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Culture on Display at the West Indian American Carnival

The Labor Day weekend means one thing to New York’s West Indian American community: the West Indian American Carnival! Now in its 46th year, the Carnival bills itself as the greatest carnival in North America. It is perhaps New York’s largest cultural festival.

The celebration of carnival began in the 1920s as a private event among the West Indian communities in Harlem. It became an official event in 1947, when a Trinidadian woman received a permit from the city to organize a street festival on Labor Day. In 1964, the city revoked the permit because of a disturbance at one event.

The festival resumed in 1969, in a new location – Brooklyn’s Eastern Parkway – perhaps following the migration of West Indians from Harlem. It also had an organizing committee, the West Indian American Day Carnival Association, which, under the 32-year stewardship of Carlos Lezama grew into the signature event it is today.

The West Indian American Carnival, 2013

Each year, the carnival kicks off on Thursday with a music festival, featuring some of the region’s popular entertainers. On Friday, there’s a Youth Fest and a Brass Fest; and a Junior Carnival Parade and Panorama Steelband Competition on Saturday. Fat Sunday (Dimanche Gras) features the winner of the steelband competition as well as the king and queen costume winners.

West Indian American Carnival Queen

Taking photos with the queen

And on Labor Day Monday, the activities come to a grand finale with parade which attracts elected officials – the Brooklyn Borough President, Marty Markowitz, has been the grand master for the last several years – business leaders, members of the Caribbean diplomatic corps and between one and three million people. They line the Eastern Parkway parade route from Schenectady Avenue to Grand Army Plaza enjoying Caribbean food, the many floats, costumed bands, and the sounds of Soca, Reggae, Zouk, Kompa, Salsa and Calypso.

Junior Carnival, West Indian American Carnival

Watching the Junior or Kiddie Carnival

Like most West Indians, I look forward to carnival and have spent many a Labor Day on the Parkway. Had it not been for my not-totally-back-to-normal-ankle, I would have been there this year. The junior carnival was a good compromise as I’d never been and I was curious to see the youngsters do their thing. Yes, carnival is not only for the adults.

Junior Carnival, West Indian American Carnival

Junior Carnival

It was nearly 2 pm when I arrived at the Eastern Parkway/Brooklyn Museum station. As I exited the subway, I was surprised to see several parents and their costumed youngsters waiting to board. Was the carnival finished? I was relieved when one mom said her daughter had already performed and they were going home to rest. Outside the station, more people were sitting on benches near the museum’s entrance or milling around.

I followed the sound of soca music to the area behind the museum where the carnival was taking place. There were food vendors, face painters and people, lots of people, flags waving, flags tied on their wrists, or dressed in the colors of their respective flags. There was pride and excitement in the air.

There were only a few bleacher seats and they were already taken so I joined a group of people standing partially under the shade of a large tree. But I was so far back, I could hardly see the stage when the different camps danced and paraded before the judges, without raising myself on to my toes – something I could have done easily pre-accident. I was lucky to get a few photos. I’ll just have to get there earlier next time.

Linking up this week with Travel Photo Thursday, which Nancie at Budget Travelers Sandbox organizes.

Time for Church!

I’m fascinated by churches, especially their design. Sometimes they’re simple, almost stark, other times elaborate.

If I have my camera and can stop, I’ll take photos or I’ll get my camera and return later.

Whatever their design, however, churches inspire reverence.

The Parish of St. Agnes Cathedral

St. Agnes Cathedral, Rockvile Center, NY

As I waited at the Rockville Center station for the train to Long Island a few years ago, I saw this church in the distance. I couldn’t believe how beautiful it looked but I couldn’t get close enough without missing my train. Interestingly, the first mass was celebrated in a blacksmith’s shop with an anvil serving as the altar. St. Agnes has come a long way since then, hosting Mother Theresa in 1986.

Ephesus Church

Ephesus Seventh-Day Adventist, New York

I used to stand on the corner opposite Ephesus in Harlem and stare up at the steeple. At 37 stories, it seems as if it could touch the sky. After doing that on several different occasions, I went back specifically to take a photo of it.

A fire in 1969, damaged the original steeple. It was replaced 35 years later with a new one which weights 7,000 pounds.

The Second Reformed, Hackensack, NJ

Second Reformed Church, Hackensack, NJ

I spotted this church on a side street in Hackensack, NJ. It wasn’t the one I set out to photograph but I liked the quiet elegant look of it. Researching it later, I discovered that the stained glass windows in the sanctuary were designed by Tiffany.

Capuchin Monastery Church of St. John

Capuchin Monastery, NY

I’m not sure how many times I walked pass this monastery near Penn Station, New York before I noticed the sign. Except for the statue, little else about the building says religion.

When I got home, I Googled the name and discovered that the Capucin Monastery Church of St. John is an Order of Friars that arose in 1520. It is part of the Catholic church.

This is my submission to Travel Photo Thursday, which Nancie at Budget Travelers Sandbox organizes. Be sure to head over and check out more photos from locations around the world.

 

Travel Photo Thursday: New York Christmas Scenes

It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas in New York.

Here are a few scenes from Bryant Park. I’ve always loved Bryant Park – it’s small and intimate, and very accessible especially for people who work in midtown. People stop by during lunchtime, sit at the tables and read or take advantage of their free wifi. In the summer, there are movies. In winter, ice skating.

Skating in Bryant Park

Skating in Bryant Park

Bryant Park Christmas Tree

Bryant Park Christmas Tree

Met Christmas Tree

The Metropolitan Museum's Christmas Tree

Last Saturday, as I traveled around the city, I couldn’t help noticing that almost every guy of a certain age (and some girls) was dressed like Santa. Cars honked and people waved when they saw them. But these Santa guys and gals weren’t going to dole out gifts, they were part of the Santas-only pub crawl – a flash mob type event that brings together people dressed as Santas, elves, etc. They go from bar to bar, drinking and generally having a good time. Great way to get “into the spirit,” isn’t it?

Going to the Santa Pub Crawl

Going to the Santa Pub Crawl

This Santa agreed to let me take a photo but pulled on his mask just as I raised the camera.

Santa Pub Crawl

Santa Pub Crawl

This is my submission to this week’s Budget Travelers Sandbox Travel Photo Thursday series. Be sure to check out other photo and story entries on their website!