Archive | September, 2012

Hi Steppers Show Some Swag In Harlem

19 Sep


      Technology is great when it can bridge the old and the new together. This past Sunday I was looking for parking in Harlem and I had my smartphone locked in Tune In Radio and playing it over the car speakers a little louder than normal. There’s a UK station, Stomp radio, that plays soulful house music that keep you moving. I was getting into a house groove when the I Have A Dream speech was laced over a new track. It couldn’t have been more fitting as I was getting ready for the 43rd annual African American Day Parade on Adam Clayton Powell Jr. Blvd.  I was born just a few days after the most famous speech of the 20th century and have always used it as a guiding principle. Walking over towards the parade route, I noticed the revitalization in pockets of Harlem but there’s still a long way to go…much like in this country. In the back of my mind, I wondered how Dr. King would have liked to see the community celebrate the culture, music and food. As always for this parade, those that have recently passed are remembered on a float with tombstones before the rest of the marchers make their way up the parade route to 133rd St. The crowd was then treated to the marching band from Cheney University, the nation’s oldest historically Black institution of higher education. This years parade Grand Marshalls included  David Paterson, David Dinkins,  Rev. Al Sharpton , Dr. Adelaide Sanford , Congressman Charles Rangel,  William Thompson and Lillian Roberts.

     One of the best things to see in this parade is the community all gets together to put out the word of constructive meaningful causes. Higher education, social services, voter registration, labor unions are all important in keeping the community together and helping to make a meaningful contribution. The Camden HS Marching Band helped the crowd get ready for the many groups of hi steppers from Baltimore, Maryland. Dynasty Marching Unit kicked it off but the were quickly outclassed by the Baltimore Westsiders Marching Band. Holding their own was some local talent in the Approaching Storm High Stepping Marching Band from Brooklyn.  One of the best treats came from the Local Union 11 99 SEIU float with guest band GQ playing some classic hits. The marchers showed their support for Barack Obama with creative tshirts and banners and often chanting 4 more years or  chanting Obama….Obama…Obama.  Doug E Fresh showed up on the turntables and get the crowd worked up. Many other high steppers arrived from Baltimore and locally. The Baltimore GoGetters were really good. Closing out the parade as they do every year was a treat for young and old alike. The black Cowboys and Cowgirls showed their horse tricks to the crowd and let the young kids touch the horses. All in all it was a good parade for all those of all nationalities and races that made their way to Harlem. Looking at the crowd one got a sense of togetherness and unity. Yes, Dr. King would have smiled.


Germans Raise Their Steins on the Steuben Day Parade

18 Sep

  The end of summer in the city usually means an end to a busy season and ushering in the start of the fall months. A chill in the air and brisk wind certainly made the day feel as it was mid October and it may have added to the excitement building up on 5th Ave. and 49th St. where the 55th annual Steuben Parade was getting ready to kick off. The parade culminates a week-long of festivities all throughout the city. As I was waiting for the parade to make its way up to 79th St. by the reviewing stand, a bystander asked why it was the German Parade and not the Italian or Irish Parade..ugghhh…newbie… so I had to explain the parade is to honor German culture but more importantly to remember the contributions of General Friedrich Wilhelm von Steuben to the young nation of America. What surprised me even more was the young that asked was of German heritage and didn’t know about Steuben. I told her to stick around because the German bands that come in to perform are really good and might remind her of the Motherland.    After the honorable Mayor Bloomberg marched on by with parade organizers and dignitaries, the first of the German bands appeared in Fueuerwerkapelle Vorden. They were very good but not to be outdone by the band from Wurrtemberg.

