Guest Author - Deborah Barocas
A slew of costumes in their splendor of designs, colors, creativity, a smorgasbord of foods and beverages, music to overload one’s eardrum, and the people of the Caribbean in a bacchanal is what defines “The West Indian Day Parade.” What better way can New Yorkers say goodbye to summer? Or can one simply perceive it as a prelude of NYC’s autumn.
The West Indian Day parade dates back to pre-Lenten Mardi Gras. It is a fusion of African slave culture and the Christian religious culture of the European Colonists who coveted the Caribbean islands. While it was a celebration, it was also a coping mechanism for the slaves. After many West Indians migrated to North America, they continued their traditions of Carnival. So for instance while Canada celebrates “Caribana,” New York City celebrates “The West Indian Day Parade.” In New York, these festivities began in the1940's, and Harlem was the venue. Later in the 1960's, it was moved to Brooklyn where it still remains.
There are a few things to note before you go to the parade, comfortable shoes are a must, because you will be dancing to the beat of Soca, Steel Pan and Reggae until your feet fall off. And if you are on a diet, then pack your own lunch, because it is here that you will consume every type of food from every Caribbean country in the world. The partying starts two days before the actual parade on Labor Day which always falls on a Monday. The parade moves at an energetic pace on Eastern Parkway, Brooklyn. Costumes are over the top with glitter and shine. Faces painted, while mud rubbed bodies’ prance around from nights before at pre carnival celebration known as Jouvet. Drums wildly beat as stilt dancers known as moko jumbies pulverize the streets for the African spirits of their ancestry to wake up from the dead for one last jig in this cosmopolitan arena. The jam of Soca is met with “fine wine,” a term used for moving the hip area in wild vulgar fashion to the beat of the music.
Finally, the Grand Marshals this year includes New York City’s Mayor Michael Bloomberg, Former Secretary of State Colin Powell, Borough President Marty Markowitz, and New York State Governor Paterson. My guess is that Colin Powell enjoyed some Jerk Chicken, but I wonder if Mayor Bloomberg experienced Trinidad's famous “Doubles,” with extra hot tamarind sauce. And do you think any of these gentlemen can do the “fine wine? .”