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Roxbury explodes in color during Caribbean Carnival

New talent emerges with winning presentations

Yawu Miller
Yawu Miller is the former senior editor of the Bay State Banner. He has written for the Banner since 1988.... VIEW BIO
Roxbury explodes in color during Caribbean Carnival
Dancers with Dynasty Production masquerade band enjoy the Caribbean Carnival parade, making their way to Franklin Park. Tens of thousands of spectators lined the route of the parade as the bands displayed their fanciful sequin-studded creations.

Socaholics Junion Queen Sierra Niles pilots a fiery orange costume for the band’s 2015 presentation, Voyage 2015.

Though it sound like a cliché, Vanessa Black Mascoll really does have Carnival in her blood.

Vanessa Black Mascoll

Her grandmother Jean Mayhew founded the masquerade band Soca and Associates 30 years ago. Black Mascoll joined in the festivities when she was 10 and has been with the band ever since. By the time her mother, Margaret Black, took over the band, Vanessa was regularly playing the queen role, dancing with the wheeled, steel-frame 15-foot high costumes that take up an entire lane of traffic on Blue Hill Avenue.

“I grew up around this,” she said Saturday, as she led the 400-or-so dancers who populated the six sections of Soca and Associates’ 2015 presentation, Kingdom of Bacchanal. “It’s kind of embedded in me, I guess.”

D’Midas Boston International Queen Grace McNeil in the band’s icy Snow Kingdom presentation, which riffs off of Boston’s record 2015 snowfall.

Born in a band

In many ways, carnival culture is inescapable for Black Mascoll. She lives in a Mt. Ida Road triple decker that bustles with carnival energy for several months out of the year. The back yard serves as a mas camp, the site where volunteers with Soca and Associates assemble the 300 to 400 costumes their members wear in any given year.

Unlike some of the larger bands with affiliates in Port of Spain, Soca and Associates does not fly in professional wire benders or costume designers from Trinidad. Everything is done with local talent.

This year, their efforts paid off handsomely, with first place finishes in the Boston Carnival as well as the Worcester Carnival, held Sunday. In addition to Black Mascoll, the band also won 1st, 3rd and 4th for individual females and 1st through 4th for males.

Two of the bands that have long dominated the Boston Carnival — TnT and D’Horizons — did not field costume bands. TnT did not launch a band at all, and D’ Horizons participated with a tee-shirt band wherein members simply wore blue tee shirts, but no elaborate costumes.

Caribbean American Carnival Association of Boston Secretary Mary-dith Tuitt noted that many of the bands, D’Midas included, featured a younger generations of leaders and designers.

Masqueraders for the children’s section of Soca & Associates Deanna Laptiste, Amaiya Baptiste, Jahddaya Franklyn and Xyra Hospedales.

“A lot of the bands are getting their younger members more involved, ready to take on the leadership of Carnival,” she said. “You’re seeing the next generations stepping up.”

Competition was no less fierce than in recent years. D’Midas International Boston appeared with a white-and-silver themed presentation, Snow Kingdom, that riffed off of the abundance of winter storms that blanketed Massachusetts a few months back. D’Midas’s designer, Shawn Jon, took first place for king this year. The band’s queen, Grace McNeil, took second with a massive, white-and-silver costume that featured two iridescent white peacocks arching over her head.

Tuitt said this year’s carnival was a success.

“You could feel the energy in the crowd,” she said. “Everybody was energized and enjoying themselves.”