Children celebrate Emancipation Day

Dr. Brenda Irving, pastor at the Prince of Peace Lutheran Church in Cambria Heights reads the story about following the drinking gourd, big dipper, to freedom.
Photo by Tequila Minsky

Once more, the day-campers at Brooklyn’s St. Jude Community Center (SJCC) marked Emancipation Day — this year is their 15th annual celebration — on an afternoon with cooperating mild weather and no (as predicted) rain.

Emancipation Day takes place in many Caribbean islands on Aug. 1 (or during the first weeks in August), and on this day in Brooklyn, the day camp celebrated with an afternoon of presenters furthering the theme “Celebrating the Resilience of a People.”

Drummer Aakhu Ali, who also performs as a vocalist in the Afro-Rock / Punk band FBDs (Freaky Baby Daddies), played the West African goblet-shaped djembe drum, had the campers clap with his rhythms and told stories from West Africa.

Pat Nurse, Children’s Carnival ‘Carnival Carican’ designer — “We have 90 children in our mas camp” — and author of “Carnival Woman” gave a motivational talk on being a good person.

Her messages: don’t talk back, don’t bully, don’t steal, don’t laugh at others. As she listed these, the children repeated them aloud. For the dos she said: keep focused, do your chores, be kind, be friendly, be happy. Nurse reminded the children they are loved by their family, teachers and neighbors.

Dr. Brenda Irving, pastor at the Prince of Peace Lutheran Church in Cambria Heights continued this theme by having the children repeat: I am special, I can do good things, I am loved.

She then read a story about “following the drinking gourd,” the big dipper to freedom with accompanying singing of the spiritual — Follow the Drinking Gourd.

Long time supporter, Dr. Richard Green of the Crown Heights Youth Collective gave positive messages to the children. He presented a very brief account of famous Americans with West Indian backgrounds: Colin Powell whose parents are from Jamaica and Malcolm X whose mother came from Grenada.

After a modern dance performance, children were treated to traditional snacks. Along with tangerines and bananas, children and guests ate saltfish accra — cod fish fitters / fish cakes, coconut drop pastries, and the very sweet toolum, made from coconut and molasses. They washed down all with mauby, a drink made from the bark of the mauby tree. Sugarcane and farine (parched cassava / yuca mixed with sugar) were given out as sample tastes of Trinidad and other Caribbean environs.

Dr. Richard Green engages the kids.
Photo by Tequila Minsky

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