Some events in Brooklyn are quietly enjoyable. The Cherry Blossom Festival at the Botanic Gardens and a solitary walk in Prospect Park come to mind. The Caribbean Day Parade is not one of these events. It is loud, raucus and colorful.
To set the scene, the parade route runs down Eastern Parkway for several miles until the Brooklyn Museum. The parade takes place in the main road, while vendors take root in the sitting malls between the main road and the service road. The crowd is huge, but not so large that you can't see or move about.
The parade is a celebration of music and color. Loud trucks with DJs blaring, reggae, calypso, house, and other local music slowly move past. Group after group of colorful marchers strut their stuff covered in sequins and feathers. Forget the "American" ideal body image. Caribbean cultures know that sexy comes in all shapes, and indeed, all are celebrated here. The color is amazing in the crowd too, as flags of the many nations are proudly waved. Shouts from the passing trucks of "HOW YOU DOIN JAMAICA", "LETS HEAR FROM TRINIDAD & TOBAGO", and "CMON BAJANS" stir the crowd into a flag waving frenzy.
Let's talk about the vendors for a while. This is not your typical street fair selling tube socks. No, this is a celebration of all things Caribbean - especially music and food. Block after block of goat roti, jerk chicken, ox-tail soup, curry shrimp, corn, festival, calloo, ackee, salt fish and other great foods are washed down with home made sorrel, lemonade or other concoctions. You can buy all sorts of great music, tee shirts with Bob Marley, and more flags than the UN.
I left the parade with a belly full of jerk chicken, the beats in my head, and the knowledge that I had just witnessed a very special 'ting. Here are some photos courtesy of the NY Times: