Waitin_for_de_Mas

 

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.

Author: Ken Archer

I am an ethnomusicologist, who obtained my doctoral degree at the Ohio State University, Columbus, Ohio. My areas of interests include the musical, ritual, and celebratory traditions of the circum-Caribbean and the African Diaspora. I worked as a lecturer at the Columbus and Marion Campuses of the Ohio State University, where I taught classes in World Music, Rock and Roll/American Popular Music, Western Art Music, and directed the OSU Steel Pan ensemble.