Vivid Colors, Sounds, Flavors Of The West Indies Take To The City's Streets
August 13, 2006
By JEFFREY B. COHEN, Courant Staff Writer
Josephine Allen sat on the curb, just a few blocks south of the West Indian Social Club, just a few blocks north of the politicians at the head of the parade celebrating West Indian independence, and talked about why she's come to this event almost every year since she left Jamaica in 1970.
"It's love, peace and harmony among all the people. A day of peace, nothing goes wrong today," she said.
And what about the food?
"Are you kidding? I've been eating all morning," Allen said, adding she's already had roast fish, jerk chicken, rice and peas, fried plantains, sugar cane, a Red Stripe beer, and coconut water. And she's not done. "Are you kidding? I got the curry goat left, I got the steamed fish, and the stewed fish."
It was a long, lazy 44th Annual Caribbean Carnival Parade on Saturday that began with one column of marchers at Bushnell Park in Hartford who marched downtown from the park to Trumbull Street to Main Street, where they met the rest of their parade.
Once joined, the parade was made up of 18-wheelers with disc jockeys, dancers, and music so loud it both made you feel good and made your ears hurt; the requisite police, fire and political personnel; dance troupes of big kids with rhythm and little kids hoping to find some; women with Jamaican flags on their shoulders, toenails, fingernails and shoes; and people like Trevor Hodge, clad in a more than 50-pound, fanning gold and pink body dress.
Hodge was born in Anguilla and has joined the Hartford parade for years, he said. With his face painted gold and his shoulders and hips bearing the weight of his costume, Hodge, of Springfield, Mass., was clear when he said, "You can take me out of the Caribbean but you can't take the Caribbean out of me."
"This is a way that we can continue to retain our culture, even though we are not there," he said.
Not far from Hodge were the roughly 80 members of the Magnificent Troopers, teenagers and young adults who came from Kingston, Jamaica, dressed in red and white for the day. At home, the group practices three times a week to get ready for the horn blowing, drum thumping, and hip shaking marches like Saturday's.
"We represent the folks in Jamaica who can't make it up," said Wayne Fyffe, the group's choreographer who said the Troopers have been coming to Hartford since 1997.
"It feels like home, feels like home," Fyffe said. Then he paused. "Except for the weather sometimes."
The members of the Makalia Temple No. 172 Marching Club - their shirts read "Oasis of Hartford, Desert of Connecticut" - say they march because it's a way to give to the community. And although a few of the club members called and said they weren't going to march because they were too old, too tired, or because their backs hurt, three men - one who was in his 70s, another who was 80, and a third who just had a quadruple bypass - joined the marchers while seated in three-wheeled cycles.
"This was the only way I could continue to be a part of the parade," said 80-year-old William "Rab" Smith. "It's a matter of being a part of a group of people trying to help the community."
Ray Carmichael came with his wife and 4-year-old son. He's not West Indian but he comes every year. "It's tradition," he said. "West Indian or not. We're all human here."
Plus, the parade focuses some positive attention on a part of the city that has had its share of negative attention, he said. "I was born and raised in the North End of Hartford," he said. "It has its bad and its good. This is one of the good things."
Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant.
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