West Indian-American Parade Not Synonymous With Violence

The following article was written by Zack Stieber for the Epoch Times.

A crowd gathers at Brooklyn Borough Hall to listen to speakers condemn the link made by media between increased gun violence and the West Indian-American Day Carnival. (Amal Chen/The Epoch Times)

NEW YORK—Indignant elected officials and organizers of the West Indian-American Day Carnival held an emergency press conference to address an association made between gun violence and the annual parade by media reports.

“How dare anyone insult this rich community and this rich culture with attempting to associate the misguided behavior of the numerical minority that participated in criminal behavior with the millions of people who are on the parkway attempting to enjoy and celebrate the rich heritage of this culture,” declared state Sen. Eric Adams at Brooklyn Borough Hall on Wednesday. “That’s wrong!”

A relatively high number of crimes over the Labor Day weekend ended with 67 victims of “senseless shootings and killings,” according to state Sen. John Sampson.

Multiple officials condemned the New York Post for a story that linked the largest parade and festival in New York with gun violence, pointing out that criminal acts occurred throughout the city, with a typical amount in the vicinity of the parade.

State Sen. Eric Adams condemns the perceived link between gun violence and the West Indian-American Day Carnival. He spoke at Brooklyn Borough Hall with other elected officials and parade organizers on Wednesday. (Amal Chen/The Epoch Times)

 “Our tabloids, our papers have a major influence on how people respond to things. … They identified … the parade as the cause for the shooting, but people don’t know about what this parade is,” said Adams. “Some people have called my office and said because of the parade we’ve had 24 shootings in 24 hours; they thought that the shootings that happened across the city were because of the parade. They connected violence in the city this weekend with the parade, which is not true.”

A crowd of about 100 attended the press conference.

Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz spoke first, saying that “this parade is a great gift to New York and to America.”

For the full original article: West Indian-American Parade Not Synonymous With Violence | United States | Epoch Times.

Mas’ in yuh Mas: Brooklyn’s Caribbean Carnival

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Mas’ in New York

Every Labor Day, since the mid-sixties, Brooklyn New York has played host to the masquerade, pulsating rhythmic sounds, and free-spirited abandon that exudes from the West Indian Carnival. From a solitary procession, the event has grown to festivities that occupy the entire weekend that leads into the first monday in September. In addition to the Parade of Bands on the Eastern Parkway, the early morning Jouvay has long become a staple of the Labor Day bacchanal. Additionally, on the preceding Saturday, the young aspiring masqueraders hold court when the bands in the Children’s Carnival wind their way to the Brooklyn Museum, where – later in the evening – the clash of steel in the annual Panorama Competition can be heard ringing through the Brooklyn landscape. For the hundreds of thousands of Caribbean migrants, who have made New York their home over the last century, this annual celebration bears significance of immense proportions.

Brief History

The Carnival celebrations held in Brooklyn today are not the first of this type in New York. The Caribbean-style masquerade was initiated by the migrants from the Caribbean isles, who came to the New York metropolis in the first half of the the last century. Jesse Waddell, a Caribbean woman from Trinidad, is recognized as the individual responsible for the introduction of this type of celebrations. A musician, who came to the New York in the early 1920s, she hosted masquerade balls during the 1930s and early ’40s in venues such as the Renaissance Ballroom in Harlem. Following World War II, Waddell, in conjunction with the West Indian Day Committee, gained permission from the City to host an outdoor Carnival parade in Harlem. This festival was successfully produced annually until 1964, when the permit was revoked.

