Tag Archives: Brooklyn

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.

Haitian Parade Raises Hope to Rebuild

29 May

 

The second leg of the weekend trifecta took Rachel and me to Nostrand Ave. in Brooklyn where the 9th annual Haitian Day Parade and Springfest was about to get under way. This event is a culmination of a two week celebration including Haitian Flag Day on May 18th and other festivities held throughout Little Haiti in Brooklyn. Hot cars were everywhere in sight and blared some lively Haitian music for everyone to dance to. The Haitian princess carried  the Haitian flag while other signs declared that Haiti will rise again from the devastating earthquake of 2010 while other signs declared their love for the mother country of Haiti.

  

Probably the group that had the most fun were the dancers from the Union Carnavalesla Distrito Nacionalwith their colorful costumes and scary horned masks. The costumes are typically worn during carnaval time in the Dominican Republic which share the island of Hispanola with Haiti in the Caribbean Sea.  They whistled every time the dancing got heated and on a hot summery day they were whistling quite often.  Shortly after them were the Civiles cracking their whips and scaring anyone that came near them. It was a quick parade and one did a get sense that something was missing but all in all Haitian pride can be seen in the faces of those that attended. Merci d’etre venue a la parade. 

A l’annee prochaine.

Treasures found in Williamsburg!!!

29 Jan



     Early in January, our travels took us to Williamsburg Brooklyn, a diverse melting pot just over the Williamsburg Bridge. We were there to view the 14th annual 3 Kings Day Parade. Williamsburg has changed over the years becoming more trendy and chic with a mixture of older and newer residences. An ideal place to attract transplants from across all walks of life.  While Rachel was craving a burger, we asked a suspected local of where some better eateries were. We guessed right and  the mid-20s Midwesterner suggested a place down the block but saw that it had yet opened so he check his iphone and suggested a few places right on the parade route on Graham Ave. We walked across Metropolitan Ave. and came across Phoebe’s, a trendy natural food cafe. Terek, the gracious host, suggested a few of the better dishes to try. We were pleasantly surprised at how delicious and filing both our meals were.  Phoebe’s could easily be moved to the Village and give Quantam Leap some competition.  The quesadilla was savory and Rachel devoured the veggie burger.  We both followed it up with some hot Brazilian coffee to prepare us for the cold blustery day and the first parade of the year.

 As a child with a Hispanic background in Washington Heights in upper Manhattan , I became used to receiving gifts on Christmas Day and on  January 6, Day of the Epiphany or 3 Kings Day. How great was that..two gifts in less than two weeks.  As time passed, Christmas became the main event for giving of gifts. There is a community group, Tres Reyes Magos, dedicated to keeping the tradition of exchanging gifts at the time the three wise men presented gifts to the infant Jesus alive.  Founder and President Radames Millan explained that he has nothing against Santa Claus but as a child the day to exchange gifts was always on January 6th.  The parade brings people from all Hispanic countries together young and old alike to celebrate the two thousand plus year tradition.  Mr. Millan said this year’s parade had its obstacles with difficult economic conditions and fewer participants than previous years and was considering cancelling the parade. Lucky for us and all the participants the parade was scheduled to continue.

A few blocks away from where the parade was to begin, we found a bus stop with a glass enclosure for shelter from the wind gusts. There I noticed a young artist in the making.  Sasha, a bright 8 year old, was sketching an ice skater on her drawing pad. I encouraged her to build on her talent and suggested she take art classes to learn more, she said she didn’t need to. Wow. Eight years old and with an attitude to boot. She explained that both her parents are artists so she gets plenty of lessons. Sasha walked over to the middle of the block and said she thinks they are coming so I went to see. The parade looked like it was going to start. Lots of activity but no one was moving in our direction yet.  The sound of an old bolero song came from a boom box. I turned to see a bicyclist on a pimped out ride with Puerto Rican flags wearing a crown and a proud smile pedaling his way down to the parade. I hope that wasn’t one of the kings. Soon after the fire engine blared it sirens and gave a few honks of its horn signaling the start of the parade.

 The first to march up Graham Ave. were two students carrying the banner of the sponsors..Tres Reyes Magos. Closely behind them were club President Radames Millan, Auxiliary Bishop of Brooklyn Octavio Cisneros, and Public Schools representative Juan Martinez in a show of  unity. Another display of unity was the presentation of flags for all the Latin American countries by local students. An interesting display was a homemade creation of the Latin American flag with all of the countries flags sewn in a square in top left hand corner and red white and blue stripes similar in style to Old Glory.  A parade just isn’t a parade without a marching band. It’s even better when the band is made-up of 8, 9, and 10 year olds.  The band leader blared out from the megaphone that the drums were bigger than some of the kids and upon his instruction assembled and began a drum line that got the crowd dancing and moving to stay warm. The horn section chimed in even though I’m sure some of the musicians could hardly feel their lips. The Magnet School Marching Band of PS 257 played very well and hopefully we can hear them play on 5th Ave. soon. 

  A fun Mexican tradition of Los Chinelos, the dancing kings, got the crowd into the spirit. Even Sasha and her guardian started to dance with a long robed king. It was an excellent way to stay warm. The sound of  bolero music returned. The bicyclist  as well as his classic car enthusiast friends drove up Graham Ave. single file. Close to twenty tricked out cars were displayed followed by the moment everyone had been waiting for… the 3 Kings arrived.   Their brisk pace was only followed by the enthusiasm of the children waiting to see the  animals displayed…3 camels, sheep and a donkey.  With each passing block the children and families join in as though led by a pied piper. Even one of the camels smiled at the camera surely happy to see the crowd gathering.  The parade ended at a community center where the 3 Kings and their helpers distributed a treasure of donated toys to children. In total over 1000 gifts were given away to the children. We waved bye to Sasha and hoped that she opened a gift as exciting and memorable as the gift we experienced that day.      

 

 

Next Parades: We will be double hopping over to Chinatown on Feb 6th and Flushing on Feb 12th for the Chinese  Lunar New Year parade. Year of the Rabbit.

 

 

 

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