Terms of Use

Oral histories are intimate conversations between and among people who have generously agreed to share these recordings with BHS’s archives and researchers. Please listen in the spirit with which these were shared. BHS abides by the General Principles & Best Practices for Oral History as agreed upon by the Oral History Association and expects that use of this material will be done with respect for these professional ethics.

Every oral history relies on the memories, views, and opinions of the narrator. Because of the personal nature of oral history, listeners may find some viewpoints or language of the recorded participants to be objectionable. In keeping with its mission of preservation and unfettered access whenever possible, BHS presents these views as recorded.

The audio recording should be considered the primary source for each interview. Where provided, transcripts created prior to 2008 or commissioned by a third party other than BHS, serve as a guide to the interview and are not considered verbatim. More recent transcripts commissioned by BHS are nearly verbatim copies of the recorded interview, and as such may contain the natural false starts, verbal stumbles, misspeaks, and repetitions that are common in conversation. The decision for their inclusion was made because BHS gives primacy to the audible voice and also because some researchers do find useful information in these verbal patterns. Unless these verbal patterns are germane to your scholarly work, when quoting from this material researchers are encouraged to correct the grammar and make other modifications maintaining the flavor of the narrator’s speech while editing the material for the standards of print.

All citations must be attributed to Brooklyn Historical Society:

[Last name, First name], Oral history interview conducted by [Interviewer’s First name Last name], [Month DD, YYYY], [Title of Collection], [Call #]; Brooklyn Historical Society.

These interviews are made available for research purposes only. For more information about other kinds of usage and permissions, see BHS’s rights and reproductions policy.

Agree to terms of use

Val Adams

Oral history interview conducted by Michael Roberts

September 24, 1994

Call number: 2010.019.01

Search This Transcript
Search Clear

 ROBERTS: who has been involved in Carnival, Carnival and mas production for a number of years, and who now resides in Brooklyn. Mr. Adams, where were you born, and how long have you lived in Brooklyn?

ADAMS: I was born in St. Patrick's, Grenada, West Indies, and I've been in Brooklyn for a few years. In fact, from 1974 until the present time.

ROBERTS: Why did you come to New York, and particularly Brooklyn?

ADAMS: Opportunities, I guess. I figured that everybody was here, and there was a community within the community. But in my, you know, on the same sphere ns a Caribbean community. That's why they call Brooklyn a Caribbean community. And I ended up coming here and seek opportunities. Music, education, and the works.


ROBERTS: Now when you got here, what type of job did you do when you first arrived?

ADAMS: I went into the, well, at that point jobs were hard to come by. I went into the accounting area, and prospered in that area up to today.

ROBERTS: Where do you work today, presently?

ADAMS: I'm the Assistant Credit Manager of the Associated Press, Rockefeller Center Headquarters.

ROBERTS: You have been involved, you told us, in music. How long have you been involved in music? Could you give us a little background to yourself in respect to that?

ADAMS: Background in music. My background has been my father and my mother, starting from the root, I don't know. I ready can't go into it further than that. But my mother played the organ in the church while I was a tot. My father 2:00played violin, and we didn't have many of those in Grenada playing violin, and he was very good. And I performed as a kid. As a tot, in fact, as early as the age of six I was performing, playing the mouth organ in every concert that my father would have had. In his time, he was the head teacher at the St. Patrick's Anglican school, and they always had concerts at the end of every term, every semester, whatever you call it. And I've always been performing in those. He always put me up there, I guess, when he wanted to push me. He saw the talent, I guess, in me, and I've had encouragement from him and my mother and my brothers to go ahead and do that. I actually got, I kept doing that until I got into guitar, and I was really started into that area by my brother Albert, who taught 3:00me the basics on the guitar. And then from feeling around, I got into the bass guitar. I play the guitar very well, and I got into the bass guitar, and started playing, and I was pretty good, but too young to play in a band, because you have age limits to that, back home. Underage, you couldn't play in a band in a major function and so forth, so I had to wait till I got my time in. When the age was there, I think I was about 14, and Gary, Mr. Garrett, Walter Garrett, who founded the band called Gary and the Rhythmers. His sons came home to me on a nice, casual evening, and said let's go up, let's go up, you know, to the house. And we went up there, and I found out when I got there, they just produced a bass guitar, and said, that's yours Val. That's yours, let's play 4:00some music. That was a stepping stone, and in fact, they heard me a little before that, though. They heard me with the Melody Kids. I don't want to leave that out. I mean, you know, being around the guys from this band such as Melody Kids, Wackacks, and. Mr. Philip and Flary, and a couple guys, Pal Two and Frank, Limbo, but those are all nicknames. And we had good times in the early period, and I'd be playing with them, but not at actual functions, the night to night functions. But when Gary picked me up and called one of his sons, in fact Alistair and Joey and Carson came to get me one day and told me let's go up to the house, they didn't tell me what it was, but when we go there and we did it, we decided we were gonna form this group. And we formed this group called Gary 5:00and the Rhythmers, which was really a family band, five members from Mr. Garrett's family, and Sam, my brother, and myself. Sam came in later, but at that point, at the starting point, it was just me. And we started a nice little group called Gary and the Rhythmers, and found that we went to the top of the Grenadian music at that point. And that was about, we started at '71, and by the end of '72, we were already at the top of what we had in Grenada, and that was very productive.