This period witnessed the rise in popularity of calypso, the music of the West Indian Carnival, in New York and the American popular music industry. Guitarist Gerard Clarke and his Caribbean Serenders played on many calypso recordings and in venues such as the Vanguard. Pianist and bandleader Lionel Belasco worked with artistes like Sam Manning, actor and singer, and the calypsonian Houdini. Pianist Daphne Weekes, who arrived in New York in 1939, became known as the first woman to leader a calypso band, the Versatile Caribbean Orchestra, and actively participated in the Carnival up to her death in 2004. Also, there existed a steady flow of calypsonians, such as Phillips Garcia – Executor, Raymond Quevedo – Atilla the Hun, and Raphael de Leon – Roaring Lion, all of whom recorded and performed in New York; as well as the Lord Invader, Rupert Grant. His calypso composition, Rum and Coca Cola, gained international prominence from the popularity of the Andrew Sisters’ version, which later become the subject of legal action. The work of these and other artistes, together with the success of the calypso recordings and performances of Harry Belafonte in the1950s and 60s, contributed greatly to the respect these Caribbean artistic forms garnered during that period.

Carnival 2011

This years Carnival festivities will showcase 33 adult masquerade bands that will parade the Eastern Parkway route on the afternoon of Labor Day. The Children’s Carnival, hosted annually on the Saturday preceding, will be graced by the presence of 39 junior bands. The 2011 Steelband Panorama competition is themed “Pan in its Glory”, and will see the participation of 11 steel pan orchestras. This competition will highlight the work of a young crop of musical arrangers as the bands compete to dethrone defending champions Pan Sonatas, led by arranger Yohan Popwell.

Jouvay Steel from Ken Archer on Vimeo.

These events constitute the highlights of the New York Carnival celebrations. Together with all the parties, mas camps, steelband launches, calypso tents, and other activities, they are cherished in the Caribbean-American community as important spaces in which the artistic, cultural heritage of the Caribbean immigrants has been maintained and shared with their North American neighbors.

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Catholic Diocese

The Catholic Diocese on Eastern Parkway, 2006.

Caribbean Americans in Correction

The Association of Caribbean-Americans in Correction, 2006.

Dosmetic Workers United

Domestic Workers United, 2006.

Carnival purists visiting Eastern Parkway on Labor Day for the first time, looking forward to seeing mas’, would most likely be disappointed. Having arrived on site prior to the 10:00 am kick-off of the Parade of Bands, it is likely that enthusiastic spectators would be swamped, for the next 3 hours, with the parade of an array of associations, politicians, and other sundry groupings, such as colleges, churches, and businesses that move along accompanied by carnival music.

These entities use the occasion to highlight their wares, draw attention to their causes, and canvas support, all to the chagrin of the spectators, who came to see mas’ . This has been a source of frustration, not only for the spectators, but also for the costumed revelers, who must wait to follow in the wake of this parade that precedes the Parade of Bands.

This parade before the Parade is one of the the major distinguishing features of the Brooklyn Carnival, in comparison with the Carnivals of the Caribbean. Its significance can be lost to the observer, who falls prey to the feelings of disappointment brought on by expectations not being met.

This opening segment of the West Indian-American Carnival Parade may feature the Domestic Workers United, Medgar Evers College, the Catholic Diocese, the City University of New York, the Association of Caribbean Americans in Correction, and members of the Vulcan Society, the Black Firemen of New York, among others.

Apart from making themselves visible to the throngs of people on Eastern Parkway, these organizations’ participation in the Labor Day Carnival point to the role that Caribbean immigrants have played, and continue to play, in the economic, social, and cultural life of New York in particular, and the United States in general. For instance, the Domestic Workers Union exerts its efforts to bring dignity and improvement in their conditions of employment, and has been successful in its campaign for a bill of rights for domestic workers, which was ushered into being on November 29th 2010.

The work being done by organizations like these represents a continuation of the activity pursued by many Caribbean immigrants in the first half of the 20th century. Many Caribbean-born social activists worked in the Garvey-led UNIA and the labor and antiwar movements in the US in the 30s and 40s.

From that early period of migration West Indians participated in, and contributed to, all areas of New York’s development, including the Caribbean Carnival, one of the largest street festivals in North America. The presence of these organizations in the parade proudly puts this history on display.