West Indian Parade Honors Caribbean Culture, History

Monday, Sep 6, 2010  |  Updated 5:03 PM EDT
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West Indian Parade Honors Caribbean Culture, History

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The sights, sounds and aromas of the West Indies came alive on the streets of New York City on Monday, as marchers decked in elaborate feather headdresses and costumes made their way past flag-waving onlookers standing in front of food stalls selling every Caribbean food imaginable.

The West Indian American Day Parade is a traditional Labor Day event, following a path down Eastern Parkway starting in the Crown Heights section of Brooklyn. The parade and its accompanying street festival turns one of the city's biggest thoroughfares into a crowded, see-and-be-seen, hours-long party.

"I like what I see, the colors, the music, the food, the flavor that's out here,'' said Enilda Berea, 41, who comes to the parade every year.

The Brooklynite who traces her roots to Trinidad said she enjoyed seeing people from all the Caribbean islands in one place.

"It's the one time of year that everybody's united from all cultures.''

Sheree Smith came to the parade from the Bronx to represent Jamaica, decked out in the black and green of the country's flag.

"It's good to see everybody together, I wish it could be like this all the time,'' the 36-year-old said. But she was clear on where her loyalties were. "You know Jamaica's the number one, we are the best,'' she said, laughing.

And as is traditional for practically every parade in the city, politicians made their presence known. Mayor Michael Bloomberg,

City Council Speaker Christine Quinn and Gov. David Paterson started the parade off, and a host of candidates running for offices, both local and state, either marched or had their representatives there.

They were joined by representatives from government, law enforcement agencies, community groups, and commercial enterprises all saluting the Caribbean community in the city. Census estimates says there are more than 600,000 people of West Indian ancestry in New York.

The parade, modeled on traditional pre-Lenten Carnival festivities featured floats with music blaring as they went by.

Dancers carried huge feather wings on their shoulders. Along Eastern Parkway, food stalls were selling everything from fresh fruit to cold drinks to West Indian staples like jerk chicken, curried goat and ox tail.

Along with those of Caribbean descent, there were plenty of those who were Caribbean for the day.

Jane Broadbent, a New Zealand native now living in Manhattan, was making her second visit to the parade, bringing along her first-time parade attendee husband and their young child.

"I just remember it being so colorful and vibrant and really fun, so I wanted to show these guys what it was all about,'' she said.

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