Gallery : NYC West Indian Day Parade, J’Ouvert Festival

by Kim Boateng Posted on September 4th, 2018

New York City, USA :  Over a million revelers thronged Eastern Parkway in Brooklyn on Monday at the annual West Indian Day Parade celebrating Caribbean culture.

Partiers of all ages festooned in bright tropical hues busted a move to thumping soca, calypso and reggae beats as the aroma of jerk chicken filled the air.

The streets of Crown Heights were filled with people dressed in elaborate and colorful costumes Monday for the annual West Indian Day Parade and J’Ouvert festival.

Celebrating Caribbean culture, the events are expected to attract more than 1 million spectators throughout the day.

It was a celebration of Caribbean culture and freedom of speech surrounded by a visible NYPD presence. Thousands danced their way down Flatbush Avenue for J’ouvert in the early morning parade commemorating the emancipation of Caribbean slaves, followed by flags waving, music blaring and feet dancing in the annual parade that followed.

“I’m having fun,” one child said. “I’m seeing a lot of people with their joy, the oil and the music.”

The parade has been held in Crown Heights since 1969, but started in the 1940s in Harlem.

The city’s Caribbean community has held annual Carnival celebrations since the 1920s, first in Harlem and then in Brooklyn, where festivities happen on Labor Day.

The festivities start with J’ouvert, which comes from the French words “jour” and “ouvert” and means daybreak. Meant as a celebration of emancipation from slavery, it features revelers who cover their bodies in paint or oil, wear helmets with giant horns, and toss talcum powder into the air. The highlight is a parade of steel pan bands.

J’ouvert was once only loosely organized and began in the dark, hours before dawn in Brooklyn. Late-night shootings became a concern in 2015, when Gabay died after he left his Brooklyn home at night to attend the festivities and was hit by stray gunfire.

Luckily, the only report of serious violence this year that cops could confirm by parade’s end was that of a man who walked into Kings County Hospital at around 3:30 p.m. claiming he’d been shot in the hand at the parade.

An 18-year-old male was shot in the hip during a fight after the West Indian Day Parade in Brooklyn on Monday, cops said. The teenager was on Nostrand Avenue near Hawthorne Street in Prospect-Lefferts Gardens — a short distance from the parade route — when shot in the hip at around 7:20 p.m., according to police.

The victim was taken to Kings County Hospital where he was listed in stable condition on Monday night.

Elected officials and those running for office came out to take part in the parade. Cuomo marked the occasion by announcing the state would put up to $15 million toward building a community center in Brooklyn named for Gabay.

Every politician in New York may have been at the parade, but Gov. Andrew Cuomo had pride of place – the first to march down Eastern Parkway. By his side was Rev. Al Sharpton, who endorsed him.

Even Mayor Bill de Blasio, whose wife Chrilane McCray was the parade Grand Marshal, had to follow behind the governor.

“When we march in the #WestIndianDayParade, we march out of pride for one of New York City’s strongest and largest communities — and to send a message to Washington D.C. that the safest big city in America is a city of immigrants and we’re proud of all the people who call it home.” Mayor Bill de Blasio also tweeted.

As for Cuomo’s Democratic primary opponent, Cynthia Nixon – an hour after the parade kicked off, her float was still on the sidelines.

Both Cuomo and Nixon tried to score points with parade-goers – Cuomo by attacking the president, not Nixon.

“Here we are celebrating immigration, and acceptance and inclusion,” he said. “You have a president who is building walls, which is a perfect metaphor for separation… that is a cancer in the body politic.”

“I think it’s because he doesn’t have a progressive record that he can run on, so he’s looking forward to his anticipated presidential race,” said Nixon.

Republican gubernatorial candidate Marc Molinaro, who scored a much better place in the line of marchers than Nixon right behind Democratic attorney general candidate Tish James, slammed both Democrats for not making the most of their political opportunity to debate on CBS2.

“I heard two people who were desperately trying to run for mayor of New York,” she said. “But I didn’t hear a lot of aspirational talk about what we can do together to make New York more affordable.”

There are also closely contested races for the Democratic nominations for lieutenant governor and attorney general.

Cuomo scored another big endorsement Monday from Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer.

New York City Council Speaker Corey Johnson said the parade is a command performance for those who are running for office. “They say that things get hot on Eastern Parkway in election year politics and that’s not any different this year,” he said.

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Kim Boateng

Kim Boateng

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