NEW YORK (TURKISH JOURNAL) – H. Nazan Işık- I debated in my mind whether or not to write about J’Ouvert this year. I wasn’t quite sure if celebration brought enough energy and excitement to Brooklyn as it did previous years.
The J’Ouvert festival, early morning parade and street party in Crown Heights before the West Indian American Day Parade that occurs each Labor Day is to celebrate Caribbean culture.
This was my third J’Ouvert event that I attended; the difference was remarkably big from 2016 to 2017, and now to 2018.
The 2016 event started at 4:00 am, while it was still dark, and there were no checkpoints. Three years ago in 2015, Carey Gabay, an aide to Governor Andrew Cuomo, was shot and killed. Two people were killed in 2016 too. And, that changed everything,
In 2017 security was tight; the starting hour was moved from 4:00 am to 6:00 am, with installed light towers it felt like daytime, and 12 checkpoints added to screen everyone for weapons and alcohol. And no big backs were allowed.
This year it was even tighter, there were more police officers and the city added one new checkpoint, bringing the total number to 13.
Last year I asked one of the police offices, “ What exactly are you looking for? Some people have water bottles in their hands, maybe filled with gin or vodka?”
Police officer, “ Yes, you are right. But we are basically looking for glass bottles, or /and anything can be used as a weapon,” said. I guess it was the same this year too.
Some revelers covered their bodies in motor oil, and wore helmets with horns as a celebration of emancipation from slavery.
And some revelers carried oil filled buckets to apply more oil on themselves, and even to spread it on passers-by.
“Is it motor oil that you are using?” I asked some of them.
They said, “Yes!”
“How do you clean yourselves, how do you get rid of it?”.
One said, “Ajax! It takes care of it, cleans right away,”
One said, “Vaseline! Put some Vaseline first to your skin,”
“Isn’t it harmful to your skin?”
“No!” answered one.
The highlights of the parade were steel pan bands, costumes, loud music and dancing.
A visible NYPD presence made the parade definitely more secure, but in the mean time I believe it brought less people, less dancing, less excitement, less energy to the 2018 J’Ouvert.
(Photos: © h. nazan ışık / NKENdiKEN)