West Indian day parade’s solo Haitian mas band envisions new future

Artists Patricia Barthe at Banboche Mas’ fundraiser in Crown Heighs on Aug. 10.
Photo by Stefano Giovannini

The West Indian American Day Carnival parade’s solo Haitian masquerade group, will make its debut at the annual Labor Day pageantry next month. The Crown Heights-based Banboche Mas Camp is the newest organization that will represent the French-Creole speaking nation in the parade. As one of the youngest camps, the group recently launched a weekly fund-raiser leading up to the big event in an effort to raise funds to support the band’s expenses. At the launch kickoff on Aug. 10, the band was able to earn some support, and introduce themselves to new registrants, said co-founder of the band.

“It went pretty well — we didn’t raise a lot but it went as we thought and we’ve got some more eyes on the group and two new sign ups,” said Andrew Vieux.

Currently they are still accepting sponsorship from local businesses, interested in getting behind the group and their mission.

Vieux and three of his friends officially created the camp last year after realizing at several previous parades, a customary and Haitian carnival tradition did not always translate well and caused some aggressive interactions because of shoving and pushing. He also noticed that Haiti was underrepresented with mas camps and figured with more of a mas camp presence, a bigger avenue to showcase Haitian culture could reduce tense encounters.

“Even though it’s not done in a malicious way, it can get wild and some people don’t understand it and might get into fights or fatal accidents,” said Vieux. “I felt that if we had more Haitian representation, and something that represents Haiti in that element — there’d be less people only behind the tee shirt bands, and more people into the costumes, so we came up with it to change the rhetoric.”

There have been other Haitian mas camps in the past, but Banboche Mas is the only registered mas camp representing Haiti this year.

At their Labor Day parade debut, the group will be showcasing five sections that honor Haiti’s independence, rebellious history, wealth, and beauty. The name of the camp, banboche — is a Haitian Creole word often used to reference taking on the road with style.

Vieux says bringing Haitian culture forth in a very popular Caribbean style of parading, gives Haitians who often participate in other mas bands a chance to join a camp centric to Haiti and present the beauty of their culture.

“It’s exciting for me and it’s great to see the fruition of something I’ve been saying for so many years,” he said. “Any way that we can find a way to get on the parkway, where we can show we’re not just a s***thole, then people will start respecting us for that and start focusing on the positive.”

Banbochee Mas [977 East New York Ave. between E. 91st and 92nd streets in Crown Heights, www.banbochemas.com].

Reach reporter Alexandra Simon at (718) 260–8310 or e-mail her at asimo[email protected]local.com. Follow her on Twitter @AS1mon.

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