Diving into “Freaks Mas” Wet Wednesdays, a weekly costume promotion, perspective masqueraders and spectators alike are bubbled with anticipation for Aquaria pageantry for Eastern Parkway. Submerged in the vibrant colors of the sea adorning the walls of the mas camp, are sections designed by the many mas makers who collborate with Natural Freaks on their voyage from Miami to New York, from Deejaying, to party promoting, to costume making.
Embarking on their second appearance to Eastern Parkway, Freaks Mas is hoping to add an element that is lacking in the Labor Day Parade, fun and excitement. Co-band leader, Ray Bruce stated, “We try to do things the right way. It involves a lot of planning and meetings.” Bruce continued saying much hard work and sacrifice goes into the preparation of carnival bands. “I had to give up practically my entire summer just to put this together.” He justified his commitment by stating, “At the end of the day, we have to please our masqueraders. Without them, there is no carnival!”
For the past 10 years in Miami, Freaks Mas created a reputation as being energetic, vibrant and exciting. Bruce describes indulging in Freaks Mas as, “[an experience] similar to playing mas with the big bands in Trinidad such as ‘Tribe,’ ‘Yuma,’ or ‘Island People.’ That is the excitement we bring to NYC.”
Natural Freaks is rebranding and evolving as it flows into different arenas. “We’re trying our hand at the mas thing,” says Bruce. “[Freaks Mas] is all under the same umbrella [of Natural Freaks] but we are going under a different promotional name.” Freaks Mas still uses the name and popularity created by Natural Freaks in promoting carnival. Their mixes can be heard pulsating through the speakers at the mas camp and moving the masquerades and onlookers on “de Parkway.”
Located in Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brooklyn, the camp welcomes crowds from the fighting to stay West Indian and African American communities, holding on to their homes. With the invading ‘transplanted few’ moving into a new, up-and-coming neighborhood where there is an apparent threat to their culturally established existence. Freaks Mas, has the unique opportunity to educate new comers about West Indian culture and the significance of carnival, especially in the Diaspora. It retains a piece of back home for many from the West Indies whom are not able to make the pilgrimage to their native lands for their own carnivals.
Rodney Snell, assistant manager of Freaks Mas also a father, said, “It is very important to get the children involved from early. My daughter started when she was four; it’s in her blood. They are in it!” As such, “Just for Fun” is the “kiddies” production of Freaks Mas. These babes hit “de parkway” on the Saturday preceding Labor Day, for a mini jump-up culminating at the back of the Brooklyn Museum to be judged; followed by a day of fun family activities.
The West Indian Day parade offers its community a slice of “back home” to many of those who aren’t fortunate to make that pilgrimage. Retaining that sense of home and culture is crucial for the first and second generation of West Indian Americans. It gives them an understanding of their identity and as such Freaks Mas strives to do the same with their 2013 presentation of Aquaria. Therefore, creating that sense of fun and excitement; a splash of color, costumes, identity, revelry and culture.