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September 8, 2007 - Volume 1, No. 6


This year Brooklyn Carnival was quieter than usual. It seems that every year it gets quieter and quieter. There were a few back yard parties but the energy was not there. The two weeks that lead up to labor-day carnival was quiet as a mouse. The usual music that one would hear from cars, trucks and SUVs was not there. Maybe it is because of the new noise law. Most of the steelbands were in their usual panyard. And, some of them were ordered by the authorities to stop earlier than usual. Again, the claims of noise came from few residents (who called the police) who can’t seem to have the patience to deal with one month of steelband music. Some bands were shut down around 11PM because the police claimed that they received calls from homeowners and tenants about the ‘noise’ from the bands. Some of the bands were lucky (Dem Stars, D’Radoes, Despers USA, Cross Fire and Pantonic) because they practiced in industrial areas. Bands like Sesame Flyers, Harmony and Hearts of Steel which practice in Caribbean areas also were not stopped. I understand that Sonatas was one of the bands that was stopped early.

This year’s jouvert was exciting and colorful although some masqueraders and panjumbies experienced a little horrors with the police. I can’t understand why the police don’t get it. Panjumbies come to jouvert to have a good time. We appreciate the security from the police but they have to comprehend our behavior. As a result, I decided to try and explain we carnival so that New York’s Finest (police) will understand certain elements of our culture in order to prevent unnecessary problems and confrontation.

The steelbands try to be as orderly as is possible. Steelbands are an intrinsic part of the West Indian Day Carnival. WIADCA, who sponsors the event, should have contacts with the police Captains. They should meet with them a few times every year to sort out complaints and the logistics of the carnival. There should also be meetings with the police in the different local precincts. So, we will not have the same problems every year with the steelbands. There is a lack of leadership among the steelbands to get their message across to the authorities. I suggest that the bands appoint a spokesperson to represent their cause to the different police precincts.

The steelbands are not leaving Brooklyn. Brooklyn is the permanent home for New York carnival and the steelbands will be there every year come what may. The representative should meet with the police throughout the year so that their presence is known. They should attend the various police functions and mix with the authorities. Let the authorities get to know the steelband leadership. The steelbands have to learn how to lobby for their artistic freedom. The steelbands should volunteer to play for the various functions and get to know their precinct Captains.

The jouvert begins at 2 AM with bands gathering at Grand Army Plaza on Flatbush Avenue then on to Empire Boulevard and into Nostrand Avenue ending at 10AM on Clarkson Avenue. The route is peopled with steelbands and participants (not onlookers) who walk up and down, between the bands dancing and greeting one another. Remember, the jouvert is not a parade but a carnival. When someone sees another they cross from one side of the street to the other passing through the bands seeking that person. There is no reason for them to be stopped and turned around. Panjumbies like to look for friends and if they see one, they immediately run to greet or call them. It’s a human instinct. I would strongly suggest that the organizers of the jouvert start the jouvert at a different route. I want to suggest a new route for the jouvert. The jouvert should start at the corner of Empire Boulvard and Nostrand Avenue. It should travel down Nostrand Avenue to the corner of Flatbush Avenue where it should end. This new route would give the Caribbean businesses an opportunity to make some money from the jouvert. Nostrand Avenue is peopled with Caribbean businesses. The steelbands could solicit financial assistance from those businesses for bringing to them patrons. The jouvert should be a joint venture between the steelbands and the Caribbean businesses.

I urge the Police Commissioner to send a representative to Trinidad for carnival and contact the local police to see how they handle masqueraders and panjumbies on the road. Most Trinbagonians are very respectful of police and authority. So, don’t shout or yell at them. A simple explanation will go a long way to ease the tension. The jouvert is an essential part of the carnival. And, jouvert is a carnival and not a parade. There are different rules for the carnival as opposed to a parade. Panjumbies do not stand idly on the side to look at the steelbands. They like to participate by entering the steelbands.

Carnival is mingling. As a result, people walk up and down the street and enter the bands to greet friends and family. After they talk they will leave the band. Participation is part of the carnival. Sometimes they will get a little loud calling out to people they have not seen for years. And, when they see someone they have not seen for years they get excited and hug the person and start to dance. If you see a group of people talking and laughing and acting like they fighting, they are not. That is how we express ourselves with one another. We are very emotional when it comes to carnival.

Another thing I noticed was that there were not sufficient port toilets. When we drink rum or beer we have to pee. So, please put enough port toilets and put them close by. I would urge users of the port toilets to try and keep them clean. Another of our characteristics is that we like to sit on the road side. Please don’t disturb us. After the jouvert we will leave. And, when you see us waving our hands in the air we are not fighting. And, please learn to distinguish the different Caribbean peoples. There is a difference between Trinidadians and Jamaicans. Grenadians are not Barbadians. If you look closely at the various flags you can tell who is who.

I hope next year will see some changes in the Panorama sound system. I hope the steelbands stand up and demand a proper sound system produced by Basement Recording.

Stay Blogged

P.S. For any carnival, steelband or local terms used here, please go to the Port of Pan ABC,
or you may contact this writer. Thanks for reading.

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