ROBERTS: When you came to Brooklyn, what were your first Impressions?

ADAMS: Impressions?

ADAMS: Impressions, well, I, you mean in terms of music?

ROBERTS: Generally speaking.

ADAMS: Generally speaking, I felt good. I felt happy to be here, and started 6:00getting acquainted with places, and started meeting people from home, and so on and so forth, and the impressions in terms of music, I had all that music in the back of my head there. Leaving home, in fact, I left the band while it was at the peak, and you know, I just felt that I got to started again here and do something. But the opportunities didn't come by my own thinking or my own sponsorship in that sense. I have a beautiful wife, Denise Romney, maiden, carrying Adams right now of course. Her brother, Terrence, who went to school with me in the GBS and was home with me while I was with Gary and the Rhythmers. He came up a little before me, and he decided he was gonna ask for some aid to start a group up here knowing my reputation back home, because they had rated me 7:00as the number one vocalist in Grenada at one point. And he found a sponsorship in the person of Eugene Pressou, who is presently the Grenadian Ambassador to the United Nations. And Eugene went ahead and just took us to the, shop one day and bought everything that we need, and we started a group from there. The group was surrounded around me, because most of the guys were not able to, they were doing a little feel around here, but you know, I had to help them because I knew more than they did. And I could have played, fortunately I could have played all the instruments, so they gathered around me as a center and built a group called Val Adams and Exodus.

ROBERTS: Now, when you came to Brooklyn, what was important to you when you first arrived? What are the things that were important to you besides music?

ADAMS: Besides music? I thought that I could have gotten to a school that I 8:00could learn something and get a profession and so forth, but being that I was the only one here, it was hard for me to start out and do what I left out to do. But in terms of importance, I would say, education, music.

ROBERTS: Let's talk now about Carnival. Could you give us some idea of your participation in Carnival both here and back home in Grenada?

ADAMS: Well, I left home pretty young, like you would imagine. At 19, 18 1/2 in fact. In Grenada, I played in Carnival, jumped a little bit of mas, you know. 9:00Played a lot of Jab-Jab, a lot of Shortknee.

ROBERTS: What is Jab-Jab and Shortknee? Could you tell us what that is?

ADAMS: Jab-Jab is, you know, the Jabmolassi production, you know, the creativity from the ancient times. What they call the zombie mas. It really came from way back when in the African heritage, we learned about it, and there's a lot of details you can go into. We inherited it from Africa, and continued with that part of the heritage. The Shortknee came as a liberation from the plantation that we get up and we decided, you know, hey we got more freedom now. Let's celebrate. And we got together, sang, well, calypso and Shortknee go really 10:00together. I might have mentioned before, but they basically go together, a broader kind of unity where everybody could participate and sing something that is related to maybe something that happened, maybe about somebody, or whatever, and they got together and sang these things. Calypso developed there. The shortknee got developed from that also as a coordination kind of thing. And here wear costumes and sort of sing and express those views in the form of a masquerade.

ROBERTS: City? So you participated playing that kind of mas in Grenada?

ADAMS: Yeah.

ROBERTS: Now, when you carne here, how did you first get involved in Carnival in New York?

ADAMS: Well, I must start with saying that the band that we established here, Val Adams and Exodus, we got together and did our first presentation, I think, 11:00on Labor Day, was it '76? Somewhere about. With Calypso Rose, who I love the band very well. I mean, I worked with her throughout the States on the Eastern seaboard.

ROBERTS: So you might have started on the Parkway in 1976?

ADAMS: In terms of Carnival, yes. And we worked with Rose, who has been a great inspiration to the group?

