Thirty Years and Counting
The "Republic of Brooklyn," the "largest Caribbean island outside the Caribbean," has been host to this annual Labor Day cultural extravaganza, known as the West Indian carnival, for the past thirty years. Having graduated from a sort of black party to become the largest, most colorful, vibrant, dynamic and creative cultural festival in city, state and nation, attracting to the environs of Eastern Parkway in Brooklyn, at least three million people.
The festival has not been without its travails and trials. Members of the West Indian American Day Carnival Association Inc. (WIADCA), under the leadership of Mr. Carlos Lezama and with the help of the bandleaders, artists, designers, masqueraders, steelband men, culture enthusiasts and the community generally, created the environment for the growth and development for the facet of Caribbean immigrant life, which is essentially a labor of love.
Gone are the days, from Harlem to Brooklyn, when we were relegated to side streets, arrested for parading without a permit and ridiculed by those who should know better because they wanted to define and to circumscribe the limits of a rich burgeoning culture about to explode, thereby enriching the acculturation process that has made this city, state and nation great. Our cultural contribution can be likened to a short step that has grown into a great distance.
There are features of the carnival festival which merit discussion very briefly. On the cultural, both conceptually and structurally, we have attained a level of sophistication in the art form with respect to the marvelous costumes, floats, bands, music and song and dance which make West Indian carnival a panorama of pure pristine pleasure and pageantry - 5P's. Politically, because of the large numbers that come out to experience and enjoy the festival, which in a manner of speaking, is a feeding frenzy for the politicians, we do not exercise the political leverage and the sophistication necessary to secure for our immigrant people, the benefits that could otherwise accrue. Economically, the Caribbean community is sitting on a gold mine, oblivious to the possibility of massive fund raising during the week of Labor Day.
To give an example, a very modest attempt with only a few members from the Caribbean American Community Comprehensive Center, Inc. (CACCC) working the Labor Day crowd, by asking for a dollar, we have been able with good friends supplementing our effort - Local 144 SEIU, WIADCA Inc., Hon. Una Clarke, Hon. Marty Markowitz, Carib News, Care Plus Health Plan - to give financial assistance through UNICEF to suffering children in Rwanda in Africa, Haiti, Antigua and Barbuda, Montserrat, Jamaica, and Grenada. This year, we are begging for volunteers to come forward and join the effort.
Additionally, we are suggesting that checks made out to CACCC Children's Fund, be mailed to 1128 Eastern parkway, 3rd Floor, Brooklyn, NY 11213.
Enjoy the day, and remember that in unity there is strength.
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