Cristopher Wilson (no costume) flanked by masqueraders in Anonymous Mas’s “A Journey Around the World: Tales of Africa.”
Photo by Nelson A. King

Heavy thundershowers descended on the West Indian American Day Carnival Parade on Monday, Labor Day, but they did not prevent masqueraders and revelers from getting down during the 52nd hosting of the massive event on Brooklyn’s Eastern Parkway.

Even as the thundershowers began at 11:00 am, lasted for a full two hours, and continued intermittently throughout the parade, masqueraders and revelers were undeterred.

The artistry and musical talent, along with a cornucopia of colors and a potpourri of delicacies, augmented the gaiety, as masqueraders and revelers gyrate to hypnotic soca, reggae and zouk music blaring from humongous speakers or disc jockeys mounted atop huge flatbed trucks.

“I’m from the Caribbean, so that’s what we do,” said Brooklyn resident Tasian Edwards, 23, who hails from St. Vincent and the Grenadines, portraying Anonymous Mas’s “A Journey Around the World: Tales of Africa.”

“This is part of we culture,” added Edwards, a mass designer, flanked by Ghanaian Esi Clinton.

“The rain doesn’t stop us,” chimed in Clinton, playing with Anonymous Mas for the second time and the fourth time in the West Indian American Day Carnival Parade.

“That’s the whole point of playing mas,” she added. “You have to keep going. The rain is a blessing, too.”

Guyanese Moeubefoluwa Pollydore also played with Anonymous Mas, portraying “Heritage.” “I like the rain,” she said. “It makes me feel like back home. The rain isn’t stopping anybody’s fun.”

St. Lucian Roxii Smith brought along her eight-year-old daughter Bree to play with “Freaks Mas.”

“I was doing this since I was five years old,” Roxii said. “I feel great.”

Another St. Lucian, Ehsani Lee, portrayed “Ferocious Jezebel” with Antoine International.

“This is s stress reliever,” added the costume designer. “I don’t mind the rain.”

Trinidadian Twiggy Santana also played with Antoine International. “This is my life!” she exclaimed. “I live for carnival. I’m a carnival baby.”

Nearby, her compatriot, Patrina St. Clair, played with the labor union 1199. “I feel great,” said the Brooklyn resident. “I represent my culture since kiddies.”

Grenadian Shanda Wharwood stood tall among masqueraders with a red costume, playing with Stronjeh. “This is fabulous,” said Wharwood, the band leader for Bachique in Spicemas. “It’s amazing. I do this every year.”

Syieda Wilson, who hails from Bermuda, and Ashira Stoney, originally from Panama, portrayed “Princess Ariel” with Ramajay.

“We live it,” they said in unison. “It’s our third year, and we’re going to keep playing with Ramajay.”

As the a huge Dingolay costume, up the hill, Vincentian Gregory Boyea said he was “very excited.”

“Every year, you come out to play,” he said, portraying “Enchanted.”

As he sought refuge under the large tent for the pre-parade breakfast, at the Lincoln Terrace Court, at the start of the parade route on Buffalo Avenue, Kelvin Jacobs, chief executive officer of Spice Mas, explained how rain impacts on carnival in his native Grenada.

“In Grenada, when the rain comes like that and people are on the street, people will play (mas),” he said. “But if it (rain) came before, we’ll postpone it (carnival event) If people are already on the outside, people will play in the rain.”

The extravaganza capped four nights of spectacular pre-parade shows, organized by the Brooklyn-based West Indian American Day Carnival Association (WIADCA).

The shows comprised: Reggae, Afro Beats, Soca…Unda Di Stars with headliners Ding Dong and Wayne Wonder (Thurs., Aug. 29); Brassfest, featuring Kes, Patrice Roberts, Farmer Nappy and Skinny Fabulous (Fri., Aug. 30); Steelpan Panorama, featuring more than 10 steel orchestras (Sat., Aug. 31); and Dimanche Gras, featuring, Calypso Rose, GBM Nutron, Tallpree and Lavaman; Kings and Queens of the Bands, Individual and Ole Mas Costume presentations; and Panorama 2019 winners – all on Sun., Sept 1.

The grand marshals for the parade were: New York City Public Advocate Jumaanne Williams, the son of Grenadian immigrants; City Councilmember, Haitian Dr. Mathieu Eugene, who represents the 40th Council District in Brooklyn; Dr. Roy Hastick, the Grenadian-born president and founder of the Brooklyn-based Caribbean American Chamber of Commerce and Industry (CACCI); and Guyanese First Lady Sandra Granger.

“Thank you for the expression of our culture,” Mrs. Granger told patrons at the pre-parade breakfast.

After asking for a moment of silence for the people of the Bahamas affected by the devastation wrought by Hurricane Dorian, Dr. Hastick noted that the West Indian American Day Carnival Parade brings “billions of dollars to the city.”

“I want to thank you for the grand marshal bestowed on us today,” he added.

Williams said that being a grand marshal meant “so much to me as part of our culture in the year of Trump.”

“Being a grand marshal is a very important part of our culture,” he said.

“We’re going to mash up the parkway,” he exclaimed, waving a miniature Grenadian flag.

Dr. Eugene thanked “all the wonderful people who make this parade successful,” he said. “Regardless to where you come from — Jamaica, Haiti for Trinidad and Tobago — we all contribute to the greatness of this American city. We ought to celebrate our contribution.”

Barbadian sisters Jasmine (l) and Zoey Moore play with “Candy Mas.”
Photo by Nelson A. King

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