Caribbean Carnival Parade Draws Mayoral Hopefuls


Nikita Lalwani writes about the recent Caribbean Carnival Parade in Boston—held on Saturday—stressing that the big bash drew many dancers and people with much joie de vivre but also councilors, senators, the first lady of the U.S. Virgin Islands, Cecile De Jongh, and Mayoral candidate John Connolly, who claims to have a tight connection with the Caribbean community, as well as other mayoral hopefuls.

As the sun shone overhead and the streets vibrated with drum beats, brightly clad dancers made their way down Martin Luther King Boulevard in Roxbury, wearing feathered crowns, body glitter, and sparkling jewelry. But this year, the dancers in the city’s annual Caribbean Carnival parade were joined by another group: volunteers wearing T-shirts and holding signs in support of their favorite candidates in Boston’s mayoral race.

The parade, in its 40th run, celebrates the cultures of the Caribbean islands, and many participants wore flags from their native countries. But Saturday, it also offered an opportunity for mayoral hopefuls to meet voters, increase visibility, and show off some dance moves.

Boston police officers and State Police troopers maintained a heavy and highly visible presence. [. . .]

On Saturday afternoon, Laniah Jackson, 18, readied herself to join in the procession, swaying her hips to the music. She was dressed as an African warrior princess, she said, with large gold hoop earrings, golden sandals, and a gold necklace. She had attended the carnival since childhood, but this was her first year marching. “I’m so excited,” she said. “I love the atmosphere and the cultures of all the different islands.”

Nearby, Ymahri Brown, 18, wore a mermaid costume, complete with a blue-green bra, blue fishnet stockings, and body glitter, with a Trinidad and Tobago flag tied to the outfit. This was her 10th year marching in the parade, she said, and for her, it has always meant music, joy, and community.

Caribbean carnivals originated in Trinidad and Tobago, when West African slaves mimicked French costume balls and added their own twist, said Boston Carnival Village president Michael C. Smith. Now they happen all over the Caribbean, featuring masquerade costumes, Calypso music, and plenty of folklore. “Carnivals have grown into a time to celebrate life, spirit, happiness, the whole nine yards,” he said. “They were born of slavery, but today they have moved beyond that.”

Many arrived at the Roxbury parade Saturday to march for mayoral candidates they support. Cecile de Jongh, first lady of the Virgin Islands, marched in support of Charlotte Golar Richie, a friend from her days campaigning for Barack Obama in 2007 and 2008. [. . .] While marching, Golar Richie also saw City Councilor Tito Jackson and mayoral hopefuls Rob Consalvo, Felix Arroyo, and Martin Walsh, among others. A particular highlight, she said, was dancing a “Caribbean jump-up” with state Senator Linda Dorcena Forry.

Mayoral candidate John Connolly rode in a duck boat decorated in blue and orange “Connolly for Mayor” signs. On Friday, the Caribbean American Political Action Committee, a community group focused on voter education and mobilization, endorsed Connolly, citing his advocacy for the city’s Caribbean-American community. Connolly has previously served as Honorary Grand Marshal of the parade.

Amid the politics, Gloria Lattimore, 56, stepped into the street, gyrating to the drums. “I’ve come to this parade for 33 years,” she said. “This year, there are a lot of politicians. But it’s always a party.”

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