With the spectacular display of masqueraders and stilt dancers, the rhythmic sounds of steel pan and soca music, and speeches from elected officials, including Mayor Eric Adams, the West Indian American Day Carnival Association (WIADCA) Thursday evening launched its first in-person New York’s Caribbean Carnival after two years in view of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“I’m so happy to see the sea of people,” exclaimed Ann-Marie Adamson, a member of WIADCA’s Advisory Committee, who served as Mistress of Ceremonies, at the newly-renovated and expansive King’s Theater on Flatbush Avenue in Brooklyn.
“2022 is the carnival you’ll never forget, because we came out of COVID,” she added. “So, I want to thank everyone who’s here today.”
Adamson asked for a moment of silence in honor of the late Joyce Quamina, the Trinidadian-born, long-standing, former WIADCA treasurer.
Then, she continued: “Thank you for being part of Labor Day (Carnival) in Brooklyn,” extending gratitude to WIADCA volunteers and Executive Committee members and directors, including chairperson Guyanese Michelle Gibbs-Francis, and a plethora of politicians on hand, who besides Adams, included Congresswoman Yvette D. Clarke, Public Advocate Jumaane Williams, Brooklyn Borough President Antonio Reynoso, State Sen. Kevin Parker, Assemblywoman Jaime Williams, and Council Members Rita Joseph, Crystal Hudson and Monique Chandler-Waterman.
“I’m ready for the Parkway (Eastern Parkway),” Gibbs-Francis said. “I can’t wait. Get in your section. You’ve been waiting for the carnival, waiting for the Parkway.”
Mayor Adams said: “We cannot thank the carnival organizers enough. I just want to be here. I’m looking forward to ‘mashing up’ the Parkway.
“To Brother (Carlos) Lezama (the late WIADCA co-founder and president), he’s a legend,” he added. “Nobody does it like Brooklyn.
“You have a large Caribbean Diaspora,” Adams continued. “I’m the mayor now because the Caribbean community was by (supported) me.”
Clarke, the daughter of Jamaican immigrants, who represents the 9th Congressional District in Brooklyn, said it was “only fitting that, in a time filled with so much turmoil, uncertainty, we can count on the West Indian American Day Carnival to continue and bring us all together as one united community
“The West Indian American Day Carnival is one of the largest carnival celebrations around the world, coalescing the young, old and everyone in between to participate in the festivities,” she said. “Every year, anywhere between one and three million people from around the world pack Eastern Parkway to eat food from across the Diaspora, listen to the sweets sounds of calypso and reggae, and watch dazzling floats with intricately costumed dancers.
“For members of this community, the carnival is far more than just an opportunity to party for a few days; it’s a celebration of our pride in our shared Caribbean culture and heritage,” the congresswoman added. “While the carnival today is almost synonymous with the largely Caribbean Crown Heights neighborhood, the history of the parade stretches beyond Brooklyn.
“I am greatly appreciative of WIADCA’s continued efforts to put together a program that represents the totality and diversity of the Caribbean Diaspora every year, and I am certain that this event’s 55th year will result in a resounding success,” Clarke continued.
Waving a miniature Grenadian flag, Public Advocate Williams, the son of Grenadian immigrants, said: “It’s exciting to be celebrating our culture. It’s exciting that the Caribbean community is moving forward.
“Make sure you ‘mash up’ the Parkway,” Williams added. “Last year, we didn’t do this (in-person carnival). We went without any gun violence. We need to have another Labor Day without violence.”
Reynoso also waved the Dominican Republic flag, the birthplace of his parents, urging carnival lovers to “spread love the Brooklyn way.”
Joseph – a former public school teacher in Brooklyn for 22 years, now representing the 40th Council District, where the launch took place – said she’ll be on the Parkway on Labor Day Monday for the grand Carnival Parade.
“A little whining will not hurt anybody,” she said, referring to the hypnotic gyration to pulsating Caribbean music. “Time to ‘dingolay’ (as the DJ struck up Kompa music of her native Haiti).
Flanked by Chandler-Waterman, Assemblywoman Williams, a native of Trinidad and Tobago, who represents the 59th Assembly District in Brooklyn, said: “There’s no carnival without Jab, Jab.”
Chandler-Waterman, the daughter of Jamaican and Barbadian immigrants, said Caribbean culture “unites us.”
“We need to unite as one,” said the representative for the 58th Assembly District, formerly held by N. Nick Perry, the newly-appointed United States Ambassador to Jamaica. “It’s not an ‘I’ thing; it’s a ‘We’ thing.”
Hudson, who represents the 35th Council District, whose parents hailed from Jamaica, said in jest that organizers need her approval for the Labor Day parade, because “it runs through this district.”
“Enjoy all the festivities this (upcoming) Labor Day weekend,” she urged.
Parker, who represents the 21st Senate District in Brooklyn, said: “We have to continue to preserve our culture.
“I want to thank WIADCA for all the work they do,” he said, disclosing that he plans to table a bill in State Senate, so steel pan music can be taught in schools. “This is the largest parade in North America. There’s so much we can do if we stick together.”
WIADA introduced two Grand Marshals for this year’s Carnival Parade – Puerto Rican LaToya Cruz and Ingrid Martin-Lewis, chief advisor to Mayor Adams, who traces her roots to Barbados and Panama – and Yvette Rennie, the Trinidadian president of the J’Ouvert City International, organizer of the annual J’Ouvert that precedes the massive parade.
“I’ll be here for the next 55 years,” said Trinidadian Angela Sealy, WIADCA long-standing director. “Enjoy yourself. Meet we (us) on the Parkway.”
WIADCA said, this year, its cultural partners/presenters are “working tirelessly to bring the pageantry of authentic Caribbean Carnival back to the road.”
It said participating 2022 carnival bands/cultural leaders are presenting an array of costumed masterpieces.
They include: Freaks Mas’, Sesame Flyers International, Sky Maxx Mas’, Afro Kreyol, Antoine International, Caribbeing, Banboche, Mango Tree Mas’ Adult, New Horizon, Creole Jam, Branches & Associates Band, Suga Candy Mas’, D’ Midas International, Insomnia Mas’ Productions, Mas’ Productions, Kaisokah Moko Jumbies, Sherzel Productions, Platinum Kids Mas’, Stronjeh International Kids and Gemz Kidz.
Except for the Labor Day Carnival Parade, all events take place on the Brooklyn Museum grounds.
They comprise: Thursday, Sept. 1 – “Vibes w/Voicey: The Concert Tour”; Friday, Sept. 2 – “Island 2 Island”, an explosion of live performances from favorite soca artists and DJs backed by a live band; Saturday, Sept. 3 – Junior Carnival Parade, International Youth Fest and Pan in A Minor “With a Minor Change” – “musical feast of rhythmic melodies over the sweet sounds of steel, concert style, with steel bands led by some of New York’s renowned pan virtuosos.”
Other events are: Sunday, Sept. 4 – “Paintopia” and “Amnesia Day Party”, featuring “an all-DJ cast, good food, plenty vibes”; and Monday, Sept. 5 – New York Carnival Parade 2022, Eastern Parkway, Brooklyn.
“This year our return to the parkway (Eastern Parkway) inspires us to continue the cultural work on behalf of our community, city, state and partners,” Gibbs-Francis said. “Without them, the mas’ and pan groups especially, we would not be here today.
“Our losses were tough, but we stood stronger together to overcome by providing for others and producing several impactful community programs for youth, adults and seniors,” she added. “As for our COVID protocols, we have several guidelines in place to verify vaccination and temperature checks.”