diaspora Festivals

Thousands line up for West Indian Day parade in New York

Metro New York reports on the 2012 West Indian/Caribbean-American Carnival, which is hosted annually in Brooklyn New York.

Grey skies and threats of rain didn’t deter the thousands who celebrated New York’s thriving Caribbean heritage with a vibrant parade on the streets of Crown Heights on Labor Day.

Participants were covered in body paint and elaborate feathered costumes. People practice all year long for parade dances.

People waved flags, played drums, danced and wore bright costumes of feathers, sequins and little else.

Mayor Michael Bloomberg, Governor Andrew Cuomo and Parade Grand Marshal Harry Belafonte all joined in to honor Caribbean cultures.

The NYPD had no reports of violence or unrest at the parade, but there were two shootings and a stabbing after the parade, according to the Daily News. Last year, a bystander was killed by a police officer’s stray bullet during a shooting after the parade.

For original report: Metro – Thousands line up for West Indian Day parade in New York.


Chowtal & Phagwa at Trinidad and Tobago Consulate

Caribbean Life News reports on the celebrations of Phagwah in New York.

Mageeras, dhantals, and drums accompanied chowtal singers featured in the Phagwa celebration on March 7 at the Consulate headquarters in New York.

The Phagwa or Holi festival, which celebrates the advent of Spring and the destruction of the demoness Holika, coincided with a welcome rise in temperatures in New York.

Pundit T. Samaroo Ramayan & Chowtaal Group of New York, Shiva Mandir and Shiva Mandir Affiliates Chowtaal group with singers of all ages gave exuberant performances while U.S. #1 tassa band had members of the audience on their feet “dancing the tassa.”

The Phagwa celebration is the second in a series of events co-organised by the Interfaith committee comprising spiritual leaders of different faith under the auspices of the Consulate.

Upcoming events include Shouter Baptist Day, which will be celebrated on March 29 and an Interfaith and Thanksgiving Service to commence the celebration of the 50th anniversary of Independence of the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago on April 14 at York College, Performing Arts Center, Jamaica, N.Y.

For the full original report: Chowtal & Phagwa at T&T Consulate • Caribbean Life.

The following you tube videos show segments of the Phagwah celebrations, 2011, Smokey Park Queens New York.


Queens residents celebrate Phagwah

Tangerine Clarke reports on the Phagwah festivities in Queens New York, for Caribbean Life.

The sunny, warm weather on Sunday, March 11 certainly complemented the arrival of spring in the Hindu calendar, that was celebrated at the 24th Annual Phagwah Festival in Richmond Hill, Queens.

Also known as Holi, the festival attracted an estimated 25,000 Indo-Caribbean nationals who lined Liberty Avenue to witness beautifully decorated floats, and revelers who danced to the sound of recorded Indian music and tass drumming.

Many on foot were dressed in traditional Indian regalia, carrying banners and flags that represented their rich cultural heritage. Young and old got into the merriment of throwing colored dyes on each other to celebrate the colorful flowers in bloom in the spring season.

The white clothes and faces of the festival goers were covered in the “Abrac” powder in red, yellow, blue, green and pink.

Traditionally celebrated on the first Sunday after the first full moon on the Hindu calendar, Holi also celebrates the triumph of good over evil and the welcome of the New Year.

The festival culminated with a spectacular cultural presentation in Smokey Oval Park in Richmond Hill.

For the original report: Queens residents celebrate Phagwah • Caribbean Life.

Community Organizations Festivals

Disappointed at NYPD cops’ Facebook comments

The following is the statement of Yolanda Lezama Clarke, President of the West Indian American Day Carnival Association. This is her response to reports of offensive comments made on Facebook by members of the NYPD, about the Carnival and the West Indian American community. It was published in Caribbean Life, Dec. 11, 2011.

Hearing and reading about these remarks made by NYPD officers, “animals, savages, bomb them” was truly disappointing, however, not surprising. While these are the views of many, I am sure that does not reflect all of the administration. These are gross, irresponsible descriptions that undermine the mission and purpose of the event.

WIADCA is grateful for the ongoing long-term support of the Mayor’s Office, Commissioner Kelly, the NYPD and all of those officers who assist in the Labor Day parade, carnival and events. There are many NYPD officers that believe that our community, similar to so many other New York City parades and events, is simply having a wonderful time in Carnival song, dance, music and art. They also know and believe that WIADCA’s families, participants, supporters and children are expressing the performance, joy and exuberance of Carnival.

WIADCA is the largest parade and carnival in the city and a significant economic component of revenue for both the city as well as New York State. The positive economic impact on New York’s large and small businesses is unparalleled. The hotels, MTA riders, restaurants, and other tourism -supporting components of the city would suffer greatly without the Labor Day event.

Carnival is supposed to be a euphoric experience that is enjoyed by all who attend, police included. It is meaningful and brings together many friends and family members from “back home” every Labor Day in a reunion filled with music, island food, and beautiful costumes. The difference with this Carnival is that it is celebrated by many of the islands where Eastern Parkway comes alive every Labor Day with representation from Trinidad & Tobago, Jamaica, Haiti, Barbados, St. Vincent, St. Lucia, Grenada, and even Panama. This carnival has become a celebration of over 2.5 million people, which also speaks volumes about the funds it contributes to the city’s coffers.

We are extremely disappointed to learn about the Facebook page set up by some NYPD officers that maligned not only the Labor Day event but also the participants and members of our community. The language and expressions used to characterize our community members is both racist and volatile and cannot be characterized in any other manner.

