New York Labor day festivities, courtesy of the West Indian Caribbean association.
Labor day is one of the carnivals that is not really spoken about in the circles and not part of the big so-called 4, but Labor day, for me, after Trinidad is one of the best. My family is from Brooklyn, which incidentally is also known as “little Trini” due to the vast numbers of Trinidadians that migrated to the US and into Brooklyn.
Labor day itself is on the Eastern parkway and like with many other carnivals around the world that reside in rich areas, there has been talk of it being moved, but like Nottinghill it’s hanging on. So New York was interesting, as I had not been to New York for Labor day for almost over 10 years now and boy it had changed.
Labor day like Nottinghill works to fall to a particular calendar pattern. It is always on the 1st Monday in September (Nottinghill is the last Monday in August). They are also exactly always 1 week apart.
Saturday 3rd September 2017
Sunny Side up Fete
First fete up was Sunny side up. Unbeknown to me, these fetes are popular in the Soca feting Caribbean Islands. Their fetes usually command the audience of a DJ Private Ryan event and this one was no different. Partying in the sun is the best and New Yorkers can also fete. Tickets again easy to get and via a mobile app. Getting in was also easy and they allowed water bottle only, so if you were savvy enough you got with rum in your water bottle. The event in itself was nice, not too packed but packed. The fact that I was with family made it special. Security here was also tight and they frequently sauntered round to check what was going on. Put it this way you could not get away with any illegal substances.
Sunday 4th September 2017
Jouvert is different here for sure. First, I got to warn you, there is absolutely no soca music played at jouvert. None. However, what you do get is percusssion, drums, steel pan and pumping vibes. Jouvert is the same anywhere I go, Oil, Paint, Powder all the essential ingredients for a successful dutty mas. Its different here though, arguably there is large contingency of Jamaica flags. Don’t get me wrong Trini flags are ever present but surprised by the amount of Jamaica flags. Other contenders are the Lucians, they repped in Brooklyn today.
With regards to clothing in every country I have visited for Jouvert, the dress code is similarly the same. An illegal outfit of some sort or shorts, are the prerequisites, anything more and you feel the overdressed granny. Knickers and bra works and you can get away with it, literally. However, NY was so much more subdued. There was only a sprinkling of illegal clothing, other than that, they were for the most, conservative. Shorts or leggings and a crop top.
Youths everywhere are a problem in carnival. At 5am as we were hitting the roads to find our band and discover that bands have been diverted from processing down Eastern Parkway due to the number of crime scenes! Yep at just 5am, there were already 7 shootings and 14 stabbings. This actually scared my cousin a little as she had not been out to jouvert in years, however I assured that activity was rife in every country and you need be aware, be prepared to run and not be around groups of youths. Especially those not part of your band. However, we later learned that none of those crimes were nothing to do with Jouvert and that the New York carnival is in just as much jeopardy as the Nottinghill one, in terms of the desire by many folks for it to be moved, so they create the hype.
Jouvert band |Pagwah
I danced with one of the biggest jouvert bands and they did not disappoint. The theme seemed to be centred around the support of black lives matters and the varying costumes depicted a lot of this and the usual jouvert fever.We were also blessed to have a children’s band play and they were fabulous, the arrangements were on point and enough to put some adult steel bands to shame. [see video attachment].
Good quality vest tops or t-shirts were on offer and loved the black and gold theme on the design. Great value for money with this band.
Monday 5th September 2017
Music Trucks | Ramajay Mas Band
My best part was the fact that safety was taken quite seriously , after all America is the land of suing and of expensive lawyers, so safety for all masqueraders and visitors is paramount. Unfortunately, due to work I could not stay for the actual labor day festivities but since one of the best bands Ramajay mas camp was only up the road from where I was staying. I did get the opportunity to witness the truck setting off. Two large music trucks and almost what I can describe as a band wagon for the younger ones dancing. All truck wheels are boarded up out of sight and I cannot for the life of me understand why ALL carnivals don’t demand this. In my hey day of dancing, friends and fellow feters would explain that to find me, I would be found behind the truck, up in the air or under the truck. No lie. I would regularly be wining hard holding on the edge of the truck nearly being taken down by the large wheels. This safety feature in NY is brilliant! No holding on the edge of truck and no loss of any bodily limbs.
The website, Facebook and Instagram pages were informative and easy to use, view and book costume for ramajay. I have to say that the costumes that they had were amazing but expensive. It feels like there is an apparent movement across all carnival bands to retail frontline costumes averaging £400 minimum. Almost feels like a monopoly has formed amongst Caribbean carnival events!
Nevertheless, New York is currently suffering the same issues as Nottinghill currently, in that it receives no major TV coverage, considerable lack of funding and suffers from the similar rates of crime at the event (although we know crime stats for carnivals in the UK are by far largely inflated). More importantly the traits are the same for the reasons to move. Eastern Parkway (the main carnival route) is a rich Jewish area and they don’t want the mess that black people and carnival brings. The fact that the US have guns, the crime levels are more so murders as opposed to soft drugs and stabbings.
Unfortunately, I had to miss the main mass and flew home to London on a 6pm flight.