The sweltering heat that blanketed the City the of New Jersey last Saturday, July 22 did not deter masquerades from their determination to display the beauty of this rhythmic and cultural melting-pot city that sits in the shadow of the New York skyline.
The Jersey City West Indian Caribbean American Carnival Association, headed by Founder, Cheryl Murphy, and 2016 Chairman, Guyanese-American Linden Branche — celebrated 21st years of bringing the diverse community together.
The carnival also paid tribute to Guyana’s 50th Year of Independence on May 26, and the 50th Year of Independence of Barbados, on Nov. 30.
Revelers from young as three years old in colors of their heritage, to grandparents decked out in dazzling costumes, showed exuberance as they jumped and waved national flags during the miles-long parade route from Lincoln Park on Kennedy Boulevard to City Hall where judging took place.
The pageantry brought to mind Labor Day in Brooklyn with incredible costumes beautifully designed with jewels, glam and glitter, and tall headpieces that brought excitement as DeeJays revved up carnival music from loud speakers.
Hundreds of onlookers lined the streets to witness the extravaganza, which included Kaiokah Moko Jumbies USA, stilt dancers, and the Shiv Kala Dance Academy which presented “Citrus Sunkist Carnival Time Again,” and accompanied by Wild Fiyah Sounds.
The alluring purple costumes of “Evolution,” presented by Hasan Ahmed Mas’ lit up the parade route, while “Lipstick & West Palm Carnival” presented by Micah Bernard, and accompanied by Rhythm Masters & Steel Pan delighted the crowd with its dynamic “This is Carnival” presentation.
Grand marshalls representing various Caribbean countries led the parade. They included Dr. Gale Gibson representing Barbados; Cuba – Josefina Wallen-Bell; Dominican Republic – Mayor General Juan Gutierres and Jose & Luis Fermin; Guyana – Anthony Ramdin; Haiti – Freeholder Gerard Balmir; Jr. Isle of Hudson County – Pamela & Eugene Drayton, and Isle of Jersey City – Kool & the Gang Ronald Bell & Desha Jackson, Esq.
Others representing were; Jamaica: Captain Mario Moody & Jahmari Warren “Banky Hype;” Puerto Rico – Felix Velez; Trinidad & Tobago – Sandra Bell, Clyde Bascom; Virgin Islands – Deputy Mayor Vivian Bfrand-Phillips; St. Kitts & Isle of JC: Dorothy Allen-Bellinger, and St. Thomas & Virgin Islands: Awo Baba Iram Francis.
Special guest, Dr. Donna Hunte-Cox, consul general of Barbados, New York, thanked the carnival association for showcasing the talents of the Caribbean people, while Chairman, Linden Branche, praised the Caribbean nations for their participation in the day-long festivities, whichended with a marketplace at the Jersey City waterfront where vendors sold Caribbean fare, arts and craft
Founder of the JC WI Caribbean Carnival, Cheryl Murphy, who traces her roots to Bermuda and St. Kitts, was happy to celebrate 21 years of festivities in Jersey City, and felt obligated to create the event due to the lack of representation by the Caribbean community.
“I started the Caribbean carnival here in Jersey City because it’s a melting pot and unfortunately the Caribbean community was not being represented. Every other ethnicity had a day of celebration except for the Caribbean people,” she said.
Murphy whose family members give back to the community were festivalgoers, wanted to promote their community, as such, they started participating in the Brazilian parade.
Later on, with the help of the mayor, they carried a banner under the Jersey City Slice of Heaven event, until the Caribbean carnival received sponsorship under city events.
Today, Murphy said sponsorship is hard to come-by because of limited support from the new mayor and city at large, “it is a little trying these days under this new administration that is still hesitant about something of which they are not accustomed to.”
“I am happy to celebrate 21 years of the JC carnival. What makes us unique is that we celebrate the entire Caribbean. Our grand marshalls represent each island and we encourage them to make a presentation.”
“I want to say a happy 50th Independence Anniversary to Guyana, and a Happy 50th Independence to Barbados. May they continue to prosper, and may all of the Caribbean islands continue to come together,” said Murphy.