2006-09-07 / Caribbean Corner

Parade Offers Sounds & Sights Of The Caribbean

By Leslie Ann Murray

Food, laughter, bright costumes and revelers dancing to the beat of the islands.

More than a million spectators shuffled their feet to the rhythm of the Steel Pan, grinded to Calypso music, and swiveled their hips to reggae tunes on Eastern Parkway on Monday for the 39th annual West Indian American Day Parade. Colorful Caribbean flags were worn as respectful accessories from babies to grannies, who wore their native island flags as belts, glasses and capes.

The parade started at 11 a.m. with the traditional walk of Mayor Bloomberg, elected officials and candidates vying for political office. After they departed the congested carnival walkway about two hours later, the real party began with the first band from St. Kitts, which was adorned in bright red, black, green and yellow costumes.

All the festive costumes reflected the vibrant, beautiful Caribbean energy. The second float featured a devil archetype with hideous grim eyes and his demon followers, who crawled onto Eastern Parkway performing contemporary dances mixed with traditional Caribbean gyrations.

The smell of curry chicken, macaroni pie, sorrel and baked goods wafted from every stall, and reawakened Sylvia Alsindani homesickness. "I am here be-cause it's part of my culture, this is a way for [Caribbean] people to come together and unify as one," the Belize native said.

Everyone spread cheer on Eastern Parkway as the joyous sound of calypso ignited pride within many Caribbean expatriates. Parents from the islands viewed the celebration as a mobile cultural lesson for their children.

Curios vendor Amin-Ra uses the parade to instill culture in his children. He explained, "I want to teach my children knowledge of themselves and to build high self esteem, this is why we come every year."

The parade provided a platform for the Caribbean community to feel proud, and allowed many to embrace different cultures.

Ten-year-old Candice Deo from Brooklyn, waved both a Jamaica and Trinidadian flags, proving that the younger generation was aware of its roots. When asked why, the youngster replied, "Trinidad is for where my parents came from and every year my family visits Jamaica so I wanted to represent that country."

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