In picture perfect weather, with temperatures in the low 90s, more than three million people converged on Brooklyn’s sprawling Eastern Parkway on Labor Day Monday for the 48th Annual West Indian American Day Carnival Parade.
Under the ubiquitous eyes of officers from the New York Police Department (NYPD), tens of thousands of masqueraders and revelers gyrated to the hypnotic soca rhythms of the Caribbean, emerging from humongous speakers mounted atop huge flatbed trucks.
Masqueraders — big and small, old and young — adorned in elaborate and skimpy costumes and outfits, displayed the culture of the region.
“I love it! Wonderful!” exclaimed Berna Blaize, of Brooklyn, portraying Pieces of a Dream’s “Splendor in Paradise.”
“Spectacular! Amazing!” added Blaize, who was born in Aruba to Grenadian parents and who, in the last two years, won the Individual category in the West Indian American Day Carnival Association (WIADCA)-organized parade, considered the largest in North America. Blaize is also the three-time winner of Atlanta’s Caribbean Carnival.
Nearby, Jamalia Phillpots, 12, who was born in Brooklyn to Jamaican and Grenadian parents, portrayed Giselle Fritz and Associates’ “Life in the Rain.”
“I’m enjoying it,” she said, as his dad stood by. “I feel free. I’m enjoying it. I’ve been doing this for five straight years.”
“We look forward to the Labor Day celebration — the last hurrah of the summer,” said Tobago native Indi Gottsleben, flanked by compatriot Iona Thomas. Both played with Suga Candy Productions.
Trinidadian Ashley Blake, who was born in Brooklyn but now resides in Queens, said she was “excited” to participate in the annual spectacle.
“This is a great time for everybody to get together and unite — all different cultures,” said Blake, playing with Ramajay.
St. Lucian Tyshia Alphonse, 14, portrayed Tropical Fete’s “Going Green: Loving the Earth.”
“This is good,” she said. “It’s fantastic. I’m having a good time.”
As she portrayed Kaios International’s “Goddess of Carnival,” Trinidadian Calya McLean said she was having a “wonderful” time, adding that she was “a Goddess myself.”
After being a spectator for “years,” Pat Cottle could not resist playing mas.
“I’m enjoying myself,” said the Trinidadian, portraying “Sani” for perennial band leaders Sesame Flyers. “This is my second year, and I’m having fun.”
Close by, Barbadian Kedia “Keys” Gaskin portrayed “Kaos” with Sesame Flyers, saying that she, too, “went from being a spectator to a mas player — all because of Sesame Flyers.”
While swaying with a huge costume, Mikel Francis of D’Midas International, exclaimed that he was “ecstatic, excited!”
Jamaican Lola Valentine drew extraordinary attention in carrying Globe-a-thon’s “Globe.”
“I love it!” she said, adding that “women in the Caribbean need to take care of down there,” as Globe-a-thon sought to address different types of cancer afflicting women.
Kyendrah Constantine, 15, said she has been playing mas since she was nine months old.
“I’m happy,” said the Trinidadian, playing with New Horizon. “I’m going for the Queen of the band.”
Katie Miranda, of Point Fortin, Trinidad and Tobago, helped designed her costume, with Rodney Duncan, in Back Yard Mas of Richmond Hill, Queens.
“I feel excited, I feel comfortable,” she said, as her grandmother Roz Chinwing, also playing for Back Yard Mas, looked on.
“Fantastic!” Chinwing chimed in. “I love it. God’s willing, I’m here next year, with my granddaughter (Katie).”
Despite the gaiety, the extravaganza was, unfortunately, marred by predawn violence that left one man dead and an aide to Gov. Andrew Cuomo in critical condition.
Police said that Cuomo’s staffer, Carey Gabay, 43, a first deputy general counsel at the Empire State Development Corporation, was walking with his brother close to the parade route, at about 3:40 am, just before J’ouvert began, when he was caught in the crossfire between two rival gangs.
Police said Gabay was struck in the head by a bullet.
“I’m the governor of the state of New York, and there’s not a thing I can do,” Cuomo, who participated in the parade, told reporters after visiting Gabay at Kings County Hospital. “There’s not a thing I can say, and there’s nothing I can do. And sometimes it just hurts.” New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio told the pre-parade breakfast at the Lincoln Terrace court, at the start of the spectacle, that the unnecessary violence must stop.
“A young man is fighting for his life because of senseless violence,” he said, flanked by his wife Chirlane McCray, who traces her roots to Barbados and St. Lucia. “I want to convey my thoughts and prayers for this young man and his family.”
Police also said a 24-year-old man was stabbed to death at 2 am, near Grand Army Plaza in Brooklyn, in the pre-parade hours.
The carnival, which began on Thursday, culminated with the massive parade, described as “Brooklyn’s Greatest Show.”
The five-day event featured a stellar line-up of Caribbean artists, outdoor dance concerts, cuisine, colorful carnival costumes and competitions.
On Thursday, KES the Band, top DJ’s and a long list of entertainers were featured.
The next day, WIADCA celebrated its annual Stay in School Concert and College Fair for teens and young adults. At 8 pm that day, the popular Brass Fest concert featured Pressure Busspipe, Ravi B & Karma, Bunji Garlin, Soca diva Fay-Ann Lyons and the Asylum Vikings Band, and Lyrikal, among others.
On Saturday, children “jumped and danced” in the Junior Carnival Street Parade, led by four junior grand marshals: Kamira Medford, Emma Marajdeen, Shenarly Sealy and Conner Bedeau.
The annual Steelband Panorama was showcased on Saturday night, featuring 11 of the best steel orchestras vying for the title of 2015 New York Panorama Champs.
On Sunday, the Dimanche Gras finale took place, including the inaugural Golden Krust Patty Eating Contest, presented by the Brooklyn Borough President Eric L. Adams and WIADCA; and calypso legends — the Mighty Sparrow, David Rudder, Swallow and Edwin Yearwood, along with the King & Queen of the Bands Competition, and the Something Positive dance troupe.
The Splendor of the Zulu Warriors from St. Thomas led the spectacular parade on Monday.
Parade Grand Marshals were: Trinidadian-born Sylvia G. Ash, Brooklyn Supreme Court Justice and chairperson of New York’s Municipal Credit Union (MCU), whose parents hail from St. Vincent and the Grenadines and Grenada; Maxine Williams, director of Diversity/Facebook; Kenneth E. Mapp, governor of the U.S. Virgin Islands; and Earl Phillips, the Barbadian-born secretary / treasurer of the Transport Workers Union (TWU) Local 100.