NEW YORK—Sporting a superman shirt and a massive feathered headpiece, Trinidadian flag in hand, Anjali Brathwaite, 10, was ready to celebrate her heritage at the West Indian Day Carnival Parade Monday afternoon. “It’s so much fun,” she said.
The 2-mile parade along the Eastern Parkway in Brooklyn is a massive celebration of Caribbean culture with loud music and colorful costumes. Held on Labor Day, it is also a display of self-promotion for politicians and political wannabes just a week before primary day.
Mayor Bill de Blasio led the parade with his wife, Chirlane McCray, who is of Caribbean descent, and their children, Dante and Chiara.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo joined, together with a cohort of people handing out “Caribbeans for Cuomo” signs along the route.
Cuomo’s primary challenger Zephyr Teachout made an appearance, dancing along the way in a yellow skirt suit.
Zephyr Teachout, running against Andrew Cuomo for the Democratic Party nomination for Governor of New York, greets onlookers at the West Indian Day Carnival Parade along Eastern Parkway in Brooklyn, New York, Sept. 1, 2014. (Petr Svab/Epoch Times)
Anjali’s grandmother, Helen Brathwaite, has frequented the parade for decades. She has lived in New York City for 45 years–first in Brooklyn, then Queens, and now on Long Island, and still makes time to join.
But the carnival isn’t what it used to be, she said.
Brathwaite used to come to the carnival with her daughters, when they were little, and remembers it on a much larger scale. “There would be vendors right behind me. Here [it] would be just full of people,” she said, pointing to a sidewalk with a few people strolling up and down. “Today–not so much.”
Helen Brathwaite (L) with her granddaughter Anjali Brathwaite and another family member at the West Indian Day Carnival Parade along Eastern Parkway in Brooklyn, New York, Sept. 1, 2014. (Petr Svab/Epoch Times)
Organizers state a participation of 1-3 million and an economic impact of $200 million, yet the dollar figure is more than a decade old.
This year thousand marched, possibly hundreds of thousands watched and cheered.
Vendors still come, costumes are still glittering, and the parade still impresses, yet a shadow of infamy looms over the event.
The largest costume makes its way through the West Indian Day Carnival Parade along Eastern Parkway in Brooklyn, New York, Sept. 1, 2014. (Petr Svab/Epoch Times)
Crime Scene Stereotype
In the past decade, the carnival has been only too often a witness of violent crimes.
In 2003 an 18-year-old boy shot and killed another youngster during the parade. In 2005 another man was shot, another in 2006, and another in 2007.
The harmful pattern had stopped, along with dropping murder rates across the city, but in 2012 two men were fatally stabbed along the parade route a few hours after it ended and two were killed in a shootout with police in 2011.
Local officials criticized the tabloid press for connecting the 2011 incident with the parade, saying shootings were a statistical probability in the neighborhood and did not define the nature of an event attended by millions.
This year, at 3:30 a.m., a recent parolee opened fire on a crowd partaking in pre-dawn festivities not far from the parade site, Police Commissioner William Bratton said. A 55-year-old man was killed and two other people were wounded, and the suspect was taken into custody.
Participant poses for a picture during the West Indian Day Carnival Parade along Eastern Parkway in Brooklyn, New York, Sept. 1, 2014. (Petr Svab/Epoch Times)
Bratton said more than 4,000 police officers were deployed along the parade route, including dozens of undercover officers mingling with partygoers, and several police helicopters thundered above the festivities.
Mayor Bill de Blasio defended the importance of the parade despite the violence.
“The vast, vast majority have a wonderful time and only a few individuals get out of line,” he said after a breakfast attended by elected officials, parade organizers, and local dignitaries before the parade.
“Of course, you will have a few rotten eggs in the group that will do something mischievous that will cause problems for everybody,” Brathwaite said. But in the end, “it’s all about culture,” she said.
“Everybody’s out here to represent their country and to be proud of being who they are.”
Additional reporting by The Associated Press