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Trini Jungle Juice: Carnival Photos :: NY Labor Day Carnival


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The History of Carnival is as colorful as the present day festival. It's roots lie in the festivities of the original civilization in Ancient Kemet (Egypt). The many tribes that gathered around the Nile Delta practiced similar ceremonies to praise their deities. These tribes were nomads and settled near and far: many Yoruba, Ibo and Hausa tribes settled the western region of Africa - some of them ended up in the Caribbean in the 1700's and 1800's because of Slavery.

During and after the Slave trade when many people were uprooted and transferred to Caribbean Islands by force their traditions were kept residually in their souls. These traditions were then incorporated by slaves in La Trinity (Trinidad) and other Caribbean Islands where the French and other land owners settled. Parts of these festivities and celebrations resembled the French Mardi Gras. There-in lies the birth of Carnival in the Caribbean. However, Carnival is continuously evolving and today bears no resemblance to the original.

During this early period the French, Spanish and British aristocracy held grand and lavish costume balls, feasts and small street parades. Slaves were not permitted to participate. After the abolishment of slavery, thousands of freed slaves celebrated by lampooning their former masters and mimicking the dress and behavior of the European people. The character of Carnival changed - becoming more boisterous, noisy and disorderly while at the same time getting more colorful and spectacular with magnificent and elaborately designed costumes.

The people of the Caribbean have exported their carnival traditions to Canada, England, and several US cities. However the New York version of this celebration far exceeds any similar celebration in the US.

Carnival In New York

Ms. Jessie Waddle and some of her West Indian friends started the Carnival in Harlem in the 1920's by staging costume parties in large enclosed places - like the Savoy, Renaissance and Audubon Ballrooms due to the cold wintry weather of February. This is the usual time for the pre-Lenten celebrations held in most countries around the world. However, because of the very nature of Carnival and the need to parade in costume to music - in door confinement did not work.

The earliest known Carnival street activity was held during the 1940's when Ms. Waddle, secured the first street permit for a parade type event on the streets of Harlem. During the 1960's, another Trinidadian - Rufus Goring, brought Carnival to Brooklyn. In 1967, Goring passed the reigns over to Carlos Lezama, who later became president of WIADCA and who nurtured the organization and carnival celebrations till 2001, when, due to his ill-health he retired and his daughter, Yolanda Lezama-Clark was elected president. Both lived in Trinidad During their formative years.

"Labor Day Carnival Parade" has grown over the years from thousands of participants and tourists to over 3.5 million people in attendance since the mid - 1990's according to then Mayor Rudy Giuliani. The influx of tourists from all over the world has benefited New York City on an economic level, most recognizably with large corporations, small businesses and the tourist/service industry.


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