Celebrate Black History 2017: We Are One

Dancer at the West Indian Day Parade, Brooklyn Collection West Indian Day Parade Dancer
image from
Brooklyn Collection

It will be the 50th Anniversary of the West Indian Parade in September 2017 along Eastern Parkway in Brooklyn.

How did the West Indian Parade come about? In the 1920s-1930s, Jessie Waddell started Carnival in Harlem with costume parties. These parties were held in February (the traditional time for pre-Lenten celebration in the West Indies) and indoor in large venues such as the Savoy, Renaissance and Audubon Ballroom, as the winter weather in New York City was too cold. The first outdoor Carnival street parade was held on September 1, 1947 in Harlem but the permit for the Harlem parade was revoked in 1964. In the 1960s, a committee was formed which eventually became the West Indian-American Day Carnival Association (WIADCA) and moved the parade to Eastern Parkway in Brooklyn, where it has been held annually for 50 years. It is one of the biggest annual events in Brooklyn and is known for the vibrant costume competitions and enthusiastic crowds.

In 2002 at the Central Library, there was an exhibition of vivid photographs and colorful costumes in the Grand Lobby. The exhibition was planned to coincide with the annual West Indian Day parade. The closing paragraph of that exhibition description is still relevant today as it was in 2002:

“This year, more than ever, New Yorkers need a common joyful narrative, a jubilant reminder that we and those around us, whatever our backgrounds or nationalities, are one. At times, carnival becomes a heightened version of life, a costumed drama where sorrow and rapture, life and death compete for equal footing.”

Read more about the exhibition - Carnival in Brooklyn: West Indian Labor Day Parade (2002).

For more historical pictures of the West Indian Parade see Brooklyn Collection Gallery:
West Indian Day Parade by Jamel Shabazz.

For more Celebrate Black History at BPL.

Cash Crop, works by June GaddyCash Crop
by June Gaddy
Fashion Meets Black History: New Exhibit Opens at Brooklyn Public Library’s Macon Branch

Brooklyn artist June Gaddy debuts a new work – Cash Crop – at the Macon Branch of the Brooklyn Public Library. Cash Crop is a multimedia exhibition featuring clothing, textiles, and sculpture that reflect on the lives of sharecroppers, the agricultural economic system, and their relationship to the land in the Jim Crow South.

Gaddy merges American and African design elements to create garments that tell stories about the African-American experience. Her work has been featured at the Society for Contemporary Craft.

An artist talk will take place on February 23, 2017 at 6 PM at Macon Branch
Cash Crop runs from January 19, 2017 to March 30, 2017. The Macon Branch is located at 361 Lewis Avenue at Macon Street, Brooklyn, NY.

Cash Crop is sponsored in part by the Greater New York Arts Development Fund of the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs, administered for the Brooklyn Arts Council (BAC).

Gaddy developed the art works for this exhibition after conducting genealogical research of her family in North Carolina using Ancestry.com, a genealogy research database that is available through Brooklyn Public Library.

For more of June Gaddy’s exhibitions at BPL:
A Stitch In Time (2003)
also see: Harriet Tubman dress
In Our Shoes (2006)
Born In Brooklyn (co-exhibition by June Gaddy and Felix Plaza, 2006)

See more on Genealogy Events at Brooklyn Public Library.

At the Central Library, the Genealogy for Beginners events are co-hosted by two sisters, Wilhelmena Rhodes Kelly and Linda M. Jones. Wilhelmena draws upon her own experiences in researching her own family history and from their experiences they have insights for Black genealogy research in get beyond the 1870 brick wall.

For more on Wilhelmena Rhodes Kelly and Linda M. Jones.

Brooklyn Collection - Author Talk: Frederick Douglass in Brooklyn with Theodore Hamm

Wednesday, February 22, 2017 7:00 pm – 8:00 pm
Central Library, Brooklyn Collection

In his compelling new book, Theodore Hamm presents Douglass's controversial and impassioned speeches given in Brooklyn during the Civil War era. He explores not only the content of his speeches, but their effect on Brooklyn audiences. Delivered in such noted spaces as BAM, and Plymouth Church, these speeches capture a fractured stage in our nation's history through the words of a great abolitionist.

15 Ways to Celebrate Black History Month 2017 in NYC