The Hats have it – as a cover and a symbol, that is.
There are some stories that are best told by pictures, and not words, which knowingly directs a curious mind or imagination to search for an image, a memory, or a transformational experience.
This is often so because pictures are able to capture deep emotions, chronicle the passage history and allow the values and the beliefs of the onlooker to interpret a story from their perspective.
How does one truly tell the nudity story that has increasingly become part of the Eastern Parkway and Crop-Over experience other than by pictures? Surely, in years to come, some will look back at these pictures and see the skimpy costumes as a work of art while others will see them as part of the age of cultural decay.
But how about stories that spring out of pictures?
The 11 a.m. Sunday service at St. Leonard’s Episcopal Church, in Brooklyn had long been finished. In the back of the church, and on the right, sat a group of about 15 women who were noticeably chatting and laughing. Many of them wore hats with large crowns and brims and whose colours, by design or otherwise, clearly included many of the colours of spring flowers.
Collectively, the hats sprung a story, at least in my mind – the approaching of Palm Sunday or Easter but white, blue, green and purple coloured thoughts were intuitively wrong.
I followed my experience, which says, always take the picture, you can always assess it later, but every missed picture is gone forever. Without hesitation I took out my Kool Pix and snapped a picture of the largest hat? Listen to the dialogue that followed:
“What are you going to do with that?”
“Maybe write a story. Isn’t Easter, the time of hats?”
“That’s not why we wear hats. Look. This church has two sets organ pipes, and if you look on the door, to the left of the sanctuary, you will also see a star (of David). We wear hats to cover our heads in church as written in the Bible,” said the chief spokeswoman.
In that exchange I had been given a snapshot of the church’s history which suggests that perhaps the church building was once a Jewish synagogue.
Suddenly, I was given some assignments.
“You see that woman over there, she is our Dame. She is the oldest woman in the church.”
When I asked the Dame permission to take her picture, Helen B. Lucas, told me her age (93 years) and then in a quiet whisper told me what she called a secret:
“I am not Bajan, I am Grenadian. ”
“Let me see that picture. That’s nice. And, when is it coming out? “said another, Bajan.
By then I just had to look at a hat and automatically, the glasses and the hat would all get fix, and there was no need for me to ask anyone to pose.
My biggest regret however is that my pictures won’t tell several of the juicy and exotic stories that were shared among the group. Neither am I willing to betray the trust of a clearly bonded group of females and retell them. All I am prepared to say is that when females get together they surely have a good time.
Subsequently, I asked Michelle, an educator who is familiar with the Jewish traditions about the covering of the head. She confirmed that the covering of the head was a way to symbolise that there is a God above. And as for women, it was also an expression of modesty, and, a way to reserve one’s beauty for one’s husband.
Be that as it may, the manner in which a hat is worn can portray many things: career, status, profession etc and their position on the head can also be a matter of distinction. In the army, among clergy, among religions, and on carnival day the hat reigns supreme. Come Palm Sunday and Easter Sunday there will be the annual parade of hats each with their own meaning.
Ultimately, whether you are Jew or Gentile, Bajan or Jamaican, or Spanish, the covering of the head as a symbol or as empowering tool, should not be taken lightly or for granted.
And who would know this better than “Slims” who owned and ran the Bellair’s Jazz Club on Lower Bay Street. It didn’t matter if you were visitor, local, rich, poor, or politician, the same rule applied: No hats must be worn on the premises. And as far as I can recall those who sought to break the rule were thrown out. For that reason alone, the hats have it.