So, in 39 years of life in Brooklyn, NY not once have I ever been to the West Indian American Day Carnival parade. Can you believe it? Most people I tell are shocked. Even Non-Caribbean folks, from other boros, states and countries attend. How can I, a Guyanese-American, life-long resident of BK, have never once gotten me rass up and out to the parkway (Eastern Parkway, where the parade is held)?
Well, like I’ve said before, I’m a bit of a homebody and can be a little anti-social at times. And the thought of all of the crowds and confusion associated with the parade just never appealed to me. But time has passed and as I’ve gotten older I’ve gotten more and more curious about the whole Labor Day experience. So after the weekends’ concerts, Operation Labor Day culminated in me actually leaving my house to attend Monday’s parade.
I wanted to go early and stake out a prime spot to view the shenanigans but I woke up late and didn’t head out until 12pm. And as I’m always looking for new and different things for my 2 boys to get into, I dragged them along. They weren’t too enthused but when mommy says let’s go, they lace up their sneaks to go.
Though buses were running along Utica Ave they were few and far between so we jumped in a dolla van instead and headed for the Parkway. Much more fitting way to get to the parade don’tcha think? The dolla van only went to Empire Boulevard before it had to turn around so we hopped out and walked the few blocks over. There were plenty of sights to take in as we made our way through the crowd.
Everyone was repping their island, as evidenced by the many different Caribbean flags about. I didn’t realize you could rock a flag in so many different ways:
From the very young to the very old, everyone was out and ready to have fun. It was also a great day for vendors. Official carnival vendors and those who just popped up to take make a few bucks from the huge crowd. Nuff people were selling island memorabilia and tchotchkes. Flags, rags, bags, jewelry, hats, shirts, skirts, dresses, bandanas, banners and more. If it can be made, dem did find a way to stick a flag pon it. LOL.
And all of the food shop were doing brisk business as well. From the corner store bodegas to the hood Chinese restaurants to the West Indian shops (shout out to Ali’s Roti Shop! One of the best roti spots in Brooklyn). And of course the big steel drum grills, with bare chested brothers turning the jerk chicken and pork to make sure they cook just right. Oh, and nearly forgot the roast corn vendors. Where two or more West Indians are gathered, there shall be roast corn. LOL. So there was no need to walk with anything more than your flag, a camera and some money to have a good time.
So, we get to the Parkway and the place is jam packed. Cops are out in force and it is unbelievably hot and muggy. It was overcast and looked like it was about to pour but I was determined to stick it out and enjoy the show.
Initial impressions? Honestly, it seemed a tad bootleg. Having grown up watching the Thanksgiving Day , Columbus Day and other parades on TV, I assumed there would be these beautifully decorated floats coming down the parkway. Not quite. Remember the song, Big Truck? Well dem nah lie. Is really a big ass truck, with the flatbed sides built up to encase the massive speakers, djs, singers and assorted mas players each trucks carried. Others walked and wined alongside the trucks.
Here is where you saw the beauty. The costumes were gorgeous. Each mas camp (masquerade camp) had a different theme. Then each camp’s players (participants) were divided into sections with their own version of the theme costume. There were sequins, feathers, body paint and loincloths everywhere. The eye catchers were the large costumes that I’m sure weighed a ton but the person wearing it still managed to walk and wine with a smile.
I love that you don’t have to be model thin to play mas. Skinny, thick and extra thick brothers and sisters were out there having a good time. For sure, folks were throwing them a few side-eyes or making joke under their breath, but did dem cyare? Not atall. It was all about the vibe and fun of the day, so who really cares if your belly spilled out of your costume a bit. Or if your junk was escaping you trunk. Men and women of all shapes and sizes proudly showed up and out.
All this time my boys were watching but not really into it. One’s stomach was hurting and the other was just like “Eh, I’ve had enough.” They did perk up when the Brooklyn Jumbies came out. How do they get up there, stay up there and move like that?:
In total we only stayed for about 2 hours. I was tired and hot. The sky looked like it was about to open up. And the boys had been patient but over it. So we hopped another dolla van home.
Though we didn’t stay long, I’m glad we went. And I will definitely be back next year, perhaps without the boys. Cuz I wanna be out there early with me flag in my hand gettin’ on bad with the best of them!
Who all went the the Parkway? What did I miss? Which camp really did it up with the costumes? Where is the best spot to get a great view of the costumes? What should I keep in mind for next year’s parade? Tell me nuh?!