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Brooklyn's West Indian Day Parade 2019: Rain Ain't Stopping Us Now

Ellen Levitt

Posted on September 2, 2019 20:00

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Brooklyn's annual West Indian Carnival/Labor Day Parade took place on Monday, September 2, despite constant (and sometimes heavy) rain.

NY Daily News

I had never before attended NYC's annual West Indian Day Parade, and decided that I would finally go in 2019. Little did I know that my first time would be filled with constant rain!

I enjoy parades, especially in New York City. Each year I either attend or march in the Celebrate Israel Parade, and I have also gone to a few other parades over the years: the Puerto Rican Day Parade (with high school photography club students), Pride Parade, Three Kings Day Parade (in the snow, in East Harlem), the Labor Day Parade (with the United Federation of Teachers). I have wanted to go to this parade, held along the beautiful main road Eastern Parkway, but other years I was away or had other plans.

The West Indian Day Parade is well-known for its spectacular costumes, joyous live music, and loud crowds but has also earned a reputation for violence, with murders and other crimes sprouting from or during the festivities.

I took the subway trains (the Q and S lines) and walked briefly to Eastern Parkway at Franklin Avenue, but I felt drizzle turning into more constant rain. I noticed a non-profit group called Foreclosure Resisters had set up a tent with their table and literature, so I asked the people there "Can I make friends with you, and stay under the tent?" They agreed pleasantly, and I spent the better part of an hour with them, occasionally darting over to the curb so as to get better views of groups marching along the parade route.

I saw several local politicians marching, including Mayor Bill de Blasio, Attorney General Letitia James, City Council Speaker Corey Johnson, and Public Advocate Jumaane Williams. Williams was especially animated and danced as he passed by my area. Members of the Fire Department waved Caribbean national flags and the volunteer group the Guardian Angels, headed by Curtis Sliwa, marched by with a small contingent.

I did see and hear a few spirited marching bands in the procession, and they played their drums (standard marching band style as well as steel pans) to the delight of the crowd. A few people marched by with colorful, carnivalesque costumes, dancing and spinning around. 

Eastern Parkway was also full of vendors selling Caribbean foods, such as jerk chicken, spice cakes, grilled corn, and various other main dishes and snacks. Other vendors hawked beaded bracelets and necklaces that featured the colors of Carib nations such as Guyana, Trinidad and Tobago, Jamaica, Barbados, Saint Lucia, Dominica and others. And due to the crummy weather, vendors selling plastic ponchos also did well.

Some onlookers were dressed in rather outrageous garb: there was a male-female couple wearing very revealing leather chaps, and a woman sporting a T-shirt with an X-rated message. Other people wore large flags around their torsos. 

The crowd was down from previous years but still cheered, sang, snapped photos, danced. I did too! Despite the rain, it was fun.

Ellen Levitt

Posted on September 2, 2019 20:00

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