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TONY BEST: Splash of Caribbean colour


TONY BEST: Splash of Caribbean colour

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“It was an experience of a lifetime.  I can’t get over the colour, the pageantry and the excitement.”

Earl Phillips, the Barbados-born Secretary-Treasurer of the powerful Transport Workers’ Union in New York that represents about 40 000 mass transit bus and subway workers was reflecting on last week’s 48th annual West Indian Carnival in Brooklyn.

Phillips was among the grand marshals of America’s largest outdoor cultural festival that was watched by more than a million spectators along Brooklyn’s Eastern Parkway.

He said after he found himself walking along the parade with New York’s leaders, Governor Andrew Cuomo, the City’s mayor Bill de Blasio, Brooklyn Borough president Eric Adams, and Carl Hastie, speaker  of the New York State Assembly, whose family roots are in The Bahamas that  the carnival was a sight to behold.

“The number of people in costumes,  the million-plus spectators that lined Eastern Parkway amidst the unbelievable splash of colour left me feeling ecstatic,  not because I was a grand marshal but  to see so many people enjoying themselves  to the fullest,” he said.

But he wasn’t alone in hailing the festival. Kenneth Mapp, the US Virgin Islands’ governor, whose grandmother was  a Barbadian, said the carnival was a clear  and shining reflection of the Caribbean.

“It tells a story about our culture.  I felt honoured to have been singled out as  a grand marshal,” he said at the traditional Labour Day breakfast before the parade  of bands began.

Like Phillips, Tony Marshall, Barbados’  new United Nations Ambassador who attended his first carnival since assuming duties, praised the presence of the uniformed services – NYPD, fire service and corrections officers – in the parade.

“It was good to see the departments of  the police, fire service etcetera of the United States were involved,” he said. “Yes, the  colour and the music were fine. But I was  a little disappointed at the level of creativity. Too many of the bands looked the same.”

But as the festive atmosphere dominated the scene in Brooklyn, Governor Cuomo and Mayor de Blasio lamented acts of violence  that occurred almost eight hours before the parade began. The violence left Carey Gabay,  a Harvard University-trained New York State attorney, clinging to life after being shot in the head by a stray bullet. The violence took the life of a youth who was fatally stabbed. Both were attending the annual Dimanche Gras.

The police believe two rival youth gangs were shooting at each other when Gabay,  who is from Jamaica, was shot.

“This kind of senseless violence must stop,” said Governor Cuomo. “Carey is a friend  of all who had the pleasure of meeting him.”

The Governor who was presented with  the Justice Award given by the West Indian American Day Carnival Association, the festival’s organiser, described the carnival  as “an exciting parade developed by people from the Caribbean who have contributed  so much to the United States”.

Chirlane McCray, wife of the mayor, said the carnival was extra special for the City’s first family for a number of reasons. First,  was her Barbadian roots; her grandmother was a Bajan. Second, it tells a story  of Caribbean culture, including its food.

“The mayor likes more cou-cou than  I do,” she said. “As you know my roots  are in Barbados.”

“My family connections to the Caribbean through Barbados make the festival special  to me,” de Blasio explained.

More than 40 costume bands took part in the carnival, providing a sea of smiling faces, an endless stream of dancing feet moving  to pulsating Caribbean music and spawning  a mood of joy along the parade route and the adjoining streets.