My friend Helen and I went to yesterday’s 45th West Indian American Day Carnival. Held every Labor Day, it’s one of the largest parades in New York City. The procession follows Eastern Parkway from Crown Heights to Grand Army Plaza, passing the Brooklyn Museum and the main branch of the Brooklyn Public Library, then makes a left at Flatbush Avenue.
The party was vibrant, with a level of energy I’d rarely seen before. Bass-heavy music poured from tractor-trailers. Most of those in the parade wore costumes; many of the outfits – and the ladies wearing them – could only be described as gorgeous. Dancers grooved to the beats, occasionally escalating their moves to sexual grinding. Some of the luckier members got to “drive” enormous contraptions resembling peacocks or skeletons, much of the weight borne by hidden wheels.
(Sandwiched between the shaking and the rumbling and the merriment was one silent group: under a banner reading ”Stop the Violence”, its members held pictures of Fatima Gordon, who was killed in Prospect Lefferts Gardens over the weekend.)
Then there was the food: oxtail and “macaroni pie” and roti and plantains and leaf-wrapped sweet potatoes. To drink: coconuts and pineapples cut open, perhaps with some rum tossed in.
A refresher course in the flags of the Caribbean would have been helpful. I recognized a few to start, but we were helped by a table that had the flags labeled. From what I saw, Trinis appeared to be the most plentiful, followed by Jamaicans. No one did the Usain Bolt pose.
We left well before the end of the parade, which was marred by violence again this year. State Senator Eric Adams hit the nail on the head: ”It’s always unfortunate when you have a million-plus people here peacefully enjoying the parade and you have a small number who will do a violent act and that becomes the story.” To the vast majority of those million-plus, though, I’d wager that the “story” was a great time.
(Thanks to Helen for letting me use the last seven pictures in this set.)