We have just witnessed once again the largest one-day festival in the United States of America the New York Caribbean Carnival on Eastern Parkway in Brooklyn, where it is estimated that more than 3 million people gathered to enjoy and be a part of this cultural extravaganza from the Caribbean region and the Caribbean community.
It was a glorious day; the weather cooperated and was hot but not hot enough to prevent the music from bringing the sounds that keep people moving, infectious songs that keep all movements up the Parkway in rhythm and, of course, the food, the smell of the spices leaves the palette wanting more and more.
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It’s a celebration that brings out the culture of the entire Caribbean region and the pride of the Caribbean people to bring on display this culture and not only to bring on display, but to invite people in to partake of the culture and to bring about the connectiveness that is so beautiful, where the people of the Caribbean are brought about a blend of cultures and have molded in a way that it can be universally enjoyed. So, on Eastern Parkway this blend, a beautiful rainbow of colors and the vibrance of the designs of costumes were just enthralling as you watch the beauty and grace along Eastern Parkway.
The West Indian Carnival dates as far back as the 1920s, when immigrants from Caribbean countries held their celebrations in private places in Harlem. The parade permit for Harlem was revoked in 1964 following a disturbance. Five years later, by the effort of a committee led by Carlos Lezama, it was re-established on Eastern Parkway in Brooklyn by what later became known as the West Indian American Day Carnival Association.
It’s a tradition that people of the Caribbean take pride in because they are out in full bloom before the city, the state and the country to exhibit their culture and remind us that we are here as a people, a people that is proud in contributing to the development of this country and it’s a moment when we can express this in the open and a moment when we can celebrate the culture and contribution of the Caribbean in their communities and in the region; so it’s a welcoming party to connect and share. You could feel and see the love and the embrace along Eastern Parkway and this is what people come for year after year to experience this and to be a part of a celebration that brings together people of all classes and levels to just be free to express themselves on the Parkway. The great energy that we see on display on Labor Day from a community that has been making its contribution to this society for some time, that same energy should also be displayed as we look at the issues and conditions that impact our community and our region.
It’s a time when we recognize the value of a community and most festivals, parades of this ethnic source the issues that impact those communities are always front and center when the opportunity presents itself and so it should be no different for the New York Caribbean Carnival. When politicians and leaders come, we welcome them with open arms, and we take their compliments about the culture and the food with gratitude but we have to go beyond that, we want to go beyond the excitement of the crowd. As some people would talk about the tremendous success of the carnival which is wonderful, and we talk about the commitment and dedication of the organizers that is also wonderful; the excitement of the music and the festivities – all wonderful – but we also must use this occasion as other organizations have done to bring an understanding and commitment when they visited us as politicians and leaders that they understand the other issues that are underlying our communities and the region and make commitments at least in the open as to their positions about some of these things that are critical to our community and to the Caribbean region.
This is what other groups do, this is what other parades do, this is what other interest groups do, so the Caribbean should be no different. We should be able to merge festivities of parade festival and carnival with an understanding that there are issues beyond just a revelry that after the parade we all must pull together to solve to work for the future.
The carnival itself is a huge economic driver for the city on this weekend and brings in millions of dollars that needs to be recognized and that needs to be incentivized. The issues that we should be looking to the leaders to address when they come to our community particularly at this time when there are large numbers – 3 million people that they should be respectful of and also and also committed to dealing with those issues.
So yes, we want to celebrate the music the beauty the sound of carnival and the beautiful love that we find on the Parkway as we invite people to enjoy the cultures of the Caribbean. We must also as a people not be slighted on the issues that impact our daily lives outside of the one day on the Parkway, we should as we’ve always suggested use opportunities like these to get an understanding of those issues and to force action that will help to move and improve our communities forward, so we celebrate Carnival, jump up, and have a wonderful time as we should. But we should also keep front and center the issues that impact our daily lives and when we have an opportunity to have leaders and politicians coming before us as a group that they understand those issues, as well and are prepared to take steps to deal with them. Carnival was successful, the music, food and the fesitivities were just wonderful and we are proud about that.