2011 Caribbean-American Labor Day Parade in Brooklyn, the Food and the Spectacle

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Scantily clad dude toasts the crowd from atop one of the semis that pulls the floats in the parade.


Though its antecedents can be traced to Carnival parties in Harlem in the 1920s, the Caribbean-American Labor Day Parade (there is no official name) began in the mid-'60s. It resembles in almost all respects the Mardi-Gras celebrations held in New Orleans and Trinidad, which occur 40 days before Easter, at the beginning of Lent in the Christian calendar.


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Typical menu of one of the more ambitious Jamaican operations. (Click on any picture to enlarge.)


How our celebration, which now includes an estimated 3 million observers and participants, ended up along Eastern Parkway is anybody's guess. It begins at Schenectady and Eastern Parkway and moves west until it reaches the Brooklyn Museum, just short of Grand Army Plaza.

This stretch of Eastern Parkway is tree-lined and has access roads on both sides, making it ideal for meandering crowds and food stands, and, as the marchers in their colorful costumes pass by, many spectators stop for Caribbean eats at an estimated 250 food stands -- some quite elaborate affairs manned by a dozen or more cooks and sellers, others simple operations involving one elderly lady and a card table. Everyone flies their island colors, and participants represent Jamaica, Trinidad and Tobago, the Barbados, Guyana, and Haiti, among other nations. Since most Spanish-speaking islands now have their own national parades, the presence of islanders from the Dominican Republic and Puerto Rico has declined in the last few years.


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The sizzle that you hear is breadfruit frying.

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11 comments
d_alegra
d_alegra

so a few things...

the parade does have an official title, and committee that plans it as well as the other affiliated events. I'm sure it can be looked up. And jerk chicken isn't barbequed, it's jerked, hence the name jerk. There's no "ed" on the name of the popular fare, because Jamaicans typically  replace past tense verbs with their present tense counterpart in pronunciation, and since most people write how they speak, jerked chicken is called jerk chicken. There IS actually a process, albeit similar to barbeque, to jerking.

sheila baxter
sheila baxter

Not living in Brooklyn anymore, really missed the parade on the parkway.:(

Naiduwalton
Naiduwalton

People from Guyana are caled Guyanese, not Guyanans.

Rsietsema
Rsietsema

Thanks, Naiduwalton, will fix

Simmons Jerome25
Simmons Jerome25

when r we going to learn how to act,why bring a gun if ur not looking for trouble.i havent gone in ten years and i dont miss the same violence every year.hang ur heads in shame u low class bums.

Garsleat
Garsleat

What time did you get there, Robert? I couldn't make it yesterday, but I read from the newspaper that there were two shootings??

Rsietsema
Rsietsema

There easily could have been, but I wouldn't necessarily have been aware -- the crowd is so massive. I got there early, and left around 3:00 to write the story.

Garsleat
Garsleat

The incidents were mentioned in the Metro newspaper.

Is this parade worth checking out? I was at the Bahamas festival on Saturday. Really small and started later than advertised. Friendly people though.

Garsleat
Garsleat

Thanks, Robert.  I enjoy cultural festivals more than parades. :) 

Rsietsema
Rsietsema

It's gigantic and wonderful, worth visiting for the food alone, but also sometimes rowdy and risque, maybe not a great place for children.

Guest
Guest

The official name would be the West Indian American Day Carnival & Parade as per its organizing body http://www.wiadca.com. However, many refer to it as Labor Day Carnival or Brooklyn Carnival. Also, next year, you might want to attend the other events associated with this celebration including BrassFest (Soca/Popular Caribbean music on Friday nights behind the Brooklyn Museum), Panorama (Steel Pan bands Saturday night same local), Children's/Kiddies' Carnival (Saturday during the day), GospelFest (new as of 2011 was Sunday afternoon), Dimanche Gras (Sunday night Calyspo Show), J'ouvert (Ole Mas' of paint and mud and old clothes dancing till dawn), and THEN Labor Day Carnival on Eastern Parkway. 

Brooklyn's Carnival mostly mirrors the festivities of Carnival in Trinidad & Tobabo and therefore is a multi-day event as well as a competition (as per the pan musicians and Carnival costumes). As for food, next time try Phoulorie, shark and bake, and curry anything LOL. 

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