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Brooklyn’s West Indian Day Parade takes place every Labor Day weekend. With a crowd of over two million people it is the largest parade in New York City and possibly North America. These photos are not from that parade. They are from preceding events — the Junior Carnival and the J’ouvert Parade.
J’ouvert, pronounced “joo-vay” in Brooklyn, means “opening of the day” or “dawn” in French. It began in Trinidad as a mockery of the French masquerade ball. In opposition to the costumed finery and refined dances of their oppressors, slaves covered themselves in mud, paint or oil and danced to a significantly different beat. Although mostly just a giant party here in Brooklyn, J’ouvert retains something of that political nature to this day.
I stumbled across both of these events while walking around Brooklyn in the early morning and have attended them many times over the years. I believe that, taken together, they provide a revealing portrait of the Caribbean community.
Michael Webster is a photographer living in Brooklyn.