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Who Stopped The Carnival?
- DC PanMen Shut Down Early
Brooklyn Next? 


Panmen packing up and leaving town long before sundown as ordered.

Usually, the sheriff tells the undesirables to get out of town by sundown.  Not in Washington D.C. Panmen barely made it pass noon.  At 1:00 pm the last steelband on the carnival route, PanMasters Steel Orchestra crossed the seemingly designated - No Play Zone - (which means - no music of any sort, no chipping, no dancing, no singing, no drumming, and definitely, no Pan Playing) at the beginning of the Howard University campus.  They were abruptly shut down with an order to stop playing.   Revelers of course had no music now to chip to.  Never mind the walls of the university, and the lawns just outside were laced with patient and adoring fans waiting for chance to hear and enjoy the sweet pan music in temperatures that reached 93 in the shade.

DC Pan Jammers rocking Carnival revelers moments before they were forced to pack-up

Shock, disbelief and bewilderment was etched on their faces; countless hundreds that continued to pour out of the Washington DC subways on their way to what they thought was going to be a festive day only to be told "you're too late - Pan done."  In fact it was done before it started - with an "official"  10:00 am start and 3:00 pm shutdown.

Traditionally, the steelbands were the closing act to the Washington festivities.  However the changes instituted this year forced the steelbands to do the reverse - open the parade.   It is extremely ironic that this year's participants were forced to shut down at an early time in front of Howard University, which is located in a prominently African- American and Caribbean neighborhood.  It is one of the most famous historically black universities.  Moreover, the university figured greatly in the development of Dr. Eric Williams,  the first prime minister of Trinidad and Tobago, the birthplace of the steelpan instrument. 

Howard University  and the parade route are a stone's throw from the official home of US President George W. Bush - the White House, all related Capitol Buildings, FBI, CIA, the Pentagon, the US Justice Department - and the list goes on.

Pan Masters packing - up real early

Long gone are the days of the steelpan "badjohns."  Steelpan music folks are now peaceful law-abiding citizens, serious-minded musicians whose artform is world-recognized.  So when the sheriff says "shut it down" and "get out of town before sundown" (or noon) they are gone.

Indeed, these moves have dealt a serious blow to the future of carnival in Washington D.C.  It is obvious that the city officials believe that carnival is not an important part of the fabric of the residents of D.C.  It is time for pan and mas to move on to another area where they will receive better treatment.

D.C. Carnival In Pictures 

Basement Press Corp.

2005 When Steel Talks - All Rights Reserved

New York, June 26, 2005

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