It has been years since a Vincentian float participated in the gigantic, annual West Indian American Carnival Parade on Brooklyn’s Eastern Parkway.
So Monday, Labor Day, was, patently, welcoming, as the Brooklyn-based Friends of Crown Heights Educational Center, whose president and chief executive officer is Vincentian Vaughan Toney, got Vincentian and other Caribbean nationals to participate in “Jump for Education,” with full graduation attire — caps and gowns.
“I think the Friends of Crown Heights does a lot for the Vincy community,” said Jacintha Ballantyne, whose name has been popularized by the pre-eminent Vincentian calypsonian Alston “Becket” Cyrus, with “Jacintha Could Whine,” in a Caribbean Life interview, as she whined her way up the Parkway to the sounds of popular Vincentian DJs, including Supa Eyes.
For the last 15 years, Ballantyne has been playing mas with the local SVG Players.
Nearby, the founder of SVG Players, Ricardo “Puzzle” Grant, lauded Toney’s extraordinary step.
“I feel it’s a bold and important initiative Friends of Crown Heights took, especially to bring the Vincentian community together, because we’ve been absent from the Parkway for a while,” he also told Caribbean Life.
“It started really late, but, in the future, it’ll catch on and bring back Vincentians together, because we really strayed,” added Grant, who, over the years, had assisted the lone Vincentian mas band in Brooklyn, Mas Productions Unlimited, in its production.
In recent years, Mas Productions Unlimited, produced by Wesley Millington, has only been participating in the Junior Carnival, which precedes the Labor Day event, on Saturday, because of lack of funding.
“I’m elated in all honesty, because this is a wonderful initiative to see a Vincentian band on the Parkway – to market St. Vincent and the Grenadines,” said Earl “Caba” Bennett, president of the St. Vincent and the Grenadines Calypso Association, as he swayed to the sweet Vincy soca beat. “This could be used to promote Vincy Mas.
“It’s always good to see Vincentians together,” he added. “This is the rebirth of Vincies on the Parkway.”
With the dearth of Vincentian bands on the Parkway, nationals sought out other Caribbean bands, primarily Trinidadian, who, clearly, dominates the annual festivity.
Brooklyn resident Patrice Blugh played for the second year with Kaios International.
“It’s a good experience,” said Blugh, who earlier this year played with Nelson Bloc in Vincy Mas. “You get to be with everybody from the same culture, listen to the same music and have fun.”
Hampstead, Long Is. resident Antonia Saunders-Guerra, who hails from Kingstown Hill in the Vincentian capital, brought her two daughters, Pacika and Patonia, and her son’s girlfriend, Angel Conteh, of Sierra Leone, to play with Dingolay.
“I’m still disappointed that St. Vincent and the Grenadines is not represented here [with traditional costume band],” she said, lamented that, “in the last two years, there have not been any Vincentian adult band. The kids look forward to it.”