Sections

Reflecting on resistance: Pre-J’ouvert event honors parade’s history of cultural activism

Brooklyn Paper
Share on TwitterTweet
Share on Facebook
Subscribe

Get our stories in your inbox, free.

Like Brooklyn Paper on Facebook.

Photo gallery

1/7
Histoire: Dancer Alexandra Jean-Joseph, foreground, performs Haitian rara at “The Art and History of J’Ouvert: Tradition as Resistance” outside Brooklyn Public Library’s central branch on Aug. 19.
2/7
Masked and oiled: Members of The Original Oildowners wore paint and costumes at the event.
3/7
Sounds: Menesky Magloire plays a horn commonly used in Haitian rara music.
4/7
Dressed up: The Original Oildowners of Trinidad and Tobago in carnival costumes.
5/7
Pride: A performer shows off his Haitian flag at the event.
6/7
Political relevance: Other members of The Original Oildowners dressed in costumes inspired by current figures, such as President Donald Trump and First Lady Melania Trump.
7/7
Promoting awareness: The director of La Troupe Zetwal, Sherley Davilmar, stands with her Haitian flag.

It was a spirited step back in time.

Several Caribbean-American groups transformed the stairs outside the Brooklyn Public Library’s central branch into a stage on Aug. 19 when they gathered to celebrate the heritage of three-decade-old J’Ouvert, a parade rooted in cultural resistance, with traditional music and dances.

“It’s a tradition and it brings people together — it is a time for us to play mas, sing, and dance,” said Menesky Magloire, who performed with the Brooklyn-based Haitian dance group, Troupe Zetwal. “And this is us resisting because it’s an act of claiming our space and an act of celebrating our culture and ourselves.”

More than 200 revelers flocked to the Prospect Heights book lender for “The Art and History of J’Ouvert: Tradition as Resistance,” which honored the history of the Labor Day procession that precedes the annual West Indian Day parade.

The event came weeks after organizers pushed the typically pre-dawn J’Ouvert, which means “daybreak,” to daylight hours this year in an attempt to mitigate deadly violence that has plagued the celebration in the past.

Magloire and members of his troupe played horns and formed a “rara” procession — a musical street march that originated in Haiti — from nearby Prospect Park to the library. The performance was in keeping with the theme of rebellion, and also shares similar history, he said.

“Rara is not only people just getting together and playing instruments. It has a history in colonialism and it’s embedded in many of our cultures,” Magloire said. “But rara is special to Haitian culture because it’s not only a celebration but also has a role in our political resistance and history in the country.”

Some participants wore costumes and body paint to portray mythical characters, while others donned satirical getups inspired by actual cultural figures, such as President Donald Trump and his wife, Melania.

The celebratory shindig offered an important look at J’Ouvert’s origins as a unifying event as proponents of the parade work to reverse the violent reputation it has gained in recent years, according to another attendee.

“I enjoyed the togetherness, especially since we’re trying to let everyone know what the history is and what the culture is really like,” said Trudy Llewellyn.

Reach reporter Alexandra Simon at (718) 260–8310 or e-mail her at asimon@cnglocal.com.
Updated 10:57 am, August 25, 2017
Today’s news:
Share on TwitterTweet
Share on Facebook
Subscribe

Get our stories in your inbox, free.

Like Brooklyn Paper on Facebook.

Reasonable discourse

Fred from Windsor Terrace says:
If it's not a prescheduled riot it is not authentic.
Aug. 25, 9:04 pm

Enter your comment below

By submitting this comment, you agree to the following terms:

You agree that you, and not BrooklynPaper.com or its affiliates, are fully responsible for the content that you post. You agree not to post any abusive, obscene, vulgar, slanderous, hateful, threatening or sexually-oriented material or any material that may violate applicable law; doing so may lead to the removal of your post and to your being permanently banned from posting to the site. You grant to BrooklynPaper.com the royalty-free, irrevocable, perpetual and fully sublicensable license to use, reproduce, modify, adapt, publish, translate, create derivative works from, distribute, perform and display such content in whole or in part world-wide and to incorporate it in other works in any form, media or technology now known or later developed.

First name
Last name
Your neighborhood
Email address
Daytime phone

Your letter must be signed and include all of the information requested above. (Only your name and neighborhood are published with the letter.) Letters should be as brief as possible; while they may discuss any topic of interest to our readers, priority will be given to letters that relate to stories covered by The Brooklyn Paper.

Letters will be edited at the sole discretion of the editor, may be published in whole or part in any media, and upon publication become the property of The Brooklyn Paper. The earlier in the week you send your letter, the better.