A Pre-J’Ouvert Celebration

Menesky Magloire plays a horn commonly used for Haitian rara music. (Photo by Stefano Giovannini via Caribbean Life)

New York City officials have announced a new security plan to ensure that the annual J’Ouvert parade and celebrations in Crown Heights, scheduled for Labor Day, go smoothly this year, without the violence that has marred the event in earlier years. Meanwhile, Caribbean dancers and musicians held a pre-J’Ouvert event, “The Art and History of J’Ouvert: Tradition as Resistance,” in front of the Brooklyn Public Library on Aug. 19, reports Alexandra Simon in Caribbean Life.

The objective was to showcase the art of different Caribbean cultures.

“It’s a cultural tradition and it brings people together and as people living in the Diaspora, it is a time and opportunity for us to play mas, sing, and dance,” said Menesky Magloire. “And this is us resisting because it’s an act of claiming our space and an act of celebrating our culture and ourselves.”

Magloire and several other members of Troupe Zetwal, a Brooklyn-based traditional Haitian dance group, played horns and created a rara procession — a musical street festival originating in Haiti — from the park to the library. He said the practice was well in tune with the theme of rebellion and also shares similar history.

“The history of rara is parallel to mas in Trinidad and the Caribbean and it’s not only people just getting together and playing instruments — it has a history in colonialism and it’s embedded in many of our cultures,” he 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.”

Go to Caribbean Life to see more photos from the pre-J’Ouvert event, and to learn more about the important struggle for freedom that J’Ouvert commemorates.

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