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Caribbean Carnival: A cultural celebration

Feathers, music and community pride at festival

Catherine McGloin
Caribbean Carnival: A cultural celebration
Carnival-goers basked in the sunshine beneath plumes of multi-colored feathers as they paraded elaborate costumes on the streets of Roxbury last weekend. Photo: Catherine Mcgloin

Soaring headdresses adorned with feathers, brightly colored, bejeweled bikinis and enough bass to get the stiffest hips moving, even after gorging on fried chicken wings; these were just some of the scenes from the 45th annual Caribbean Carnival that danced its way through the streets of Roxbury last Saturday.

From the soca music — African rhythms flavored with calypso and reggae influences — blaring from flatbed trucks, to trolley-wheeling peddlers selling flags and colorful beads, Saturday’s carnival was the perfect opportunity for Boston’s Caribbean community to show some cultural pride.

For Roxbury resident Tanasia Britt, it was a chance to celebrate her Trinidadian heritage. “Carnival’s all about family and friends,” she said. “I know everyone who does it and it’s just something we’ve done since I was young.” Three years old in fact, and it’s an event Britt said she can never see herself missing.

Standing on the sidewalk while friends fixed the wireframe costume covered in red feathers that hung about her shoulders, Britt said her elaborate costume took more than three months to make. “They put a lot of blood sweat and tears into all of this,” she said.

This year saw masquerade bands Soca & Associates and Boston Socaholics go head-to-head, with the latter ultimately winning the title of “Band of the Year.”

The carnival ran its regular route, from Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard, along Warren Street to Blue Hill Avenue, before finishing at Franklin Park. For revelers with an appetite, St. Katharine Drexel Parish, on Blue Hill Avenue, served heaped portions of rice, beans, grilled corn, barbecue ribs and fried chicken.

“This is a black Catholic church, you’re not going to starve here,” said one parish volunteer, while another spread generous mounds of garlic butter on the corn.

The carnival is also an opportunity for politicians to meet constituents. Many hopeful candidates in the upcoming elections turned out for the occasion, including congressional candidates Ayanna Pressley and Mike Capuano, as well as district attorney candidates Linda Champion, Rachael Rollins and Evandro Carvalho. Mayor Martin Walsh and U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren were also there to cut the ribbon at the start of the parade, but Boston’s new police commissioner, William Gross, undoubtedly stole the most media attention.

Gross told the press that the Caribbean Carnival is one of the city’s biggest cultural events, and he was thankful to spectators who were there to support the community that he said had raised him.

“It’s what Boston’s all about, celebrating each other’s culture,” he said.

Photos: Catherine Mcgloin
Photos: Catherine Mcgloin
Photo: Lauren Miller
Photos: Chris Lovett

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