Archive | September, 2011

Hi Stepping It in Harlem

28 Sep

    In the shadow of the legendary Apollo Theater on 125th St., Rachel and I made our way to the second leg of the parade weekend for the 42nd annual African-American Day Parade. The parade is the largest Black Parade in America and celebrates achievement, education, and its many important contributions to American society. This years theme of working for unity, justice and economic empowerment couldn’t have been more timely as the tough economic times has hit the African-American community hardest. The parade route started at 111st St and Adam Clayton Powell Blvd. and ended at 136th St.  The Blvd. started filling up with revelers close to 1PM at the kickoff. After the Memorial Parade Board float made its way up, the Cheyney University Band from PA., the nation’s oldest historically Black institution of higher learning,  ushered in a day of marching and stepping and celebration.  Grand Marshalls stopped by the WBLS  radio station area on 125th St. where politicians and group organizers would address the crowd with uplifting and encouraging messages. Rev. Al Sharpton drew the largest attention while NYC comptroller John C. Lui was politicking for what could be a potential mayoral run.

    As the politicians made their remarks, the marchers were stalled and eager to march and show off their organization. One of the most impressive displays were Masjia Malcolm Shabazz holding large pictures of former leaders with pride and a reminder of the history and sacrifice made for the community. Things picked up and the parade flowed better while marchers passed by WBLS radio personality Bob Lee as he announced each group including the NY Police Guardian Association, the Baltimore Westsiders and Local Unions.  Then the high steppers from all parts of the country showed off their moves that made the crowd happy.

   

Kicking things off were the Temple Grand Drill Team from PA marching in precision followed by New Edition Baltimore Marching band adding their fresh style to the parade but not to be outdone by the Baltimore Entertainers. However, a show stealer came from Parks and Recreation group with a toddler girl who showed Bob Lee how she danced. The crowd loved it.

                             

     There was a break from the steppers as groups of marchers with educational and empowerment messages gave out pamphlets and raised banners of injustices. Various Masonic groups and Greek Orders from various colleges and universities marched as a sign of unity and strength. Many groups addressed the crowd to give positive messages to take home. Things picked up again when the Show Stoppers marched up style. A classy marching band was the group from marching band from Brooklyn representing Panama. Saving what could be the best for last were the Baltimore All Star Marchers. They impressed the crowd so much, some young gals were asking how they can join them. Closing the parade were the crowd pleasing Federation of Black Cowboys riding their well-trained horses and allowing children to pet them.

                             

Rachel and I met up towards the end of the parade and agreed this was one of better parades we had been to this year and had to stop by Amy Ruth’s for some authentic Southern style cooking. A fitting way to end a fun day in Harlem, USA.

For additional photos go to the  Photograph links on right under “African-American Parade”

Germans Raise Their Steins at the Steuben

27 Sep

    The end of summer usually brings a rush of energy for most as kids are getting ready for the new school year and teachers prepare for the new lessons. Unions and political groups assemble for the upcoming fundraisers and elections soon to come. A hint of fall is in the air as the inevitable change seasons is always an energetic and festive time.  Rachel and I made our way to 67th St. and 5th Ave. for the 54th annual German American Steuben Parade. This was the first of two parades featured this weekend so we would be busy. The parade attracts thousands of marchers from Germany and surrounding areas to celebrate and recognize the German contribution to both America and to New York City. The parade is named after General (Baron) Friedrich Wilhelm von Steuben of the Prussian Army in Germany, who was invited by Benjamin Franklin in 1777 to join General George Washington in training the Continental Army of the American Revolution.  The parade began with the dignitaries, VIPs, and Grand Marshalls including Travel Channel’s “Passport to Europe” host Ms. Samantha Brown making their way up to the 78th St. reviewing stands.  Rachel stayed there to take some great pictures of marchers on the red carpet. I walked a little further up to the Metropolitan Museum of Art where a larger crowd had gathered to revel in the largest German American event of its kind in the USA.  It was a treat to see German bands play their style of music as it different from most bands we had seen all year.

