By Carmen Glover
While the Labor Day weekend highlights laborers and the workforce, in the Caribbean community Labor Day weekend in New York City has typically been a time of revelry, music, food, colorful costumes and floats as the spirit, energy and vibrant flavors of the Caribbean community is put in the spotlight.
This year has been no different, with a host of activities taking place at the Brooklyn Museum on Eastern Parkway as of Thursday, August 28. On Monday, September 1, the festivities climax with a thrilling parade, organized by the West Indian American Day Carnival Association, Inc.(WIADCA). When Jean Alexander was contacted at the WIADCA office recently, telephones were heard going off in the background without any signs of pause.
“It’s been very busy this year,” Alexander explained as she put the finishing touches on the preparations for the weekend events that has attracted participants from across the globe year after year.
Among the events that have taken place so far are the Brassfest soca concert which was held on Friday night. Brassfest featured performances by soca artists who span the Caribbean and included Brooklyn’s own Lyrikal and Marlon Baptiste who both hail originally from Trinidad and Tobago; Teddyson John of St. Lucia and headlining act Machel Montano. For John, this year has been special for him because he performed at Brassfest for the second time, and the first with his band. He has been spurred on, he said, “to show that St. Lucia produces good music.”
Baptiste, on the other hand, who operates the group DJ Sound 4 Life, speaking prior to the show, said he was “definitely looking forward to being on stage because I was born in Trinidad in the land of sweet soca.” Baptiste, who began playing music when he was 12 years old recalled being in the right place at the right time to be noticed.
“I used to play for my family at barbeques but it only takes a good ear for someone to hear you,” he said. “In my case, Natalie Lamming, a promoter in Trinidad, heard me play at a backyard barbecue and I was introduced to her by a family friend in early 2000. Since then, everything she does, I’m a part of it. As her events grew, other promoters saw that I could really play.”
He went on to explain that while he will be participating in the WIADCA events, he will also play his music at special events organized by Lamming over the Labor Day weekend. Baptiste, who does not usually talk over the music for the mostly upscale events that he plays for, sees his participation in the WIADCA parade as the pinnacle of exposure for him and other artists, especially as he aims to take his career into other markets.
“It’s been a busy year but I want to get to Europe,” he explained. “I’ve not been in the European market but I’m patient. I’ve been based particularly in Brooklyn and I travel a lot for shows.”
Thousands of revelers travel far and wide to enjoy the parade festivities in Brooklyn each year. The parade also attracts politicians who see the benefit in sharing fun moments with members of their constituency so that it is easier to attract voters during elections. But one group that has deep vested interests in the parade is the variety of vendors who sell food, flags and other items that illustrate the diverse and vibrant countries of origin for the parade goers and participants. While the crowded parade is not appealing to everyone, many supporters remain glued to television screens to watch the floats and dance to the pulsating music that abounds at the parade. No matter the way in which the parade is enjoyed, one thing is always clear: the WIADCA parade in not to be missed.–OnPointPress.net