Dancing in the dark: J’Ouvert and the West Indian-American Day Parade celebrations take place around Brooklyn

The J’Ouvert celebrations and the West Indian-American Day Parade brought color, music, and dance to Brooklyn on Labor Day Monday, with the festivities commencing before dawn broke.
Photo by Dean Moses

This year’s J’Ouvert and West Indian-American Day Parade celebrations brought color, music and dance to Brooklyn on Labor Day Monday, with the festivities commencing well before dawn broke.

J’Ouvert: Dancing in the dawn

Thousands assembled outside of the Grand Army Plaza under the cover of darkness on Sept. 4 to mark J’Ouvert, which is French for “daybreak,” a Caribbean tradition that has been adopted by Brooklynites as the unofficial start of the West Indian-American Day Parade.

Dancing in the dark.Photo by Dean Moses
Outfits of all kinds.Photo by Dean Moses
A fight breaks out.Photo by Dean Moses
The sun rises.Photo by Dean Moses

Covering themselves in oil, paint, and baby powder, scantily clad marchers frolicked in the glow of headlights while drummers pounded their instruments. Others donned elaborate costumes with wings and horns that drew the attention of spectators as they swaggered through the streets of Empire Boulevard and Flatbush Avenue.

Hundreds of cops were also on scene, keeping a keen eye on the proceedings. Uniformed officers screened attendees across 13 different entry points to the pre-dawn party. Authorities also stepped in as spats of violence broke out during the proceedings, separating those who sent fists flying.

Still, moods were not dampened by the small clashes or intermediate rainfall that washed over the proceedings. Silhouettes waltzed in the rising sun, all the while the moment overtook some as painted bodies rubbed on painted bodies well into the afternoon.

Color fight.Photo by Dean Moses
Spreading Joy.Photo by Dean Moses
Dancing together.Photo by Dean Moses
Crowds pack the streets.Photo by Dean Moses

Carnival continues

The West Indian-American Day Parade kicked-off at 11 a.m. on Eastern Parkway and Schenectady Avenue, led by elected officials and city agencies.

Elected officials gather.Photo by Dean Moses
Governor Kathy Hochul.Photo by Dean Moses
The parade sets off.Photo by Dean Moses

“1.5 million people are expected to be in this wonderful celebration of great diversity, culture, and music. Can’t wait to march. Looking forward to having a great time meeting all the local people here and celebrating this great day,” Governor Kathy Hochul said.

The governor was joined on the parade route by Rev. Al Sharpton, while the likes of Mayor Eric Adams, Police Commissioner Edward Caban, Public Advocate Jumaane Williams, and City Council Speaker Adrienne Adams, all of whom also marched.

The West Indian-American Day Parade featured steel-pan drummers and masquerade bands performing music in honor of the heritage from countries like Jamacia, Barbados, Guyana, Trinidad and other parts of the Caribbean.  

Festivities are set to go well into the night with the parade culminating at the Brooklyn Museum.

A women clings to a float.Photo by Dean Moses
Showing pride.Photo by Dean Moses