Each year J’ouvert brings a Carnival-like atmosphere to Brooklyn’s pre-daybreak streets before the West Indian Day Parade. But do you know its origins and traditions? Learn more about its history and take in some art and music this weekend with a special event at the Brooklyn Public Library’s Central Branch.
J’Ouvert originates with French settlers’ introduction of masquerade balls to the Caribbean in 1783. Banned from participating in their masters’ Carnival celebrations, slaves would hold smaller carnivals in their backyards. Once emancipated in 1838, slaves began participating in Carnival, blending in their own rituals.
Elsewhere in the world, J’Ouvert celebrations are tied to the Lenten calendar, but in Crown Heights, it’s become a tradition to hold it on Labor Day. While the calypso bands, dancing and jerk chicken of Labor Day’s sunlit celebrations are a staple of J’ouvert, the daybreak jubilee also includes more esoteric elements. As it did last year, J’Ouvert Festival will begin a bit later — at 6 a.m. — in an attempt to curb the violence that has been an issue in previous years.
On August 25 you can immerse yourself in the festivities a bit early with The Art and History of J’Ouvert: Tradition as Resistance, a program by the Brooklyn Arts Council, Brooklyn Public Library, The Hitchcock Institute for Studies in American Music and the Caribbean Studies Program at Brooklyn College, J’ouvert City International and Something Positive Inc.
You’ll be able to learn about the history of the steelpan movement from artists and activists and take in performances by some of Brooklyn’s top Caribbean bands. You’ll be able to make a mask, dance in a procession and revel in the music of steel bands, rhythm bands, mas bands and limbo.
The event will take place on Saturday, August 25 at Brooklyn Public Library’s Central Branch at 10 Grand Army Plaza. The event will run from 1 to 5 p.m. and is free of charge. For more information, click here.
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