In sweltering weather, with temperatures hovering around a high of 90 degrees Fahrenheit, over three million spectators and thousands of masqueraders and revelers converge on Monday, Labor Day, on Brooklyn’s Eastern Parkway, for the annual, massive West Indian-American Day Carnival Parade.
The parade – which took place along a 3 ½ mile-long-route, from Buffalo Avenue to the Brooklyn Museum, near Grand Army Plaza on Flatbush Avenue, started at 11:00 a.m. and ended at 6:00 p.m. – was preceded by Caribbean J’Ouvert, beginning at 6:00 a.m.
The culture of the Caribbean was on full display along the parade route, as masqueraders, displaying gigantic and small costumes, and revelers swayed to the rhythm of the Caribbean, moving to hypnotic soca, reggae and Kompa, among other, music blaring from massive speakers mounted atop huge flatbed trucks.
Officers from the New York Police Department (NYPD) were deployed along the route, with barricades installed to try to prevent onlookers from encroaching on the spectacle.
The NYPD also said that drones were deployed overhead for the first time in the history of the parade, as part of the NYPD’s ubiquitous security detail.
Portraying a costume from Sesame Flyers’ “Destination”, Bronx native Shannon Lee Gilstod said she was participating in the parade for the second successive year.
“Just love being here,” she said, flanked by St. Lucians Sharma La Corbiniere and Princess Innocent, both Brooklyn residents, who also portrayed costumes from “Destination”. “I love the people, the music.”
“I’m here for the music,” intoned Innocent. “I want to show off my costumes and have a blast. I’m here to represent my island.”
La Corbiniere said she participated in the parade to “enjoy myself and go back home not being able to walk.”
She, however, added that it was “good music, good ambience.”
Another St. Lucian native, Arienne McLoren, another Brooklynite, portrayed Suga Candy’s “Aquarius.”
“I’m excited; I’m energetic,” she said, as Shakanah Hernandez, who was born in Brooklyn to a Trinidadian mother and a Dominican Republic father, participated in Suga Candy’s “Pisces”.
“This is my first time playing mas,” said Hernandez. “I’m happy to be here and grateful to do so.”
As he also portrayed “Pisces”, Jamaican Verol Atkins, said he was playing mas in Brooklyn for the second time but usually participates in Trinidad and Tobago’s Carnival.
“This year seems more organized than last year,” said the Brooklyn resident. “I come out to have fun instead of working, working, working. This is time to have fun.”
Nearby, Cynthia Nady, who was born in Hawaii to Haitian parents, played “Love Bird” with Skymaxx.
“Going to have fun,” she said briefly.
Jamaican Natalyn Bowe and Shauntel Hickson, who was born in Brooklyn to a Trinidadian mother and Barbadian father, played with 1199’s “Phoenix Rising.”
“I’ve been playing mas for four years now,” said Bowe, a Brooklyn resident. “I feel proud to be here. Hope to have lots and lots of fun.”
Hickson, who watched the parade, over the years, from the sidelines, said she was delighted to play for the very first time.
“I’m having fun,” she said. “I love the togetherness. It’s a peaceful carnival.”
Up the street, Marla Williams led the Trinbago Cultural Ambassadors Extraordinaire in its first Labor Day appearance, depicting and Old-Time Wedding in Tobago.
“It’s an exciting experience for all of us,” she said about the 20-member contingent. “We’re very happy to be here.”
India Sneed Williams, wife of New York City Public Advocate Jumaane Williams, the son of Grenadian immigrants, participated in her husband’s float, with their one-year-old Amani and 15-year-old Amelie.
“Excellent!” she exclaimed about the parade. “It’s liberating, it’s fun, its’ powerful; and it’s a reminder of all we have accomplished and will accomplish, and the unity in the community.”
As she walked besides a float carrying the Eruption Steel Orchestra, Yolanda Lezama-Clarke, the former president of the West Indian American Day Carnival Association (WIADCA), organizer of the Carnival festivities, represented the Carlos Lezama Archives and Cultural Center (CLACC-C), named in honor of her late father, a co-founder and also former WIADCA president.
