This was me and my cool a$$ Pop exactly 50 years ago today in 1970 at the annual Labor Day West Indian Day Parade on Eastern Parkway in my beloved Crown Heights, Brooklyn. I was almost three months shy of my fourth birthday. I am posting it today on Labor Day in honor of my family and friends, and especially my father and mother (both Trinidadians). After carnival in Trinidad (the crème de la crème of Caribbean carnivals), Brooklyn’s is next in line across the world. This parade has grown to now play host to at least 1.0 million revelers. Of course due to COVID it’s not taking place in its normal format. However, the New Yorker’s West Indian spirit is not to be stopped from celebrating/liming in their own way.
I noticed something interesting, when I went off to Howard University and in my later years. It became the one time of year my dad ALWAYS wanted me to come home. Not Christmas. Not Thanksgiving. Not his birthday. But, for the weekend of the Labor Day West Indian Parade. So much so, he’d attempt to entice me with, “I’m cooking cod fish and coco this weekend.” And/or he’d ask “You coming up?” “You here?” And, when I didn’t travel, I could feel the energy of his pout as this event has been steeped in family tradition for many, many years.
In the 1940s-1950s, both sides of my family (grandparents, aunts, uncles) migrated to Harlem from Trinidad. The first Caribbean carnivals in NYC took place in Harlem and then moved to Brooklyn. Pop said the parades could have been larger back then, but many did not claim their Caribbean roots as a result of stigma and/or unhealed wounds. But, not my family as they would participate and play mas from Harlem to Brooklyn with Trini pride.
While growing up in Brooklyn, me and my immediate family lived four blocks down the hill from the parade (Crown Street bet. Troy & Albany). My grandmother lived one block up from us on Carroll Street. My great aunt’s Helen and Sybil lived down the hill. And, my Aunt Vilma still lives down the hill on Brooklyn Avenue. Growing up I would attend the parade with family and family friends. That is until I got grown enough to attend with my friends. Lol But regardless of how family branched out, it was always our tradition to connect at the same spot on de parkway. This is on Eastern Parkway & Brooklyn Avenue, which is right at the corner of our family church, Church of St. Mark. This always preceded and proceeded with a stop at my Aunt Vilma’s house, which is considered Labor Day liming headquarters. And, even up until last year, the tradition was still intact. It is such a lovely time.
Three people who I loved to watch their flow through the years were Pop, Aunt Vilma, and their first cousin Joan (would come up from DC). Even into their 70s-80s years of age, from visiting the Pan Yards, to the Steel Band Panorama, to Kiddie Carnival, to J’ouvert, to the parade, they would go. I loved experiencing their enthusiastic, energetic, and loving connection. Now fast forward to the 2000s and my nieces and nephews are carrying the torch. Last year, while Pop was in the hospital I attended the parade. It warmed my heart that my nephew Clive was upholding the family tradition of jumping up and enjoying the parade at our family spot at Eastern Parkway & Brooklyn Avenue. It truly is in our DNA and threw example to embrace our Trinidadian Roots. To include my pilgrimages to Trinidad for Carnival, participating in the DC and Baltimore carnivals to play mas or mud band, and feting from sun up to sundown. To even corny rituals with friends, such as Lisa and I never letting the day go by without a 🎶Mondaaaay on de Parkwaaaayyyyy!🎶 shout out. 😍🤣 And, because of my pride I loved the opportunity to introduce friends such as Margo (RIP) to the experience.
I thank God for blessing me with these roots for it has enriched my life in profound and joyful ways. As you can see this has been in me and of me before birth. Who knows what the future holds for the parade in Brooklyn and even in Trinidad. But, one thing is for sure is that Caribbean folk will always lime and fete like none other. And, I hope you will find time to exhale and have fun in your own traditional and new ways. Enjoy your day, however, you intend to celebrate. Be safe. Love! #BeDoLove #CaregiversMatter #91YearsYoung #CrownHeightsBrooklyn #WestIndianDayParade #wiadca #wiadca2020 #TrinidadAndTobago #JumpAndWave #SweetTAndT #SocaIsInMyBloodItsInMyVeins #PuffBallsDontCare
🎶Trinidad! Trinidad! Where my people…🎶 — Naya George, Trinidad (Right Hand) https://youtu.be/-O0r9aZca40
“Lime” is a word used in Trinidad and Tobago and throughout the Caribbean as a synonym for “a gathering” or “to hang out.” To lime (liming)is to simply pass time and enjoy yourself, with your tribe, in whatever way you like!