A plaque remaining from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem.

Above, a 1934 plaque from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem. Discarded as trash in 2006.

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Entry from June 12, 2005
West Indian Day Carnival; “Murder Day Parade”
The West Indian Day Carnival is held over the Labor Day weekend in September. It began in Harlem in the late 1940s, moved to Brooklyn in the 1950s, and now draws hundreds of thousands of people.

"Murder Day Parade" is an unfortunate nickname that has been used to reflect the violence sometime associated with this festival.

8 September 1959, New York Times, pg. 31:
SPECTATORS JOIN
CALYPSO PARADE

March by 5,000 Becomes a
Carnival for 120,000 on
Upper Seventh Avenue
By MICHAEL JAMES

There was another parade in town yesterday - one up Seventh Avenue from 111th to 145th Street - and man, what a parade it was.

The occasion was West Indian Day, and the parade was the eleventh in what has become an annual affair. The somewhat distraught police put the number of marchers at 5,000 - the official marchers, that it - and the spectators at 115,000.

3 September 1974, New York Times, pg. 43:
Mardi Gras Spirit Enlivens Brooklyn
By GRACE LICHTENSTEIN

Brooklyn was temporarily annexed to the Caribbean yesterday as about a half million exuberant marchers, spectators and politicians jammed Eastern Parkway for the seventh annual West Indian Day parade.
(...)
As one parade official, Herman Hall, put it, this was "not a parade but a dance." Or, in the words of a police captain, it was "a moving block party."

4 September 1982, New York Times, "Going Out Guide" by C. Gerard Fraser, pg. 13:
The Labor Day weekend has emerged during the last several years as a Caribbean weekend in New York. Labor Day is referred to as ''West Indian Day,'' acknowledgement by West Indians of their presence in and contributions to New York. In Trinidad and Tobago, a calypso song, ''Labor Day in Brooklyn,'' has been a hit. Inspired by the annual carnival activities in various Caribbean islands, the West Indians here created a carnival weekend that attracts as many as a million people - residents, visitors and vendors - to a parade that is really more a happening on Eastern Parkway on Labor Day.

One of the weekend's more genteel yet exciting events is Panorama, a contest to determine the best steel band. The intricately tuned oil drums produce varieties of melodies under the hammers of expert players. Eight bands will be performing: Moods, Golden Stars, Nebulae, Silhouette, Metro, Sonatas, Boston Silver Stars and T and T Washington. These bands are made up of musicians living in the United States; each band has on the average of about 50 members.

Panorama takes place on the Brooklyn Museum grounds, entered primarily through Washington Avenue, around the corner from the museum's main entrance on Eastern Parkway. Admission: $12. Time: 7:30 P.M. Information: 773-4052.

1 September 2003, New York Daily News, "Carnival on the Street & On the Air" by David Hinckley, pg. 82:
If 3 million people are milling along Eastern Parkway in Brooklyn for the West Indian Day Parade today, at least 2.8 million will be playing music or listening to the radio.

1 September 2003, Ebony, "West Indian Carnival 2003" by Margaret Williams, pg. 104:
One Of U.S.'s Biggest Parades Attracts Millions To Brooklyn Thirty-third annual West Indian American Day Carnival, scheduled to kick off on Labor Day, attracts millions of West Indians and non-West Indians to Brooklyn's Eastern Parkway.
(...)
IT'S the best-kept secret in New York City and one of the biggest secrets in the U.S.A. Every Labor Day, for the last 33 years, millions of marchers explode in a kaleidoscope of color and movement that sweeps down Brooklyn's Eastern Parkway in a parade-festival-celebration that is the largest carnival outside Brazil and one of the biggest parades in the United States. Most of the celebrants in the West Indian American Day Carnival are West Indians or descendants of West Indians, but on Labor Day in Brooklyn almost everyone, including Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz, is an Islander.
(...)
Introduced in Harlem in 1947, the West Indian Day carnival idea shifted with the shifting New York population, moving to Brooklyn's Atlantic Avenue in 1965 and to Eastern Parkway in 1970. Since then, the carnival has grown steadily and has attracted as many as 3.5 million onlookers. Although Brooklyn is the center of the organizing and staging forces, support comes from all boroughs of New York City, which is home to the largest population of West Indians in the United States, nearly 600,000, half of whom live in Brooklyn.

6 September 2004, World Entertainment News Network, "Jean Becomes First Haitian Grand Marshal":
Former FUGEES star WYCLEF JEAN is the first Haitian to be a grand marshal at today's (06SEP04) 37th annual CARIBBEAN AMERICAN WEST INDIAN DAY CARNIVAL in New York.

The hip-hop star - whose new album, SAK PASE PRESENTS: WELCOME TO HAITI CREOLE 101, honoured the 200th Anniversary of the Caribbean nation's independence - is delighted to be part of the parade, which celebrates the West Indian culture, reports website ALLHIPHOP.COM.

http://www.dailyheights.com/archives/2005/08/murder_day_para.html
*NYPD have allegedly nicknamed it the "Murder Day Parade."

*"Gun Play on the Parkway" was memorialized in Calypso songs of the 1970's.

*Shootings and stabbings are commonplace, and most of it never makes the papers.

*It's not a murder unless the victim dies.

*The last parade-related murder was in 2003, 2 years ago.

*In 1999, two 11-year-olds and an 18-year-old were crushed by vehicles involved in the caravan. In 2004, a 21-year-old woman got crushed but survived.

*Labor Day is the single biggest day of the year for trauma at the Kings County Hospital Emergency Department, beating out New Year's Eve and Fourth of July.

*Many people have been going to the Caribbean Day Parade for years and have never had a problem with violence.

*Much of the violence is not random.

*It's the only time you can ever find good corn on the cob in this damn city.

*The food is all incredible. Try the roti... Nothing like roti and a cold beer.

*It's not the same since Giuliani banned alcohol sales (no more $1 Red Stripe truck).

*Some people bring rum punch in Gatorade bottles.

*Others like to bring a thermos full of rum to add to the pina coladas and other tropical drinks they sell.



Posted by Barry Popik
Holidays/Events/Parades • (0) Comments • Sunday, June 12, 2005 • Permalink