Nobody stands still at the West Indian Day Parade. Steel bands set the beat for the nearly 100 UFT members and parents who accompanied a UFT float at the Sept. 3 celebration of Caribbean culture and for the other participants and the 1.5 million onlookers swaying to the music on the two-mile route along Eastern Parkway in Crown Heights, Brooklyn. Everyone was dazzled by the brilliant costumes and the upbeat mood of the parade, which for 51 years has drawn huge crowds, including UFT members. The annual extravaganza means different things to each reveler. Tamika Abdullah, a social worker at PS/IS 184 in Brownsville, Brooklyn, said, “For me and my family, participating in the parade is a way to celebrate family, to remember struggle and sacrifice and to promote education in New York City.” The city’s Caribbean community has held Carnival celebrations every year since the 1920s, first in Harlem and then in Brooklyn, to mark its emancipation from slavery. Anthony Harmon, the UFT director of parent and community outreach, noted, “The union is proud to be at the parade and, in keeping with its theme of Keeping Culture Alive, to celebrate the rich culture of the Caribbean.” Chelsea Cofer, a teacher at MS 353 in Crown Heights, said, “I attended with my son because I’m a proud union member and want New York to know it.” Fans distributed by UFT volunteers were greatly appreciated by onlookers as the heat and humidity climbed, reminding everyone of the warm, sunny days in the colorful Caribbean.
Swaying to the beat