“The rumble of distant drums rolls across Prospect Park, breaking the pre-dawn tranquility that envelops central Brooklyn on Labor Day morning.My watch says 4 a.m.-the J’Ouvert celebration must be underway. Quietly slipping out of my apartment into the cool of the night, I note the irony of being late for Carnival, an event that by nature defies time. Still,I quicken my pace, cutting across the park, drawn towards the percussive din and faint strains of steel pan. Emerging near the zoo entrance on Flatbush Avenue, I come face to face with a group of devils.“
“The devils, along with hundreds of less elaborately clad partygoers, are ‘jumping up” and “wining down” to the Pantonic’s rendition of the popular calypso “In My House.” The band and dancers pulse as one, inching down the road toward Empire Boulevard, then bumping up against the Adlib Steelband and merging into a mile-long sea of humanity.”
“As the nighttime slips into dawn, the J’Ouvert procession lurches down Nostrand Avenue, past Gloria’s Roti Shop (Watch this video with the Wire actors and Anthony Bourdain!) and Alan’s Caribbean Bakery, and finally begins to wind down. I catch my breath, and like thousands of other participants, wonder if I will have the energy to make it up to Eastern Parkway later that afternoon for the main Carnival event.”
“In Brooklyn, home to the largest West Indian community outside the
Caribbean and host to a Labor Day Carnival that draws close to two million
participants each year, J’Ouvert is a relatively new phenomenon. Over the
past decade Brooklyn’s J’Ouvert has grown from small groups of Dimanche
Gras (Fat Sunday) revelers to a massive predawn celebration attracting
nearly 100,000 steelband and old mas enthusiasts. This inquiry will trace
the emergence of Brooklyn’sJ’Ouvert festival in the larger context of New
York Carnival, and consider the event’s role in the revitalization of older
Carnival traditions in Brooklyn’s Trinidad-American community.”
“For the moment J’Ouvert remains a grassroots celebration of Trinidadian
pan, calypso, and ole mas–deep cultural symbols that offers transplanted Trinidadians and their American-born children the possibility of connecting across space to their native homeland, and back in time to their African ancestors who processed through the streets of Port of Spain with drums and Camboulay torches to celebrate their independence from slavery. But if novelist and social critic Earl Lovelace is correct in contending that the “Emancipation-Jouvay spirit” has the power to transform official Carnival into “a stage for the affirmation of freedom and the expression of the triumphing human spirit,” then Brooklyn J’Ouvert may serve as a source of inspiration not only for Trinidadian immigrants, but for all Afro-Caribbean New Yorkers who struggle to assert their humanity and self worth in their new North American home.”
A couple videos of the processions of steel drum bands.
Please note, as J’Ouvert gets hammered in the press for the violence that happens around it, note the elders in this next video simply rejoicing in their home countries folkloric and aged traditions.