Sunday, September 4, 2011

Show Our Colors, Not Your Ass!!!

Every year round this time, Carib folk from and around Brooklyn, NY take over Eastern Parkway to celebrate the annual West Indian Day Parade. I used to go as a child when the Parade was a gigantic/awesome gathering with floats showcasing each Caribbean flag/music along the sidewalks filled with food vendors who, in turn, showcased the matching flavors. I stopped attending when the event became more of a dangerous place to be caught in, what with gangsta wannabe's turning it into an excuse to shoot at one another other. It became something both residents and visitors tolerated, until NYPD decided to curb the ra-ra. Now the floats pass through Crown Heights and down to the plaza circle without the usual threat of violence in the air. Folk can relax. Barricades are no longer weapons of terrorism but symbols of order. And yet I still haven't been back to at least try some jerk chicken. Because the focus seems to be more about showing our asses instead of our colors.

Maybe I'm just getting older and less tolerant of nigga mess. But I want more from us as a people, if not a race. Too much self-debasing and compromising of what cultural pride looks like. I know. What's wrong with just having a good time? Nothing, if you consider a good time bending your back forward to let another dry fuk you for all to see, or cheering a 5yrld girl for gyrating her privates in front of grandma. Or better yet, a group of males bumrushing a female to show what they do when the lights are out, while the female grins at the mere spectacle of it all. If we're okay with teaching our sons and daughters that showing your ass is showing our pride, then let's not act surprised when non-Family members don't take us seriously. Let's not act dumb when our young men use their flags as gangsta' face masks to emulate gang mentality which have nothing whatsoever to do with Caribbean plight and forward movement, but everything to do with misguidance and identity crisis.

Remember the Puerto Rican Day Parade some years back when the women were terrorized by grimies? Remember just last year when po-po had to interrupt the Dominican Day Parade cos some of the participants mistook mob mindset for ethnic pride? And remember how this year, Dominican ra-ra was forced to shutdown due to rain and how both the grown-ups and NYPD privately thanked God for it? I'm bringing this up cos I'm wondering if we're at a crossroads of defining who we are, where you have those who see a parade as an opportunity to display flags and colors, and those who see it as an opportunity to wile'out. Kinda' reminds me of a similar on-going debate between 'gays' who see pride as exhibitionism and those who'd rather push with their clothes on.

Look, I'm not trying to force my values on anyone here. Go do you! But as for me, I'd rather celebrate West Indian pride by remembering our Maroon and Rastafarian heritages, how Ayiti gave each island the blueprint for independence and how our rich African traditions still show in our costumes like the one here representing the Devil. In modern times, Devil Man is called upon by painting the body either blue, red or black; sometimes mud, but the one color is smeared from head to toe and the horns add to the drama. This is all part of the Jab Jab, an offshoot of the Parade that actually occurs before sunrise. The idea is that the Devil walks through town warning people about not paying for their wickedness. It's all mythology, of course. And then the myth got hyjacked by some parade marchers who sexualized the character (FYI-- The island of Grenade is currently considering banning the sexually provocative 'devil man', while parade supporters are siding with freedom of expression). But a quick lesson in American colonial history will teach you that the full coloring of bodies or tarring actually began as a form of collective protesting when male slaves smeared themselves with tar, mud, paint or molasses so their masters wouldn't recognize them. As in, I'm stealing the very molasses I'm forced to cultivate for my keeper. Hence, the French term-- Jab Molassie. Just one of the thousands of daily rituals we used to do collectively (and still do) to compensate for the chains around our necks, both literally and figuratively. The blowing into the conch shell is a symbol of Haiti's determination to withstand the tides of imperialism and global economic punishment for having the audacity to stand for something; for believing, still, in her pearls even if crime lords and egotrippin' government officals in Port-au-Prince are blocking progress. Think about that while you're out there enjoying all the fun. Think about what it took for you to even be able to show your ass! And maybe then you'll understand why I want more.

Note: A few hours before posting this note, a young man at the parade was shot in the leg.


moucka said...

Much appreciated!

Anonymous said...

Nothing to add when it's all been said and it's the truth. Thanks Brotha