Amid the sweltering heat and humidity, tens of thousands of masqueraders and revelers and millions more from around the world converged on Brooklyn’s Eastern Parkway on Labor Day for the largest carnival parade in North America.
Masqueraders and revelers — in all forms and shapes, from the skinny to the obese, old and young, and scantily clad – gyrated to Caribbean vibes along the 2.5 mile-long route, which began at Buffalo Avenue and ended at Grand Army Plaza and Flatbush Avenue.
“I feel exhilarating,” exclaimed Brooklyn native Rovern Anthony, who hails from St. Patrick, Grenada, portraying “Lotus” with perennial Band of the Year champions Sesame Flyers.
“I’m happy to showcase the colors of the Caribbean,” added Antony who, in previous years, played with the Grenadian band, 500-Strong, headed by Grenada New York Independence Calypso Monarch, Val Adams.
A few yards away, Erica Wilson, of Laventille, Trinidad and Tobago, said she looked forward to playing mas annually.
“I do this every year,” said Wilson, playing with Kaios International. “I play in Trinidad as well. That’s my fun time.”
Portraying “Persian Warrior” with Ramajay, Ariana Matthews, 21, of Grenville, St. Andrews, Grenada, said she has been playing mas since she was four years old.
“This is my fourth year with Ramajay,” she said. “I love Ramajay. I look forward to this every year.”
Patricia London of Arima, Trinidad and Tobago, said she was playing the “Day Mas” for the first time.
“I normally play J’ouvert,” said London, portraying “Boatswain” with Borokeete. “I don’t feel to wake up early anymore.
“I love my culture to death!” she shouted in a deep “Trini twang.” “I must play mas, I must represent. I’m a die-hard (masquerader).”
Further down the road, Barbadian Keisha Francis came from Boston to play with Ramajay.
“I’m feeling great,” said Francis, who competed in the carnival for the fifth time as “Female Individual.” “I love what I do. I always enjoy my mas.”
Nearby, Grace McNeil, of Boston Soca and Associates, said she plays every year, adding: “I’m a soca junkie.”
Trinidadian Ben Mack, playing “Dragon” with the labor union, 1199, described his participation with one word: “Excellent!”
Eli Joseph, 26, said he was representing Haiti through Guyana.
“I love it!” said Joseph, who with his younger brother, Jeff, 21, played with Sesame Flyers. “I have a lot of friends from Guyana. I’ve been playing on the parkway multiple times; and the first time, I enjoyed it.”
Kathryn Miranda, 13, said she came from Boston to portray “Zulu Princess” with Mango Tree.
“This is my first time,” she said. “I’m very excited. I feel very energized to play on the road.”
Behind her, Miranda’s grandmother, Roslyn Chinwing, of Point Fortin, Trinidad and Tobago, said she captured the “Queen of the Bands” in Boston’s Carnival.
“This is fantastic,” said Chinwing, portraying “Queen Nandie” (Mother of Shaka Zulu) with Mango Tree.
“I love my culture,” she added. “I want the world to know about our culture. There’s a misconception that we (people of color) know nothing, but we’re a very talented group of people.”
While playing “Danesha” with New Horizon, Richard Duncan said he hardly got any sleep in recent days.
“I’m tired,” he said. “I’ve been working on costumes (for) four days straight, but I love my culture.”
The masquerading, revelry and gyration were preceded by the Pre-Labor Day Breakfast, at the Lincoln Terrace Court, organized by the Brooklyn-based West Indian American Day Carnival Association (WIADCA), under whose auspices the spectacular event is held.
Who’s Who in New York politics was on hand for photo opportunities, get messages out and “press the flesh” with ordinary people and carnival lovers.
“I want to thank you for making this city proud,” said Mayor Bill deBlasio, flanked by his wife, Shirlaine, of Barbadian and St. Lucian roots; City Comptroller Scott Springer; and Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer. “Let’s celebrate what the Caribbean has done for this city.”
The mayor also complimented former Councilwoman Jamaican Dr. Una Clarke, her daughter Congresswoman Yvette D. Clarke and “all the people who sustained the parade,” noting that the parade “started small and getting bigger.”
Nick Perry, the Jamaican-born Assemblyman, who represents the 58th Assembly District in Brooklyn, pledged to assist de Blasio in getting passage of the New York ID card in the State Legislature.
The mayor, along with Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams, Gov. Andrew Cuomo and Kings County District Attorney Kenneth Thompson, was this year’s Grand Marshal.
“We’re in a good place as a borough, as the richness of the Caribbean community grows,” Adams told the Breakfast reception. “I say thank you to be the Grand Marshall this year.”
City Councilman Jumaane Williams, of Grenadian parentage, said: “It seems as though our culture is being suppressed.”
The representative for the 45th Council District in Brooklyn, however, added: “Today is a great expression from the Caribbean. I’ll see you on the Parkway.”
Spectacular events leading up to the parade, described by WIADCA as “Brooklyn’s Greatest Show”, began on Thursday, featuring a stellar line-up of Caribbean artists, outdoor dance concerts, cuisine, colorful carnival costumes and competitions.
On Thursday, the inaugural “Caribbean Woodstock: A Celebration of Light” featured “some of the best Caribbean talents”, including Skinny Banton (Grenada); Adrian Dutchin (Guyana); Problem Child (St. Vincent and the Grenadines); Ricardo Drue (Antigua and Barbuda); Surette Bon Bon (Haiti); Statement (Barbados); Zouk & the Gang (Guadeloupe); and Mr. Famous (Trinidad and Tobago); Tarrus Riley (Jamaica).
On Friday, WIADCA featured the “Stay In School—Youth Fest/College Fair.” The “Stay in School Youth Fest” was a free program giving young people the opportunity to showcase their artistic talents on stage to about 3,000 attendees, WIADCA said.
Featuring the “finest” Caribbean musicians/acts in one outdoor party, the signature Brass Fest concert/party on Friday night featured, among others, direct from Ghana for the first time Blakk Rasta (Barak Obama); Teddyson John and the TJ Project; Red Fyah Band; Skinny Fabulous (Behavin’ de Worse); Lyrikal (Conquer Meh); Patrice Roberts; Farmer Nappy (Big People Party); Rayzor (Sponsor Meh); Da Big Show; Mr. Killa (Rolly Polly); and headliner Machel Montano HD (EPIC, Ministry of Road).
On Saturday, the Junior Carnival Parade and Panorama took center stage, with “Dimanche Gras: The Legends Are Coming!” the main attraction on Sunday night.
“We are delighted to have the support of all our returning and new partners for the 47th Annual New York Caribbean Carnival festivities,” said Jean P. Alexander, WIADCA’s director of marketing and public relations.
She said WIADCA’s contributions, over the years, have proven to be a “dependable and successful annual economic stimulus, generating over US$100 million in revenue and profitable opportunities to local businesses throughout Brooklyn (and) the City and State of New York.”