This year, the 50 year old West Indian carnival, with roots in centuries of Caribbean traditions and rituals, and one of the biggest cultural celebrations in New York, enjoyed a sunny day.
As usual, there was the magnificent colour, cultural diversity and splendor, and the Labour Day street parade was again watched by thousands of carnival enthusiasts gathered along Eastern Parkway.
However, in an effort to curb past incidents of violence – in 2015, an aide to New York Governor Andrew Cuomo was shot – a New Year’s Eve New York-type security was added to the organization of the event. Pedestrian access was monitored at barricades at cross streets to Eastern Parkway.
Additionally, the inside and underbelly of sound trucks underwent police security checks before they were released.
In another example of the beefed up security, for j’ouvert, which started this year at 6 a.m., rather than 4 a.m., as in previous years, light towers and cameras were erected.
For many including commentators, it is a parade and not carnival. Maybe this is because the carnival was led by a Grand Marshall. It included several campaigning politicians and supporters, floats, local workers unions, educational, community and social organizations, and marching bands. Indeed, sound trucks were full of advertisements.
For Barbadians, the creative spirit, a staple in the life of yesteryear Bajan folk, was on display. Several bands repeatedly played Peter Ram’s Good Morning, Lil Rick’s Go Down and other songs. Nicole Welch, the daughter of a popular Barbadian DJ, was seen in the costume section of the float of the Transport Workers Union Local 100, whose Secretary Treasurer, Barbadian, Earl Philips, proudly waved his Barbadian flag.
Bajan revelers in different costume bands wore Bajan flags on their heads, around their waists or on their backsides. Among the onlookers, many Bajan families wore outfits with the national colours or flags, a fashion trend, that has become popular. However, the nature of Barbados’s participation in the festival is in transition.
A Barbadian – very familiar with the annual affair – while searching for the band Barbados’ Paradise, remarked: “Once upon a time, we had at least a large Bajan Tee shirt band. We had a flag woman. We had artistes like Red Plastic Bag and others on the truck, and Crop Over was promoted. Also, politicians came up from Barbados. I don’t know what is going on.”
Truth be told, the Barbados Paradise band was smaller than last year. Two years ago, one of the organizers complained that help was not forthcoming. However, its members were high in spirits and had fun. Indeed, one member drank a secret brew from an enamel topsy. Band members, in the no costume section, wore very creative pride and heritage outfits.
Happily this year, there were no reported incidents of violence associated with the affair.