In addition, in sharp contrast to the current official reactions to any and all terrorist-type comments and actions, the comment such as: “I say have the parade one more year and when they all gather drop a bomb and wipe them all out,” would not be tolerated in any part of New York. It would not be tolerated on New Year’s in Times Square, it would not be tolerated at the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, it would not be tolerated in Central Park. NO EXCEPTION can be made. It cannot be tolerated on Labor Day.

If these statements are true, it justifies the need for more cultural awareness. When segments of our community, especially those who are supposed to protect our youth express these feelings and sentiments regarding other groups, then we need more effective dialogue, because it represents the most obvious need.

The fact that there are members of the New York community who are sworn to protect the rights of New York citizens and who function as role-models for our children, in 2012 would express such vile and historically racist beliefs, is greatly disturbing. Any culture of police officers’ contempt for New York’s Black and Brown communities — either real or symbolic, cannot be tolerated.

We are calling on our elected officials and communitiy leaders to support our effort to end any and all police contempt towards members of our community. We are calling on Mayor Bloomberg, Commissioner Kelly and Public Advocate Bill DeBlasio for an immediate meeting to assist us in rooting out all volatile racist behavior and attitudes from members of our NYPD.

One medium could be a “wellness over violence initiative” to heal and address these types of concerns in order to bring us closer together, as a community and a nation.

In 1826 Thomas Jefferson passed away and stated that he was leaving the issue of race relations for another generation to solve. Did he mean 2012? Must it take so long for us to live up to the ideals of the founding fathers of this great nation? If we choose to become a leader when will we completely grow into our own ideal and can we bring these members of the NYPD along?

Neither the violence exhibited within the community due to various socio-economic ills facing people of color, or the violence against the community, including external and internal aspects of racism, can be accepted in any form. Today’s words become tomorrow’s bullets. It cannot be allowed to exist anywhere, any longer.

Yolanda Lezama Clarke

President, West Indian American Day Carnival Association.

For the original post: Disappointed at NYPD cops’ Facebook comments • Caribbean Life.

Community Organizations History

New York Garifuna group honors a compatriot

The following article was written by Nelson A. King and published in Caribbean Life on Nov. 9, 2011.

The board of directors of the Bronx, N.Y.-based Garifuna Coalition, U.S.A, say they will honor Erline Williams-King, a former aide to the St. Vincent and the Grenadines New York Consul General, at its “Fourth Annual Yellow, White, Black Garifuna Settlement Day 2011” fundraising gala on Nov. 19.

Williams-King will be recognized for her “support of the renaissance of the Garifuna Heritage and Culture in St. Vincent and the Grenadines, at The Eastwood Manor, 3371 Eastchester Rd., the Bronx.

The coalition said that although Williams-King was born in St. Vincent and the Grenadines (‘Yurumein,’ the ancestral homeland of the Garifuna people), she can be “classified as a Caribbean woman, having lived in Carriacou, Grenada, Barbados, Jamaica, Montserrat, Nevis and her homeland, St. Vincent and the Grenadines.

“Ms. Williams-King, a social worker by profession, has always been involved in community service and is very passionate about the welfare of her fellow brothers and sisters,” it said. “She has been a high school teacher, guidance counselor and mentor to many.

“Her record of humanitarian achievements is best highlighted by her involvement in many organizations and committees,” it added, stating that Williams-King, who was a founding member of Hearts and Hands for Nevis, Inc., worked “assiduously” to ensure that the goals and objectives of the organization were maintained.

Photo: Courtesy Bajun Sun Online.

Williams-King, who retired from her substantive position at the consulate, at the end of August, is also a very active member of the Brooklyn-based Caribbean-American Renal Failure Relief Fund Steering Committee, where she performs the duties of secretary.

This committee assists Vincentians who come to the United States seeking medical attention for renal failure.

Williams-King – the youngest and last daughter of the late, former St. Vincent and the Grenadines Governor General Henry Williams – is also a vibrant member of the Brooklyn-based umbrella Vincentian group, Council of St. Vincent and the Grenadines Organizations, U.S.A., Inc. (COSAGO)

“Ms. Williams-King has a penchant for all things cultural, and she is always willing to learn about the many cultural practices of different countries and peoples,” the Garifuna Coalition said.

“She enjoys the dancing, singing and cuisine of the various countries, and never misses an opportunity to be involved and to learn,” it added.

The group said Williams-King first became aware of the Garifunas when she migrated to the United States, and has since embraced their culture.

Williams-King enjoys singing and has been featured in many concerts in St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Jamaica, Barbados and the United States.

She is currently a member of The Roy Prescod Chorale and her church choir, at St. Mark’s United Methodist Church, both in Brooklyn.

“The Garifuna Coalition Inc. is an organization that I have always held in high esteem,” Williams-King told Caribbean Life.

“When I became aware of its existence, and after attending some of their functions, I realized that they were a people with a mission. I was totally fascinated with their commitment and how resolute they were to ensure that they kept their culture alive, in their language, cuisine and practices, from the elders to the youth,” she added.

“To be honored by this organization, for which I have the greatest respect and admiration, is truly humbling,” Williams-King continued.

“I deem it a privilege to be associated with this organization and to be even considered for this recognition,” she said.

In recent years, the local Garifuna group, COSAGO and former U.S. Ambassador Ellsworth John were among St. Vincent and the Grenadines’ groups and individuals honored by the Garifuna Coalition, U.S.A. Inc.

For original report: New York Garifuna group honors a compatriot • Caribbean Life.

Community Organizations

Not Just Mas and Pan

Mr. Winston Munroe gives an overview of the Sesame Flyers International organization, its activities, the services it provides, and its overall impact within the Caribbean community in Brooklyn, New York.