          

     Over 25 groups from Germany represented over 2000 marchers and some of the more notable ones included the traditional costumes of Zum Stammtisch and the Blaskapellen aus Bayeern marching band. Several floats made their way up 5th Ave. including the popular Hofbrau Munchen (trust me the beer was flowing) and the John Denver float where some of his biggest hits were sung by an entertainer. The local tri state area sent many representatives from youth soccer clubs to car clubs to marching bands. One local group that stood out was the Brooklyn Schuetzen Corp. We were all treated to a German choir, the Bremervoerder Choere, as they sang joyous songs for the crowd to join in with. A crowd pleaser came from Springerzug Herbstein with a lead man dressed as what appeared to be a court jester followed by dancing pairs of clowns.   The German American Societies of Westchester had traditional colonial army outfits and marched with steady precision.    In what can be described as the largest wooden horn this side of the Atlantic was blown by the Waterloo German band from St. Louis Missouri. The lead singer roused the crowd up with a popular oom-pah song then blew the horn and yelled Ricola. I swear I thought he was going to start tossing throat lozenges to everybody. One of the last groups was from Tirol in traditional German countryside outfits. The biggest crowd pleaser were the men with whips. As they cracked the whips firecrackers exploded much to the surprise of the crowd. Rachel and I met up with parade veteran Lee and her son William. She explained that this years parade seemed shorter and not as energetic as in previous years but did remind her of when her father used to bring her to the parades and now she’s passing the tradition to her son. All in all it was a cheerful event with many marchers heading to Central Park after the parade for Oktoberfest to tap open a keg of Hofbrau flown in from Munich just for the occasion. Now that’s what I call an imported beer.

For more photos go to the Photography links on the right under Stueben Parade

West Indians Raise Their Flags

12 Sep

 

  Labor Day in New York City has come to be known as Carnival time for the millions of West Indian immigrants. Since New York City is usually in the throes of winter during the real Carnival celebration, the end of summer celebration was designated as the better alternative.  Rachel and I were in Crown Heights, Brooklyn for the 44th annual West Indian Day Carnival. It’s a time for celebration, dance, music, costume, food, and passing of tradition. This year’s theme emphasized one Caribbean family. As soon as Rachel and I made our way to the start of the parade route, we could see things were getting busy as marchers were preparing to step out on Eastern Parkway near Utica Ave.  Vendors were asking us what country we were from to offer us a flag.  Rachel already had her Haiti bandana but managed to snag some cool matching Haiti earrings. I was on a mission to find a parade related T shirt so I made by way Rogers Ave. where I was amazed at all the variety of foods being offered from all the different islands.  The aroma of spices and meats and rices and roti filled the air on the slightly overcast day. It was easy to see this was going to a great celebration especially after the lousy rainy weather the last few weekends.   Even some knucklehead who decided to shoot his gun in the air couldn’t get in the way of the festive mood.

   

     The NYPD Marching Band were the first ones to step out on to the parade route. The Honorable Mayor Bloomberg soon followed with other VIPS ,city officials,  lovely the Miss Caribbean winner waving to the crowd.  Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz was on a float with the King of Calypso Mighty Sparrow as he sang the crowd favorite Salt Fish.  The parade revelers were treated to a special group when two groups from Dominica and Guadeloupe made their way down the parade route with their colorful costumes and lively dance. The Guadeloupe group flew in from the island just for this event and they were greeted with much love and respect from the crowd.  One of the parade sponsors, St. Theresa of Avila Roman Catholic Church, sang religious songs to bless the parade. Then all hell broke loose…

                            

     Carnival parade is one of a kind in New York. Most people wait for their country’s float to pass and then join in crowd in dance and celebration all the way to the end of the parade route and then can go back to the start and join in on another float. Large tractor-trailer trucks with monster speakers blasting everyone’s favorite soca music followed in a procession of masqueraders in costume with little material to show. Feathers were flying everywhere. The Warriors music float set the tone for loud music fun and sexy dancing.  Chocolate City had some of the best representation of masquerade dancers but the Indians some of the best costumes. The energy level just kept  getting higher and higher especially when Brasilia made their way up the parade route with a large following. The madness closed out with a float keeping with parade them… a dj was asking all the islanders to raise their flags when their country was called and then asked to wave it all together. It was a sight to see.

                       

     Rachel and I met up close to the end of the parade and we both couldn’t help but get caught up in all the fun and excitement. We both got swept away with the crowd a few times but it’s all part of the incredible experience know as Carnival in New York City.  Although there were a few police incidents throughout the day and there was tragic news reported later on that evening, the parade was a success and once again the West Indians proved they can parade with the best of New York. Move it to the left …move it the right…  kick it!!!

http://ireport.cnn.com/docs/DOC-669020

http://ireport.cnn.com/docs/DOC-669033

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