ROBERTS: That is Calypso Rose, Calypso Queen of the World?

ADAMS: Calypso Queen of the World, Calypso Rose from Trinidad. And we decided that we would go again, and we went back the following year and put our own thing up there, which was basically at the time, we just did a T-shirt advertising Grenada. What I did in that year was that we just went up there to 12:00basically advertise the band because we felt that the band was still a little young. '76, '77, we were still young, and we were still trying to climb up and boost up what we had going for us. So we just went there to advertise the band. We just had people tagging along. We had a huge crowd, but not necessarily part of the masquerading group it's a costume band sort of thing. But then we took a break from that. We took a break from that and started concentrating on recording, and were so very busy on these functions, we did functions with Rose, with [unintelligible], with Duke, with Explainer, Designer, just to name a few 13:00of those, and we were so very busy, because we were working, we had a contract [unintelligible] that went for a few years with one of the top lodges at the Yankee stadium, that we played twice a week, which they call Caribbean night. And then we still playing again three times on the weekend, Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, so it was kind of tough for us to get involved in too many other things. We had been too crowded with functions. So we decided that we'd take a break. But when we did come back, in terms of Carnival, to come back to the Carnival question [Interview interrupted.] We went back on the Parkway, on Eastern Parkway for Labor Day, in 1984, at which point, l was trying to get, the main purpose was to try to get the Grenadian community in New York to get involved in a united celebration, something that we would feel proud about as 14:00Grenadians, that we had something up there as representation, cause we were lacking that. And that's one of the views that I felt really hurt me, that we were lacking that on the Parkway. So we decided we were gonna do a joint something and I got up, and I said, let me go to Leo, that's Leo Joseph from Curacao, who's owner of the Flamingo on Church Avenue, and we went, there was another club on Pennsylvania Avenue called the Rock Garden. I spoke to the guys in there. And there was another one called the Galaxie where the Rugby, next to the Rugby Cinema on Utica. Downstairs there now I think Bobby's now has that there. But those three, and then of course, we had Tucks International with Booze Taylor, who has always been, what should I call it? The mass producer of a 15:00lot of events sponsoring, you know, Grenadian artists and Grenadian culture, and so forth. And you know, we got together. I told them, we got to produce Grenada. We gotta sponsor something representing Grenada. And I told them, we gotta do this. And what we did, in a quick way, was to do some T-shirts. We had each club do !-shirts of their own, so we all be represented as Grenadian clubs or organizations, and go on the Parkway and make some form of representation so our people can get involved in the masquerade and feel that they have something. Whether a T-shirt or whatever. That was at least better than nothing at all.

ROBERTS: That was in 1994?

ADAMS: '84.

ROBERTS: '84, I'm sorry.

ADAMS: I forgot to mention one other club, the Sugar Mill, and that's the one I should mention. The club Sugar Mill with Joe and those guys from Concord. That 16:00was my home base. I felt bad I didn't mention it earlier. But I was holding it for the last and I got tangled up there, but the Sugar Mill, that was the home base for Val Adams and Exodus. That was our rehearsal venue, and they were involved also. There were lots of T-shirts on their part, just like the other clubs. They also participated, and it was very strong. We came up with about 400 members in T-shirts representing the various clubs.

ROBERTS: OK, so that was 1984. How do you participate in Carnival now?

