Year 1 – In the Beginning…
After more than eighteen hours of 30 mg Adderol fueled driving in a Uhaul holding my entire life, I arrived in Brooklyn. That move from Florida was three years ago as of Monday. I know this because the anniversary is celebrated on the same day as the West Indian American Parade (and Labor Day Weekend, but that’s boring).
Beyond exhausted and out of pills, Matt and I get off the highway and immediately hit traffic. Close to Atlantic Avenue there was a series of roadblocks. We would later realize that the blockades had been set up so all vehicles could get into the immediate area but with only a few, scattered exits. Each block grew increasingly busier. We crawled down smoke-filled streets, squeaking by double parked cars and packs of children on scooters. Eventually we parked at the local Western Beef to try and get our bearings. I asked a cop how to get onto Flatbush Ave from where we were. He sneered at my blatant New York rookie-ness and said we wouldn’t be able to get on our street until much later that night. Feeling defeated, we ended up buying a couple packs of Modelo and going to a friend of a friend’s party. We partied with some uber-pretentious Nor-Easterners on a rooftop paid for by trust funds and monthly allowances. I spent my first night in New York on Matt’s girlfriend’s couch in an unreasonably cold apartment in Manhattan.
Year 2 – The White Knight
Since that first encounter I had become well adjusted to my new surroundings. Save for a few racist crack heads and EVERYONE crossing the street because of my 80 lb pit bull. I didn’t mind much though; I had a job waiting tables at a local Mexican restaurant and found my new role as the minority to be more inviting then anything else. Now that I had the lay of the proverbial land, I was excited to be a part of that year’s festivities. I had no idea how chaotic and vicious the following day’s events would be.
The pictures and video were taken at the night before the parade during J’Ouvert. This pre party has turned into a free-for-all for ages 16-30 to be loud, rude and violent. Stabbings and shootings have become commonplace this time of year. Seconds after I put my camera down, a group of kids started punching and stabbing another guy (as if you and 6 other dick ticklers attacking one dude makes you a bad ass). Later that night – sweating profusely, unable to sleep from the heat – I remember the parade coming back down my street drums and horns a-blazing. At 4AM on a Monday I found myself naked, in the front window of my apartment screaming at no one in particular. Over that weekend there were three reported shootings and five victims connected to the parade. Police confiscated 14 illegal firearms during that year’s J’Ouvert.
Year 3 – The End?
I couldn’t sleep at all on Sunday night (early Monday morning). I laid in bed contemplating smoking another bowl or getting an egg and cheese sandwich from the bodega. It’s called ‘First World Purgatory’ and it’s a regular occurrence for me during these hot nights. I live in Bushwick now, far from the Caribbean Circus that is Flatbush Ave and the surrounding area. Around 3am I saw a report that two people had been shot and two others stabbed at this year’s parade. As I made my rewrites to this article, I found out another person had been shot and killed. I wonder how much longer Brooklyn can afford to hold an event that comes with a body count? Either way the West Indian American Pride Parade is an intimate part of my time in New York, for better or worse.