the lead marching band from Lincoln University of Pennsylvania as they set the tone for what would be a day of fun, sharing knowledge, activism, music and some great steppers. After parade dignitaries and VIPs made their way to the reviewing stand on 125th St and Adam Clayton Powell Jr. Blvd., current and former politicians including former Mayor Dinkins and Rep. Charles Rangel drove up the parade route. Mayor de Blasio was well received mostly because of his effort to increase affordable housing and push for income equality…issues that have impacted the African American community deeply. Activists and community groups were in abundance as recent events directed against defenseless African Americans by police has galvanized the community to help bring about change. The Black Lives Matter group had gathered a large presence for this years parade and news of upcoming activist events and protests were let known. Sorority groups displayed posters proclaiming their allegiance with Sandra Bland. An Islam group sponsored by Majid Malcom Shabbaz had a few floats with large images of iconic figures that gave selflessly in the struggle for freedom and equality. They also had a funk band that played some hot tunes from the Godfather of Soul, James Brown. They got the crowd worked up.
Icons of the Community
Marching Cobras Show How It’s Done
Marcher In Training
One of the many marching bands to march up the parade route were the newcomers from Milford Mills in Baltimore, Md. They were sharp with their green uniforms and lots of high energy. The first of the many marching units from Baltimore brought their style to the parade. The Christian Warriors thrilled the crowd with their moves. They were just warming things up for some of the larger marching units including the striking local Marching Cobras. One group that made the biggest impression was a large group representing the United Nuwaupian Nation, an ancient Egyptian order based in Brooklyn. They dressed in traditional costume and presented a traditional dance at the reviewing stand. Soon after several marching units from Baltimore tore it up with their high stepping and loud drums. Dream Nation got things moving with their high energy. The Baltimore Entertainers followed up with their own style but not far behind was the sassy Baltimore All-Stars. Near the close of the parade was the Baltimore Go-Getters and that they did with one the more impressive shows for the crowd to really get into. It was a great time for anyone to come up to Harlem and celebrate in grand style.
Queen of the Parade
The scorching heatwave could not stop over 1 million people from lining up the parade route on Eastern Parkway in Brooklyn where the smells of spicy foods made you feel as though you were on the shores of Kingston, Jamaica or Barbados or Trinidad. As hot as it was, the beach would have been a suitable alternative but the asphalt and cement of Brooklyn played host to the 48th annual West Indian Day Parade. A loud celebration of culture, tradition and lots of colorful costumes. As usual the first hour of the long parade is held mostly by local politicians including Gov. Andrew Cuomo ,NYC Mayor DeBlasio, City Council members and parade dignitaries and VIPs. Soon after the politicians shook hands, community groups and activists displayed messages to help raise awareness of social issues impacting their community. Brooklyn is home to one of the largest West Indian community in the US. A group of activists marched with large banners denouncing the recent immigration laws in the Dominican Republic that discriminate against Haitians. Another group pushed for anti- gentrification of Brooklyn while another group displayed photos of people murdered at the hands of police. A group from Dominica really got the crowd worked up with a lively drum band. The groups representation was less than anticipated because of the damage done by Hurricane Erika. After a local religious group sang their songs of praise to the revelers, all hell broke loose.
Dominica Visits the Parade
Queen from Massachusetts
The first of 40 tractor trailers with monster speakers got the crowd worked up with lots of soca and dance music. It really felt like Carnival. Many masqueraders dressed in their group theme with some amazing costumes that left very little to the imagination. That beach scene was relived all over again. One group from Massachusetts displayed an all white costumes and the king and queen were quite impressive. A smaller group, The Immortals, had some good fast music going for everyone to dance to. A similar group, 500 Strong, had some of the best dancers. One large group, Kaois Mas, really had some energetic masqueraders and great costumes. But they were really getting things warmed up for another large group that won prizes for Queen of the Parade. Sesame Carnival with an Egyptian Royal theme really had a leg up on the rest of the competition. Their performance to the judges was quite extraordinary. For some reason the pace of the parade was slower than in previous years and the gaps were plentiful this time around. Aside for a few police matters, the parade was a smashing success.