ADAMS: Carnival now is a different, it's a different era. I took a break again and came back. I took a break for a while and came back finally again last year. '93. And I thought of, how can I get a massive part of Grenada to participate in 17:00Labor Day strongly, honestly, with an intent to enjoy themselves, and come out with a mind of supporting their culture? Because you stay away from it for a while, and Grenadians, you know, we are hard people to please. You see, Trinidadians have this culture that they grew up in. It's in them. They will play for one hour and they will play a Carnival for one hour if you give them one hour. In Grenada we have two days of Carnival, Monday and Tuesday. I saw a period before that really enjoyed the panorama and the cultures and the queen's shows and the queen of the bands and the whole works. But we have two days on the road to masquerade in costumes. Grenadians are funny people, We're not tight 18:00with money, but we just balance things and see if it would make sense doing this or if it doesn't make sense, doing that, And it seems that that's what made it hard. I think most of the smaller islands are caught up in that kind of a philosophy. And the thing that I saw was that they would avoid playing any Carnival on Labor Day due to the fact that they are only seeing or only getting a few hours, six hours or less than that. But maximum six, because most of the bands go up there, and the mayor and who's responsible for officially opening the Eastern Parkway would come even if they say the Parkway is open from eight o'clock to six in the evening for Labor Day Parade, That's what I think I read in the papers. It never starts at 8, because nobody comes out at 8, No bands come out at 8, And the Mayor and so on would not come out at 8, I've never seen 19:00it happen. I'm not blaming any particular Mayor or any of that, no political issue here. But what I'm saying is, I understand that the official time is 8 in the morning through 6 in the evening, and we get up there, most of the bands get up there like mid-day and get ready for that parade to be officially opened by the mayor and the whole entourage, but sometimes it opens -·they would come like 2 o'clock ·- 1:30, 2 o'clock, and that leaves them with like four-four and a half hours to celebrate in a costume that they would spend about a hundred, $150 dollars for. And back to where I started from, I'm saying that Grenadians are funny people. They don't want to spend $150 dollars to celebrate that for four hours or four and a half hours. They would spend that to do it for 20:00two days in Grenada or in Trinidad. On the Trinidad level, if it was for a longer time, you would get about five times the number of people in any costume band on Eastern Parkway. But because of the short time, people feel that gee, to spend five, you know, one hundred, two hundred dollars for four hours, gee, that's like a millionaire feat. You know what I'm saying? From the Grenadian standpoint I think that turned the people off a little bit. So what I tried to do was to get involved into something that, rather than t-shirts, which everybody would get a t-shirt and come, which they did in the past, I figured that there are lots of guys here that are so rooted in the Grenadian culture and our type of Carnival, that I was feeling strong in the heart that I would get a 21:00strong number of people, men and women, to play what we call Shortknee last year. And I did that, I thought as a start I would get about fifty people, but we had a hundred and thirty in number with thirty eight of them being women, and that was a big feat. That was a big achievement.

ROBERTS: Could you just describe for the sake of this interview and the sake of our research what it is when you say playing "Shortknee"?

ADAMS: Playing Shortknee as we have done it in Grenada, it brings back a feeling of liberation from the plantation. It's a celebration saying "Oh, we're free at 22:00last, and we have our own time, at least, to celebrate." And it is one part of masquerading in Grenada that has never failed. You would always see it. You will forever see it because the culture is so rooted in the folks in Grenada and Grenadians that have travelled, that are here now. And that is why I was able and felt confident to take the chance, not chance, but to use this opportunity and brought that band outside. It's just that it's embedded in them. They will play it because it's something in them. They hear Shortknee, and whoever was involved with it in the past would be excited to know when we play, what we 23:00playing in, what costume, how much does it cost, that kind of thing. What impressed me was the women get involved.

ROBERTS: Absolutely, because in Grenada, women had to get involved in Shortknee.

ADAMS: Well, traditionally, it was a mas geared, in one way or the other, to retribute, or to take an opportunity to get back at people who have harmed you and who has been bad to you. It was a very offensive mas, very cruel. Not cruel, but violent mas. The original part of it was very violent, because it was geared , the mask in the face was to hide evidence, you know, of who would be taking -­ you know, seeking revenge, I mean what you would call it in other words 24:00against another individual who might have done something bad to you in the past. That is part of the root of it. It doesn't happen so anymore, because we have kind of grown out of that part of the culture. But it was a very violent mas, and that's why, you know, very valid masquerade or part of the culture where you would try to get back at somebody, seriously try to get back at somebody who tried to hurt you before. Hence, the reason why they use the mask in the face to hide their identity and so forth.

ROBERTS: This year also you had a large number of Shortknee on the parkway. What do you see as your numbers for next year? How do you expect the mas to go next year?

ADAMS: Well, if you call it larger, I would support that, but providing that I 25:00didn't go to Grenada to take part and to be a part of the Carnival there, which took a whole month of planning time for up here, the numbers would have exceeded any possible imagination, because inasmuch as I was home for a whole month, and coming back here.

ROBERTS: You went home to take part in the Grenadian Carnival Calypso competition?

ADAMS: Yes I did. We were seeming able to bring together such a large number of people to play this year that I was shocked because I only had like about, ten days when I came back. I think about ten days. And we got things together. I had people planning up here and doing some work for me, but we got the numbers out, 26:00and that was so impressive. And we had different sections. While I was doing one thing on the other end, we had the guys who took the initiative, knowing that I was gonna be in Grenada, took the initiative to do their side, or their section, of the Shortknee. And their section was bringing out the original Shortknee with the head-piece. Some people would call it the head-tie, some call it the head man. And they brought it out. It looked like a turtle fin around, you know a turtle head. You know, it looks spooky a little bit. But that's part of the original Shortknee when it just started. The Shortknee the other section played, we didn't use that, but it's still all one group, but one section decided that they want to do that part. We do the other part. And we were very large in numbers.

