5 Years in Crown Heights yet I had never been to the West Indian Day Parade. Might sound impossible since the festival consumes my ENTIRE neighborhood but I am always out of the city celebrating Labor Day with friends or family.
This year we stayed in Brooklyn so I figured I would see what the hype was about. I had no idea this parade is one of the biggest annual events of NYC. This year over 2 million people… that is more than Times Square on New Years… No, seriously – that’s crazy.
When friends or neighbors talked about Labor Day in Crown Heights they always mentioned the craziness of shootings and stabbings related to the parade. Even a quick Google search populates the page with fatal news headlines and other criticisms. In fact, just this morning “…two people were shot and killed while five others wounded in attacks…” during the J’Ouvert (daybreak) pre parade celebrations.
Sure, the city made an effort to cut down the violence as I’m sure they try every J’Ouvert. But this year not only did they increase the NYPD officers, surveillance cameras, light towers they ALSO posted flyers and tweets saying “Do Not Shoot Anyone, Do Not Stab Anyone.”
Ha. Oddly humorous but slightly ridiculous. Sure violence is something that will forever frustrate me but since the elusive utopian peace remains unattainable, I guess I’ll have to tolerate it.
I didn’t need too much convincing. Besides, I had just picked up an absolutely gorgeous new lens… the Sony 85mm 1.4GM… and was DYING to use it…
…Too soon? :p
But seriously, with all the negative precursors aside, the carnival was pretty incredible. There were an insane amount of people… Sometimes it baffles my mind how the world can handle all our weight.
Sure, just about anywhere in New York City the streets are ALWAYS filled with people. But this was different. As soon as I stepped outside, I felt it. A contagious excitement for something, and EVERYONE wanted a piece of it.
The colors, the music, the energy, and the smiles…
…So many smiles.
It was the complete sensory stimulus package. So many incredible smells coming from every direction. Ridiculously tasty food. The extravagant outfits moving to the sounds of drums in sync with the buzz of the crowd. Bodies couldn’t resist dancing to the music. But my favorite thing about the parade was the colors.
So vivid. So alive.
Visuals have always had such a strong pull for my attention and play such a large role in my life. The majority of wonder and awe I experience stems from what I see and feel. And when I combine that with continual exposure to new and diverse experiences it’s a never ending source of inspiration.
As Caribbean culture continued to consume most of Crown Heights, I thought of how, for many, this was a taste of home and heritage. Though I maintain a respected head of locks, I have no Caribbean roots. I may have been a stranger walking the streets but today they treated me like family.
West Indian Day is on Labor Day every year in Crown Heights Brooklyn celebrating the culture from a variety of Caribbean nations, including Trinidad & Tobago, Jamaica, Guyana, Antigua and Barbuda, Haiti, Barbados and Belize.