By Gloria Dulan-Wilson
Where did the summer go? That's what we are asking ourselves right about now. It seems that only yesterday it was Memorial Day and now here we are at Labor Day Weekend!! You could almost say that summer whizzed through on roller blades!! Wow!
Of course, for most New Yorkers, Labor Day Weekend brings one our favorite cultural events - the three-day celebration of West Indian Culture, topped off by that fantastic West Indian Day Parade! And if you've never had the experience of partying on the Parkway (Eastern Parkway in Brooklyn, NY, that is) you've missed the thrill of a lifetime.
I was speaking to a friend who had relocated to Delaware from NYC, after having moved from the Bronx, who is heading home to "jump up!" and check out the Pans for Pan-o-Rama.
The three days leading up to Monday, September 7, will truly make you a nocturnal animal, because, like typical party people, they don't start until after 9:00 PM and finish around 3:00AM - with people still ready to go to after parties. The pre-parade events take place on the Brooklyn Museum Grounds - but you have to order tickets
By the way, the Theme for 2015 is ONE CARIBBEAN, ONE PEOPLE, ONE VOICE! The theme is reflective of the Caribbean countries that are represented in the parade, and include Trinidad and Tobago, Jamaica, Haiti, Barbados, Antigua, Dominica, St. Lucia, St. Vincent, Grenada, Guyana, Barbuda, Panama, Suriname, Belize, among others.
The Calypsonians are the best of the performers from al over the Caribbean -and they come to regale the audience with the latest, and most popular calypso songs, dance and music. They follow in the tradition of The Mighty Sparrow, Lord Kitchner and others. And they're from all over the Caribbean map.
Did I mention the food? Bakes, rice 'n peas, or peas 'n rice, curried anything you want - goat, chicken, beef; jerk anything you want - goat, beef, chicken, fish; mauby, sorrel, ginger beer - I'm just naming my favorites - you have to do your own exploration.
And, of course, there is a parade for the little people called the Junior Carnival - where the children have their own costumes and participate in a pint sized version of what there parents do. That is called keeping the tradition alive from generation to generation. Plus they're absolutely adorable!!
By the time the actual parade starts on Labor Day - usually 11:00AM - most participants haven't been to bed - just a quick run home, change into costume, and come back out to make that long, melodious trek down Eastern Parkway. And don't worry about not hearing the music - with megaton trucks, sporting speakers that can be heard for miles, you'll quickly be caught up in the rhythm - if not, you're either made of stone, you have no pulse, or "you done dead already!"
Of course there's the political component - a breakfast where all the candidates and wannabes show up to pay tribute to the Caribbean/American culture that is the Blackbone of Brooklyn. It has become such a huge affair one has to make reservations - and, if the event is full - and it always is - you have to be content with standing on the sidelines, and being in proximity of the prominent elected officials who show up to greet the parade goers.
Congresswoman Yvette D. Clarke, and her mom, former City Council Representative Una Clarke have their roots in Jamaica, as does the late, great Shirley Chisholm (unbossed and unbought), first Black woman elected to Congress from NYC, and first Black woman to run for President. (By the way, did I mention that both Congresswomen. Clarke and Chisholm are Deltas?) City Council representative, Matthieu Eugene, is originally from Haiti, and the first Haitian elected to public office in NYC. A great many elected officials have Caribbean roots, and work diligently on issues of immigration, equality, education, while simultaneously supporting continued respect for their cultural heritage.
|Yvette Clarke, US Congress|
|Una Clarke, Former City Council Rep|
|The Late Shirley Chisholm Former US. Congressmember/Presidential Candidate|
Now, I didn't mean to go off on a tangent about the West Indian Day Parade - but I do want to credit the late Carlos Lezama, and his daughter Yolanda Lezama-Clarke for keeping the tradition going. And, of course, all the members of WIADCA for their diligence and devotion for continuing to make this the hallmark of the summer season.
|The Late Carolos Lezama|
But it would not be anything without community support - and when you figure that 1.5 million people line up on the Parkway to watch and cheer; with another 5+ million watching world wide, there is obvious a lot of love and support for this event (including yours truly - the first thing I did when I moved back to New York from California on August 30, 1984, was make sure that I was at the Parade the following weekend. I had totally missed it during the 9 years I was on the West Coast).
|Brooklynite and Mayor Bill DeBlasio and Son at Parade 2014|
Whether you've got any Caribbean heritage or not, you will by the time you attend the parade. There is absolutely no way that you can sit there with all those wonderful costumes - all original hand made designs; all those dancers, and that great music, and not be affected.
On the day of the event there are food vendors lined up along the Parkway, along with souvenirs; you will not starve, and you will definitely go home with some token of the day's festivities. By the time the parade ends at 6:00PM, and the crowds disperse, there are generally other private side parties to go to throughout the Crown Heights-Flatbush communities; so, if you have any energy left, check them out as well.
The West Indian Day Parade is not only the biggest, longest, and greatest parade in the US, it is also the most creative and inventive. Costumes as tall as 15 to 20 feet, as long as 20 to 30 feet, are all original designs, hand made, no mechanics whatsoever - sometimes groups in the community get together and do it; sometimes individuals design their own costumes. There is not a repeat or a copycat in the house. I am always blown away at what they come up with - feathers, beads, spangles, sparkles, wires, hoops, wheels of all sizes, glue, tape, needle and thread - and recycled what ever! The results? Spectacular!! - Every one of them deserves a prize!
I have long been an advocate for a museum to house all the wonderful costumes that come out of this magnificent parade. There should have long ago been something in tribute to the ingenuity and the cooperative efforts of the community who work tirelessly to bring this one week end to fruition. I've seen some costumes that put some of the greatest artists to shame, and were created in the basement of a home in Crown Heights. It boggles the mind why there hasn't been funds set aside or allocated to bringing a museum and a center for the Caribbean Culture in NYC (BROOKLYN) into reality.
This the 48th year of this marvelous celebration of our people of African Heritage - Caribbean brothers and sisters who melded their African Ancestry with their lives in the West Indies, and transformed it into something magical for the world to see, participate in, enjoy, and benefit from.
Some of the events for this week end include:
9/4: Stay In School Concert and College Fair 10:00AM
9/5: Junior Carnival Parade - 9:00AM - 3:00PM
9/6: Dimanche Gras (Great Sunday) (featuring the Mighty Sparrow &
David Rudder)7:00PM - 1:00AM
9/7: The "New York Caribbean Carnival Parade" a/k/a
THE WEST INDIAN DAY PARADE 11:00AM - 6:00PM
(GET YOUR CAMERAS READY!!)
That said, get ready to PARTY ON THE PARKWAY, Monday, September 7 - 2015
Stay Blessed &