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5 Years in Crown Heights and I had never been to the West Indian Day Parade. That sounds impossible since the festival consumes my ENTIRE neighborhood but then again I am usually out of the city celebrating Labor Day with friends or family.

This year we decided to stay in Brooklyn and I figured I would see what all the hype was about. Apparently this parade is one of the biggest events of the summer. West Indian Day celebrates culture from a variety of Caribbean nations, including Trinidad & Tobago, Jamaica, Guyana, Antigua and Barbuda, Haiti, Barbados and Belize.

2 Million People

Whenever friends or neighbors talk about Labor Day in Crown Heights they mention the craziness of shootings and stabbings related to the parade. Even a quick Google search populates the page with fatal news headlines and other criticisms. In fact just this morning “…two people were shot and killed and five others wounded in attacks…” during the j’ouvert (daybreak) pre parade celebrations.

The city did try and crack down on the violence by increasing the NYPD officers, surveillance cameras, light towers but how much can you do to stop the violence.

All of the crazy negative precursors aside, the carnival was pretty incredible. There were an insane amount of people, almost 2 million.

The colors, the music, the energy, the food, the smiles. So many smiles.

Hands down my favorite thing about the parade were the colors. So many bright beautiful colors and extravagant outfits. So vivid. So alive. The energy was contagious. Bodies couldn’t resist moving to the music. Faces gave up fighting the never ending urge to smile. Caribbean culture filled the entre Eastern Parkway and overflowed into the surrounding streets.

Though I maintain a respected head of locks, I have no Caribbean roots. I may have been a stranger walking the streets but today they made me feel like family.