“I feel pan will always be part of the carnival – mas, pan and dance,” she said.
Trinidadian Terry St. Omer played with John Joh 2 Red Letters.
“I love it,” said the Brooklyn resident. “Trini to the bone!”
Danje Davis said he was feeling “good” while portraying a huge costume from USA Kaisokah’s “Fusion of Culture.”
“Actually, it’s fun with Kaisokah,” he said. “First time doing this.”
Barbadian Andre Lucas was also having fun with Sesame Flyers, as he also carried a massive costume.
“It’s fun,” he said. “Keeping the culture alive. It’s a way of portraying my skills.”
Close by, Jamaican Shani Butler portrayed D’Midas International’s “Goddess of the Jewel.”
“I’m feeling good,” she said. “I’m enjoying it.”
As he laid on the street, between Utica and Rochester Avenues, with a stuffed bear, “feeding” it icicle, Grenadian Sheldon De Cogeau, said he had earlier played “Jab, Jab” in J’Ouvert.
“That’s my culture,” said the native from Grenville, Grenada.
Anna Nelson, a Jamaican-born nurse residing in Washington, D.C., played with Antoine International.
“I’ve being doing this for over 24 years,” said Nelson, who was adjudged Queen last year in Brooklyn and Baltimore’s carnivals. “I’m having fun. As a nurse, this is my journey.”
WIADCA’s Board of Directors said that the New York Carnival Week was held under the theme, “World Stage 2023.”
The Carnival Week, which began on Thursday and ended on Monday, featured the return of WIADCA’s signature Junior Carnival Parade, YouthFest and Panorama Steelband Competition on Saturday.
WIADCA said its 56th Annual New York Carnival Parade also featured, among others, Banboche Mas, which presented “Heritage” and celebrated four years as the only Haitian-American costume band on Eastern Parkway.
Parade Grand Marshals were: Caribbean-American Congresswoman Yvette D. Clarke, the daughter of Jamaican immigrants; Richard Davis, the Guyanese-born president of the labor union, TWU Local 100; Guyanese Ann-Marie Adamson, assistant vice president of Community and Corporate Engagement of the health insurance company, EmblemHealth; George Gresham, president of the labor union 1199SEIU; and Trinidadians Michael Joseph, Harmony Music Makers founder, steel band music instructor and cultural practitioner; Kay Mason, cultural practitioner; and Jewel Alexis-Josey, Junior Carnival presenter.
Two weeks before, WIADCA officially kicked-off its Carnival Week at the Brooklyn Children’s Museum.
Hundreds – including New York City Mayor Eric Adams and other elected officials, carnival lovers and masqueraders – witnessed the ceremony.
The spectacle featured costumed and steel bands, dancers and artistes, among others, during the three-hour-long ceremony.
Artiste Eddy Charles, “all the way from Trinidad and Tobago”, of the popular Trinidadian band, Traffick, and the Ghanian band, Wazumbians, made their debut.
The dance group, Monet Movement Productions: The Collective, mesmerized the effervescent crowd with myriad dance moves; and masqueraders dazzled with colorful and well-designed costumes, unmistakably putting spectators in Labor Day Carnival mood.
On full display, and swaying and wining to soca vibes from a DJ, masqueraders included: Inspired by Zoe (“Enchanted Garden”); Kaison Moko Jumbies; Branches; New Horizon; Antoine International; Sesame Flyers; and Skymxx.
There were also “Jab Jab” and other revelers from J’Ouvert City International, organizer of the Caribbean J’Ouvert, as well as Metro Steel and Harmony Steel orchestras. Yvette Rennie, the Trinidadian-born president of J’Ouvert City International, attended the extravagant show and briefly addressed patrons.
Adams wanted “this parade [on Labor Day Monday, a public holiday in the United States] to be tremendously successful.”
Clarke, through her district director, Anita Taylor, thanked WIADCA for its “ceaseless support and commitment to always step-up for our community.”
Williams said he was “just excited” for the carnival festivities amid the 50th Anniversary Celebration of Hip Hop.
“Let’s celebrate,” he urged. “Raise yo’ flag; peace and blessings.”