Happy Labor Day! Get a Behind the Scenes View of the History of NYC's West Indian Day Parade
Labor Day in North America is a holiday dedicated to acknowledge the contributions and achievements of workers and is normally observed on the first Monday in September. According to History.com, it stemmed from the Labor movement in the late 19th century and became a federal holiday in 1894. Fast forward to the 21st century and Labor Day is celebrated with lots of events, parades and parties and is said to signify the end of summer for many North Americans.
The African diaspora undoubtedly were a part of the struggle as they worked hard to fight for many things in the Western world, including their labor rights. Their passion and tenacity to defend their rights will always be praised, remembered and celebrated. One diasporan community in the heart of Harlem decided to use this holiday to celebrate. And eventually submerged what felt like the whole of NYC in their culture.
According to National Today, The West Indian Day Parade started out in the 1920s as a series of private/at home parties in and around the Harlem area by Caribbean/West Indian immigrants to New York City. Coming from a rich cultural background where Carnival, a joyous and mesmerizing week of events (which actually stems from either the lent season or celebration of emancipation depending on the island country) is unapologetically celebrated in the Caribbean, the diasporian community couldn’t help but bring their vibes to their new environment.
It was Trinidad and Tobagonian Jessie Waddell who brought the Carnival theme to the streets by booking out event spaces and bringing the colorful masquerade to the NYC streets.
Fast forward to today (pre-covid), The West Indian Day parade is flocked by over 3 million people and is one of the largest Caribbean events on the continent. They come from far and wide to spectate and participate in the revelry that is Carnival in the New York Space. Colourful costumes parade through the streets, while the aroma of jerk pork wafts through the air and the sound of soca music blasts from the large speakers on the road - The West Indian Day Parade brings the sights and sounds of the Caribbean to New York’s doorstep.
Even though there’s no West Indian Day parade today because of the state of the world, we wanted to recognize the significance of this day to our people, and how the Caribbean diaspora unapologetically brought their dynamic culture and wove it into the NYC culture to create what is now considered a staple celebration in the community year after year.
This, too, is what Bohten aims to do when we create frames for you. Channel our culture through design, and create a look that adds to the unique character, culture and space that’s already there - you.
If you’ve never been to the West Indian Labor Day parade in Brooklyn before, we encourage you to add it to your list. And may you rock your pair of Bohten frames while there for that extra flare.
How about this pair?