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!!!



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