Hyphenated Americans parade in Brooklyn

Jamaican Vena Baker finds her black, green and gold flag among the 195 positioned at Brooklyn Borough Hall
Photo by Vinette K. Pryce

Queens is the most culturally diverse community in New York but recently Brooklyn rivaled the borough with its third annual International Day of Friendship.

Had Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump attended the downtown date, he would have been overwhelmed last Sunday witnessing 195 flags from as many nations flittering in the breeze from Albee Square Mall along Fulton St. and into Columbus Park at Borough Hall.

If anything, his presence might have improved his popularity rating just by watching Borough President Eric L. Adams lead a kickoff to the third annual event.

Buoyed by volunteers the ceremonial “Unity Parade of Flags” parade seemed to fill onlookers with pride.

More than a few marveled at the colorful display of banners identifying countries acknowledged by the United Nations.

After witnessing the spectacle perhaps the presumptive candidate might have reconsidered building a wall to keep out Mexicans or maybe even rethink his stance against Muslims and his rigid immigration policy.

The Mexican flag blazed its national coat of arms marked by vertical, tri-color simplicity of red, white and green walling in the pageantry of its people.

In close proximity to Mauritius, Mongolia, Montenegro, and Morocco, the banner was cheered with others from India, Pakistan, Panama, Belize, Korea, Ghana, Dominica, Guinea, Cuba, Haiti, Venezuela and other distant and near lands.

Unrivaled only by the recent international parade of athletes to the Rio Olympics in Brazil, the procession of flags also represented Muslims, Jews, Christians, Buddhists, Hindus, Sikhs and other religious and non-sectarian groups hoisting unique, cultural identifiers.

With one distinction from the South American quadrennial, the downtown, ethnically and culturally diverse display comprised bona-fide American citizens many of whom had migrated from foreign nations before achieving US patriotic status.

The BBP extended a personal invitation to them on his “International Day of Friendship” and welcomed each and everyone with a message to “embrace your hyphen.”

Jamaican-Americans received their invitation on the 54th anniversary of the independence of the Caribbean island / nation.

On the eve of his signature celebration the BBP told hyphenated Jamaicans gathered at the Borough Hall landmark for a flag-raising ceremony on Saturday, that it was imperative that they joined hundreds of cultures and ethnicities that make Brooklyn an unparalled center of diversity.

“I invite everyone to stand with me in our diversity as one Brooklyn.”

“I call on all Brooklynites to ‘Embrace Your Hyphen’ as Americans with distinct heritage,” he said.

“International Day of Friendship reflects the beauty of a borough where 47 percent of households speak a language other than English at home.

More than one-third of residents were born overseas and the sounds of many different languages are the music of our street corners.”

It is perhaps his signature precedence since taking office three years ago as the borough’s first African-American to hold the position.

His predecessor Marty Markowitz is still revered for establishing a free, weekly, summer concert series in tribute to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and it remains a legacy of incomparable value to Brooklynites.

Adams is undeniably the diversity advocate whose campaign to celebrate Americans who honor their hyphenated status is a winning ideal that finds favor with a plurality of residents.

Coupled with an international array of culinary samples, cultural performances focused on all of the world’s regions. Representing Africa was the Madison Square Boys & Girls Club that offered a tribute to South Africa.

The St. Nicks Alliance staged a tribute to Sierra Leone. And the Yasser Darwish Egyptian Celebration Company performed the Tanoura.

Representing the Americas were the Brooklyn Children’s Theatre Inc., the Chief Joseph Chatoyer Dance Company, performing a traditional Garifuna dance, The D.R.E.A.M. Ring, showcasing Brooklyn flex dancing, and James Lovell, who showcased Afri-Garifuna jazz.

Representing Asia was the five-member troupe led by Aeilushi Mistry.

Together the talents exhibited Indian Garba dance routines.

Aziz Peerezada offered traditional Pakistani folk songs and the Dancing Crane Georgian Cultural Center, danced a number of Georgian folk renditions.

Add to those Turkish songs, Punjabi dancing, Balkan song and dance, mestizo music from the Dominican Republic, bachata, salsa and mambo as well as free tastings of international cuisines from virtually every continent and Brooklyn seemed the center of universal attractions.

“The stew from Lesotho was delicious,” Vena Baker, a Bronx visitor said.

“It satisfied my palate and combined healthy vegetables with tasty herbs and spices that perfectly represented the African continent.”

Marcia McKenzie wore a white pollera.

She is from Panama City, Panama and with her daughter dressed to impress.

Accompanied by Guillermo Phillips who wore a guayabera shirt, the three Panamanian-Americans boasted the pride of the isthmus.

They had attended previous celebrations and told Caribbean Life that a parade for Panama will be held in Brooklyn on Oct. 8.

According to McKenzie, beginning at Franklin Ave and Bergen St. Panamanian-Americans will flaunt their two-star, red, white and blue bandera.

Fred Dixon, president of the NYC & Company Foundation said: “The borough’s cultural vibrancy is one of the many reasons residents are proud to call Brooklyn home and millions of visitors explore the borough every year. It is an important part of its dynamic history and promising future.”

The Mongolian Heritage Foundation was in vogue with members sporting fanciful headgear designed by intricate patterns.

“Thank you to Borough President Adams for all his hard work in putting together an event celebrating Brooklyn’s diversity,” Ana Oliveira, senior vice president and regional manager for Investors Bank said.

As one of the many sponsors of the day’s event she added “We are proud to support the third annual International Day of Friendship, we hope everyone had a great time.”

At a booth dedicated to recruiting youth to its sixth annual World Camp from Aug. 21 to Aug. 25 college-aged students talked up the prospect of banding together with ambitious young people in Brooklyn.

“Our entire mission at Association for the International Exchange of Students in Economics and Commerce (AIESEC) is to create a community of culturally-aware youth-leaders who leave a positive impact on the world,” Adry Villar, United States president of AIESEC said.

“It is an honor to see this exact spirit represented in a single event. We are so proud to be a part of International Day of Friendship.”

A contingent of volunteers from the League of Women’s Voters relentlessly pursued unregistered voters.

Some canvassed the crowd searching to find anyone who is still clueless about procedures to follow in order to vote in the September primary and ultimately the November presidential elections.

A spokesperson said in addition to nominees for president and vice president, also on the ballot will be candidates for the U.S. senate, Congress, state senate, state assembly, Supreme Court justices and civil court judges.

The primary election will be held on Sept. 13 and the general elections are slated for Nov. 8. Deadline for registration for the primary is Aug. 14 and Oct. 14 for the general election.

In addition volunteers represented IDNYC, Pre-K for All, New York Aquarium and a myriad of restaurants.

As the sun descended on Aug. 7, the BBP sat on the steps of the landmark location and together with Kings County residents sang “We Are The World,” an anthem one presidential hopeful could adopt in order to fulfill his promise to “Make America Great Again.”

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