Certain neighborhoods in Brooklyn are epicenters of Caribbean-American life. You can eat at mom-and-pop West Indian restaurants or shop at stores selling foods and items from the Caribbean. You can listen to Afro-Carib music at clubs and concerts.
According to 2019 census figures Brooklyn has the largest West Indian community outside of the Caribbean outside of Toronto, Montreal, London, and Miami. A large percentage are Jamaican, Haitian, and Guyanese.
It makes sense if you want to participate in a Caribbean style carnival or a celebrate of West Indian culture you would go to Brooklyn. Every year there is a huge West Indian parade on Labor Day with costumes, food, music, and more.
As you countdown until the festivities during the week before Labor Day, culminating with the famed parade on Labor Day, you can fill up your summer, enjoying these fun activities. From dining on authentic Caribbean cuisine to museum exhibits.
Here's the scoop on the parade and other activities you can enjoy this summer.
About the West Indian Day Parade
The West Indian Day American Parade, a colorful West Indian Carnival that kicks off the end of summer and beginning of September, is held on Labor Day every year (in 2019, that's Monday September 2nd.) This year will be the 52nd annual event. It takes place at 200 Eastern Parkway, and the performances are at the Brooklyn Museum.
It's an unbelievable event, with raucous bands, lively dancing, costumes that range from scant to incredibly elaborate feather "Indian" outfits. You can hear traditional mas bands or steel drum and buy roti or other street foods from vendors.
One of the Big Apple's biggest and most popular parades, this celebration of West Indian culture draws spectators from all over the world. In fact, it has drawn up to 2 million visitors in recent years. The parade is preceded by days of pre-events, including a viewing of the steel drums usually held at the Brooklyn Museum. WIADCA, the same folks that run the West Indian Parade, will host various events including family-friendly free steelpan workshops all summer long.
The parade starts at day break and lasts hours. Check out the parade route, so you won't miss this unique and lively parade, that is apart of NYC's history and is a must-see on Labor Day.
What to Do Before or After the Parade
If you're headed to Brooklyn for the parade this year, spend some extra time in the area experiencing some other aspects of Caribbean culture in the borough.
- See some Caribbean Art at the Valentine Museum of Art: If you thought Coney Island only housed an amusement park and a beach, think again. This stretch of Brooklyn is also home to The Valentine Museum of Art on Flatbush Avenue. It has exhibits from notable Caribbean artists including Hugh Bell. The museum is open Wednesday – Sunday, 12-6 pm.
- Grab an authentic Caribbean Meal: Looking for tasty roti and jerk chicken? Then head to The Islands located near the Brooklyn Museum. The Islands is a Jamaican restaurant that serves up some of the most flavorful Caribbean food in the city. Folks make the pilgrimage to this beloved restaurant on Washington Avenue. If you are a vegetarian, Islands has many veggie options. Islands is just blocks from the West Indian day parade route.
- Other local favorite Caribbean restaurants include Sugarcane in Park Slope, Gloria's Caribbean Cuisine in Crown Heights, and Peppa's Jerk Chicken on Flatbush Avenue. The lines might be long, but it's worth the wait.