Every year, for five days at the beginning of September, Brooklyn, N.Y., becomes the scene of one of the state’s biggest, most electrifying cultural extravaganzas as Caribbean-Americans literally take to the streets.
This year’s Labor Day weekend lineup begins with a Ladies’ Night concert on Thurs., Sept. 3, and culminates on Mon., Sept. 7, with the 42nd annual Labor Day Parade along Eastern Parkway. In between, there’s a Stay-in-School concert for teenagers, a Brass Fest, Kiddies Carnival, Steel Band Panorama, Dimanche Gras and the spontaneous all-nighter known as Jou’vert.
“We’re listed as the number four thing to do for holiday events in New York City, surpassed only by Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, New Year’s Eve in Times Square and St. Patrick’s Parade,” boasts Briding Newell, executive director of the West Indian-American Day Carnival Association, which organizes the Labor Day Parade and the run-up events.
The association is partnering with the American Cancer Society and with Census 2010 for this year’s theme, “Jump for the Cure! Jump Up and Be Counted.” A “CaribID 2010” initiative launched last year is pressing for Caribbean-Americans to be counted in their own category by the U.S. Census. “We could get an additional congressional seat if we’re counted separately,” Newell says.
Some 3.2 million people — many of them Caribbean nationals from other U.S. states, Britain, Canada and Caribbean countries — are expected to attend this year’s Labor Day Parade alone. “The richness of our Caribbean culture comes from its diversity. As islands of the Caribbean, we enjoy similarities in our landscape, our sun, sea and sand, and our flora and fauna. But at the same time we celebrate our differences in our dialect, food and even our national dress.
So, on Labor Day, we proudly present a united Caribbean to the world with a harmonic blend of our national colors,” Yolanda Lezama-Clark, president of the West Indian-American Day Carnival Association, says in a statement on the association’s Web site, www.wiadca.com.
Except for the Kiddies Carnival and Labor Day Parade, all events take place behind the Brooklyn Museum, which is located at 200 Eastern Parkway. The Kiddies Carnival moves off at 9: 00 a.m. on Saturday from Kingston Avenue and St. John’s Place, works its way along St. John’s to Franklin Avenue, turns south on Franklin to President Street and west on President to the Brooklyn Museum grounds, ending at 3:00 p.m. “As always, the costumes are going to be extraordinarily gorgeous; the music will be phenomenal; and the people and
food will be exciting,” Newell says. “The carnival brings to Brooklyn and New York not just all of those wonderful things, but it also makes a very positive financial impact on the local community. We bring $86 million in to local businesses, and $7.5 million and better to both the city and the state of New York. Come out and enjoy the experience,” she urges.