Elaborate costumes, bold and bright colors, and thousands of excited masqueraders dancing to the music and celebrating a wonderful history.
This is the full essence of what Carnival experience is like. I was able to have the pleasure of attending the Brooklyn West Indian Carnival for the first time this past Labor Day weekend 2009. I must say that it was one of the most fun and interesting pleasures that I’ve ever experienced. I’ve always heard about the different Carnivals in other nations and how much fun it is to witness one in person but never did I imagine it would be quite like this.
For those aren’t familiar with the West Indian-American Day Carnival, let me tell you that you should indeed attend one. These groups of events take place every year from the Thursday before Labor Day through the actual Labor Day weekend. The parade actually takes place on Labor Day and extends from Utica Avenue along Eastern Parkway to Grand Army Plaza.
“In the 1920s, immigrants from Trinidad and other Caribbean islands with a carnival tradition began celebrating Carnival in private spaces in Harlem. These celebrations took place during the traditional pre-Lenten period. In the mid-1940s, Trinidadian Jesse Waddle (sometimes spelled Wattle) organized a street festival held on Labor Day, on 7th Avenue in Harlem. The parade permit for Harlem was revoked in 1964 following a disturbance.
Five years later, a committee headed by Carlos Lezama obtained permission to parade on Eastern Parkway. That committee became the West Indian-American Day Carnival Association, now a well-established organization. Lezama headed the organization through many years of growth, retiring at the age of 78 in 2001. His daughter, Yolanda Lezama-Clark, was subsequently elected President.
Events are held every year from the Thursday before Labor Day through the weekend, culminating in the parade on Labor Day itself. The parade now proceeds from Utica Avenue along Eastern Parkway to Grand Army Plaza. Highlights include a steel band competition, a Dimanche Gras (Fat Sunday) extravaganza and a special Kiddie Carnival which runs from President Street to the grounds of the Brooklyn Museum of Art.”
I think I barely rested the entire time I was in Brooklyn. From the Clash of The Calypso Titans to some of the hottest Soca & Kaiso super-stars ever; there was no way you could not have a good time. So many beautiful people in all different colors and shades of blackness, it was simply breathtaking.
The best part for me definitely had to be the night leading up to the parade. This night is known as J’ouvert which means “Day Break.” J’ouvert begins late Sunday night at 2am and runs until the next morning. Trust me you have never witnessed a celebration this wonderful since ‘Mardi Gras.’
This fun-filled event consists of several bands playing while hundreds of followers fill the streets slinging powder, mud, chocolate, and even paint to symbolize the traditional carnival.
It’s almost as if you’re in a trance as your body winds to the music and all your inhibitions are set free. You are able to inhale the true essence of what carnival is about and get away from everything else that is wrong with the world.
Trust me, this night is definitely a stress reliever and you get to meet some nice and very memorable people in the process. I will definitely be attending next year’s events and I may even get a costume and join the parade!
Check Out a Video From Labor Day 2009 Below: