Labor Day minus Labor Day

An opinion

by Garvin Blake

Provided with the expressed permission of: the Author

Brooklyn, New York, USA - For most New Yorkers Labor Day signals the passing of Summer:  back-to-school, early sunsets, dropping temperatures. However, for West Indians, the heat is on.

“Mas in Brooklyn” - The Mighty Sparrow
Guitar-man - Labor Day in Brooklyn, 1983
Guitar-man - Labor Day in Brooklyn 1983 - photo:  © WST

Frustrated masqueraders impatiently waiting to collect costumes. Steelbands scrambling to learn endings. Out-of-towners arriving in droves. Soca, kompa and reggae pumping everywhere. It's fete after fete. The Brooklyn Museum grounds are transformed into an open-air theatre. Eastern Parkway becomes the scene of the largest street party in North America.

These half-century-old rituals are now part of the city’s character. The melancholy mood that sets in as Autumn approaches is put on pause for the weekend. No need this year. We’ve all been on pause since March, and can’t seem to find the reset button. The beat of the people now has an irregular rhythm.

There will be attempts to simulate the action virtually. The brave will attend clandestine parties, crossing their fingers, hoping God is ah Trini. The cautious will bond safely with friends and family, finding solace in jerk chicken, curry goat, peas and rice, Heineken, rum, weed and whiskey.

Still, an emptiness will remain. A puzzling emptiness. Labor Day minus Labor Day? Nah! A once unimaginable thought made real. Surrendering until next year is the easy solution. A solution favored by the morally superior sermonizers and some genuinely concerned citizens. But Caribbean culture never surrenders easily. And a few warriors, with deep scars from years of fighting to keep their culture alive in an often hostile environment, may not want to concede defeat, despite the odds.

Brooklyn Labor Day parade 2015 - photo by and © Phill Benn

So don't be surprised if, by chance, you hear there are a hundred jab molassies, ten moko jumbies, three steelbands, two rara bands, a reggae truck and an assortment of merrymakers dressed in last year's costumes parading somewhere in Brooklyn this weekend. And if you happen to bounce them up, and the spirit grips you, put on a mask, take out yuh flag and join de bacchanal, otherwise pull aside and let de band pass.

Sonatas Steel Orchestra Flag Woman - Labor Day in Brooklyn 1983
Sonatas Steel Orchestra Flag Woman - Labor Day in Brooklyn 1983 - photo:  © WST

Labor day - Corn
Roast corn - Labor Day in Brooklyn -- photo by and © Phoebe Blake

Children's carnival - Labor Day in Brooklyn
Children's Carnival - Labor Day in Brooklyn -- photo by and © Phoebe Blake

Labor Day in Brooklyn
Labor Day in Brooklyn -- photo by and © Phoebe Blake

Labor Day in Brooklyn - Pirates
Labor Day in Brooklyn - Pirates -- photo by and © Phoebe Blake

Brooklyn J’Ouvert 2009

From J’Ouvert 2016 in New York
J’Ouvert 2016 in New York -  © WST.  Animated by GEORGE REDHAWK at Plotagraph Pro

Garvin Blake is a New York-based pan player and recording artist. His latest CD is Parallel Overtones.

Leave a comment in the WST forum

When Steel Talks shirts
now available!
Order yours now!
When Steel Talks - T Shirt