     Every parade has a life of its own and some are more subdued than others. The Germans tend to politely applaud the marching bands and costumed marchers. Once in a while someone will yodel and get a nice response from the crowd. One of the more lively floats was from Zum Stammtisch with a fun song for folks to clap their hands to and get pumped up. The timing could not have been any better because they were followed by a float of lovely ladies and beer…nice combination. Speaking of combinations, the crowd was treated to a German band from Melle and a visiting band from Missouri called New Melle. One of the best costumed marchers from the Revolutionary Era were the Ehrengarde Marching band soon followed by another German band from Bakum.  A crowd favorite is the Volkswagon Club from Long Island with their classic Beetle. A new participant to the parade was the Aqua Marching band from Philadelphia with their crazy costumes and happy songs that got the crowd worked up.  Hope they return next year  as they were a special treat. A group that makes heads turn all the time are the winners of the longest beards and mustaches. Saving the best band for last were the band from Florsheim. They were the creme de la creme and showed everyone why they were the best band at the parade. All in all it was a fun parade with a fine display of German culture, music and costume. Most of the  crowd gathered in Central Park for the annual Oktoberfest and drink lots of beer and eat and dance their tails off for some fun times.

A Call For Unity at the West Indian Day Parade

4 Sep


     Once you turned any corner on Eastern Parkway in Brooklyn this past Labor Day, you were hit with the scent of spicy foods, jerk chicken, roti and lots of other delicious foods. Kiosks were set up with vendors selling foods, flags, and fruits all along the Parkway. It’s a marvelous sight seen only once a year when people of all the West Indie nations come out to celebrate with lots of music, dance, amazing costumes and lots of representation of the culture. This the city’s largest parade and with over 2 million revelers and marchers expected on the parade route, it’s truly an experience to be had at least once in your lifetime. The crowd was starting to get thicker around noon just at the start of the parade when the NYPD Band broke out the steel drums and  got the huge party started. You just knew this was going to be a special day when none other than the King of Calypso, Harry Belafonte, the parade Grand Marshall saluted the crowd as he made his way to meet Gov. Andrew Cuomo. Local politicians greeted the crowd and most the times it’s not really that interesting but one particular display stood out. A banner designed by Yves Rene with all the flags of the Caribbean nations and the motherland flag of Africa in the center called for unity among the various nations. In unity there is strength and hopefully that message thrives and might spark more interest in a fresh movement to bring all the people of the Caribbean together.  But for now the party was just getting started and after the politicos passed on by the fun really started when a group from Dominica marched up in costume followed by a lively marching band.

     The first of many tractor trailers filled with monster speakers and deejays was from 2K12 The Rebirth with lots of masqueraders and a large crowd following. They got the crowd worked up and ready to dance. Some folks jumped over the iron guard railing to join in the fun and dance to their favorite songs. If you have been to this parade before, it is truly one of the most unique parades in NYC. Other than amazing costumes and great music, it’s the only parade where you can hop over the fence and dance with one group until the end of the parade route then hop on a train and go back to Utica Ave. where the parade starts and do it all over again. Only in NY…only in Brooklyn.  This year the spacing of the monster trucks was good enough so the music did not drown out the others. Kaios International Mas had a nice representation of masqueraders but the Phoenix Boomstation had their people dancing wildly. Not to be outdone was Ramajay Mas but the show stealers were the stilt walkers and incredible dancers from Dugolay visiting from Massachusetts. They tore it up. As the dancers and masqueraders made their way to the reviewing stand by the Brooklyn Museum and show their dance moves to the judges, most of the crowd took in the festivities with great pride and love for thier country. One group that really shook up the crowd were the NYC Freaks and they did live up to their name. Crowd control is always an issues especially when about 2 million people are having a great time. Props definitely go out to the NYPD for responding quickly whenever there were any disturbances.  To close out the celebration were some of the more elaborate costumes I have ever seen. It must have taken months to get the costumes ready. And one quick note, the Haitian Digitel truck was late again and didn’t make it down the parade route and had to turn off on Bedford Ave. as the sanitation trucks beat them to the spot. A little earlier next time guys. They have one of the best trucks and the best music in the parade and lots of people didn’t  get to see them this year. But from what the crowd did get to see, it was up to this point the best parade of the city this year.

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