(Originally published at OnePaper.com)
Brooklyn, New York: From Harlem’s heyday in the 1930’s, to today’s triumphant splendor on the grounds of the Brooklyn Museum, the West Indian Day Carnival has been a constant in the lives of Caribbean peoples in the New York Metropolitan area. The year 2001 boasted around 4 million visitors from a wide assortment of countries. From steel pan to brass, lame’ to sequins, the experience is every inch authentic, every inch Carnival!
The West Indian-American Day Carnival Association (WIADCA) remains the prime mover in this collection of activities. As the oldest Carnival Association in the United States, WIADCA had humble beginnings. Founders and officers set aside portions of their homes as offices and communications centers in the early days. WIADCA President Yolanda Lezama-Clark inherited her devotion to the New York Carnival from her parents, Carlos and his late wife Hilary Lezama. In fact, her own father was elected President of the organization back in 1967 and has held that office many times over 34 years.
New York is considered a melting pot, but the Carnival celebrations from the 30’s to the racially-heated 60’s and 70’s were true balms to the community. In ’91, when Crown Heights, New York threatened to implode due to serious tensions between Blacks and Jews following a notorious traffic incident, Lezama is recognized as a prime mover towards unity. People from all walks of life and cultures came together under the umbrella of Mas; mainstream society got a look at the dedication, craftsmanship and musical artistry by people of African and Caribbean descent.
Accolades and recognitions from various Governors of New York, Govs. Nelson Rockefeller, Hugh Carey, Mario Cuomo, and George Pataki and Rudolph Guiliani confirm New York’s embrace of the West Indian “Labor Day” Carnival. No longer on the fringes, the WIADCA saw their Parade Route, Brooklyn’s Eastern Parkway, dubbed the “Carlos Lezama Parkway” during 2001 New York Carnival.
The West Indian-American Day Carnival Association is on the web, natch; a miniature slide show adorns the top of the menu along the left vertical border. There visitors will find a schedule of activities, Mas and Steel Band listings, pics, history and more. Skip the Flash movie on the splash page or enjoy the entire experience using Internet Explorer 5 or Netscape 4.78 or above.