Celebrating Labor Day with a Caribbean Flair

Pop and I in 1970 at the Labor Day West Indian Parade in Crown Heights, Brooklyn. And, me in 2010 at Trinidad Carnival.

When people hear Pop passed away on Christmas Day 2020, I typically get the “That holiday is going to be hard…” I get why they would think that. However, there are other significant times and holidays that were so much more special to Pop and our family. Well, Labor Day was a holiday and special moment that Pop loved over many others. And, the last few days have been a lesson in that grieving is truly a very slow boil process. But, even with a slow boil it can bubble over. However, even through the grief I get to be grateful for the beautiful memories to include a holiday that Pop loved.

Evidence A: I noticed something interesting, when I went off to attend Howard University and all the years after. The Labor Day holiday became the one time of year Pop ALWAYS desired for 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, during our Morning Pop Talks, 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, because this event has been steeped in family tradition for many, many years, I could feel the energy of his pout 220+ miles away.

Evidence B: The image of me and cool a$$ Pop was taken 51 years ago 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 post 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 annually 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 and liming in their own way.

Evidence C: 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. This is to include my Aunt Barbara.

Pop and Aunt Barbara helping Uncle Elmo get ready for the Labor Day West Indian Parade in Crown Heights, Brooklyn. In the 1970s.

Evidence D: 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, as well as my Aunt Vilma, who 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. 😆 But regardless of how family branched out, it was always our tradition to connect at the same spot on deh 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 two years ago (pre-pandemic), the tradition was still intact. It is such a lovely time.

Evidence E: Three people who I loved to experience their Labor Day weekend 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 hang hard. I loved experiencing their enthusiastic, energetic, and loving connection. Now fast forward to the 2000s and my nieces and nephews are carrying the torch. In 2019, I attended the parade while Pop was in the hospital. It warmed my heart to see my nephew Clive 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, while feting from sun up to sundown. To even corny rituals with friends, such as me and Lisa never letting the day go by without a 🎶Mondaaaay on deh Parkwaaaayyyyy!🎶 shout out. 😍🤣 And, because of my pride I loved the opportunity to introduce friends such as Margo (RIP) to the experience.

Nephew Clive and I in 2019 at the Labor Day West Indian Parade in Crown Heights, Brooklyn.
“We are Daughters of the Diaspora!! Born and/or raised in the U.S., but having a strong connection to our cultural roots. Grateful to our parents for raising us up to love ourselves and love others!!” — Carla Brown
Childhood Brooklyn and St. Mark friends at the Labor Day West Indian Parade in Crown Heights, Brooklyn.
My Howard Marching Band Bison, Tau Beta Sigma National Honorary Band Sorority SisTAU, and dear friend Margo (RIP) at one of our many DC Caribbean Carnival Parades.

I thank God and Pop 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 will do my best to honor Pop and my ancestors for years to come. 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! RIP to Pop and my beautiful ancestors. #BeDoLove #CaregiversMatter #CrownHeightsBrooklyn #WestIndianDayParade #wiadca #TrinidadAndTobago #JumpAndWave #SweetTAndT #SocaIsInMyBloodItsInMyVeins #PuffBallsDontCare

2018 was the year before Pop became ill. That year we made our first trip together to Trinidad. It was perfect timing. Pop was a month from his 89th birthday.

🎶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!

This one is dedicated to Margo. Swinging Engine by Burning Flames – https://youtu.be/V-P0Pbit4wQ

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