West Indian-American Day Carnival Parade Roars Through Brooklyn!

The following report was written by Saxon Baird and published on The Official Blog of Afropop Worldwide on Sept. 6th 2001.

While the rest of America was enjoying an extra day off with barbecues and baseball, Brooklyn was celebrating its Caribbean population with the 44th Annual West Indian-American Day Carnival Parade. The event is the biggest Carnival parade in North America and featured its usual, colorful array of floats stacked with speakers blaring the best in soca and new calypso, sparking carnival costumes and thousands of flags representing every country of the West Indies. Even Mayor Bloomberg and the “Rent is Too Damn High” pseudo-celebrity Jimmy McMillan made an appearance.

Roaring down Eastern Parkway, a boulevard that splits Crown Heights, Prospect Heights and parts of Brownsville and Bed-Stuy; over a million people had flocked to the parade by noon sporting colors, shirts and face-paint of showcasing their country of origin. Hundreds of Caribbean barbecue restaurants set up tents and grills in between tables of trinkets ranging with bracelets with the colors of countries flags to handmade art and t-shirts.

While the parade took place on Monday, the festivities really started on Friday with concerts at the Brooklyn Museum with such celebrated acts as Benjai, the Mighty Sparrow and David Rudder. On Saturday, a smaller children’s parade took place in Crown Heights while J’ouvert begin late on Sunday and marched throughout Brooklyn until sunrise as it traditionally does each year.

The origins of the parade go back to a 1947 Carnival Parade that took place in Harlem along 110th and 7th. In 1965, the carnival relocated to Crown Heights where it has existed and taken place each year since.

Unfortunately, the Labor Day festivities this weekend were slightly overshadowed by a sudden, and unexplainable outbreak of shootings. By Monday, over 39 people had been shot across New York City since Saturday. Despite just a few, minor incidences at the parade, the general vibe throughout was positive and jovial with people there looking to simply celebrate the end of summer with great music, food and dancing while refusing to let the few ruin this long held tradition for the many.

For the original report see: The Official Blog of Afropop Worldwide: West Indian-American Day Carnival Parade Roars Through Brooklyn!.

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.