ROBERTS: One of the things with the Shortknee mask, for the sake of this 27:00interview and the sake of information, is that you almost don't have to change the costume from year to year. Do you think that this is important in respect to the economics that now face New York City?

ADAMS: Changing the costumes from year to year goes with the masquerade, goes with the mas itself, and goes with the Shortknee. It's not traditional that you play with the same costume. It's not. It's not. I think you mentioned someone saying that, but it's not. Only in the event that something happened, that you couldn't get the right stuff you needed, maybe you got some material, but not enough for who wanted to masquerade. Let's suppose we only had enough for 400 28:00people and 500 wanted to play, we would get a different costume. We would allow that extra hundred people to play in their old costume and using new costume for the new people.

ROBERTS: Where do you get your ideas to play your mas from?

ADAMS: I've grown in it as a kid, and I've seen, I've seen, I've been around steel bands, I've been around Angel Hearts. I've rehearsed with them. I've played with them. And I've been around bands. I've been in Carnival as a kid. My mother, I used to be scared of the Shortknee and the Jab-Jab myself, but either you got into it, it's just a matter of culture that grows on you, and you just create ideas. And with the musical ability and all that, and without music, there is no Carnival. The music and the Carnival goes together. And the Carnival 29:00usually depends on the type of music and all that. It's just the intermingling of the different cultures. The calypso, the steel band, and if the music is not right, the Carnival wouldn't be that heavy. That kind of thing. They all click as an engine. You know, not enough oil in the oil drum, the engine might stall, that kind of thing. It's a coordination of art, of culture, culture is the umbrella, art, music, and the ability to create imaginary things that are involved in the culture itself. Jabmolassi, Shortknee, Indians, Caribs, Araracks, and maybe monsters, like the huge costumes that we have on Eastern Parkway and stuff. Technology involvement, you know. You might be a robot. That 30:00sort of thing. It's just a matter of coordinating that kind of thing.

ROBERTS: Turning to Carnival, particularly in New York City. What does Labor Day Carnival, the parade down Eastern Parkway, represent to you, as one who has been involved in mas and the production of mas for many years?

ADAMS: Well, I have a short answer to that. It represents to me a coming together of African American, I like to put African,American Caribbean, AAC, all of the AAC's together in one basket is the only celebration of its kind in the United States in that massive number and with that massive involvement. And it's a matter of putting those three different phases together, or aliens 31:00together, to make a what we call today the largest or the biggest celebration in the United States of America.

ROBERTS: What do you think Carnival represents to New York City?

ADAMS: Coming back of, or bringing back of cultures from Africa, the mother country, our mother country, and showing a continuation, a response, a staying involved with heritage. That sort of thing. We won't lose it. We won't lose it. It's a matter of we staying with our culture. The root of the culture. I saw a 32:00video last night, in fact I saw it on TV last night on the show Mahogany where I saw shows from Africa of bands and groups and cultures and so forth. And you know, it's the same thing. It's a matter of that celebration keeping together, whether you're Jamaican, American, Grenadian, Trinidadian, wherever you're from. African. It's a matter of keeping together a culture that Is true, that's embedded in us, that has spread throughout the world, and it's a matter of keeping it strong and keeping it alive.

ROBERTS: Do you think that it has any, the carnival celebration and particularly the Carnival parade down Eastern Parkway, do you think it has any economic 33:00significance in the city?

ADAMS: Oh, yeah. Are you kidding? That is one day, or that one week of celebration coming to a climax on that day, Labor Day, but that's one week of celebrations, and that, the people in the community depend on it, because what they would make in terms of economic progress, bringing in revenue sales from whatever, t-shirts, roti, food, clothing, whatever you want to call It, whatever you want to mention. That is one day that they would have made profits greater than probably the rest of, the previous, I mean the rest of the previous part of the year. That one day would probably cover what they probably made for the rest 34:00of the year. When I say rest of the year, I mean January through September that first portion of the year, that first nine months of the year. What they made on that day would have compensated for that.

ROBERTS: Do you associate any particular ethnic group with Carnival? And if so, why?

ADAMS: Of course. The carnival. The carnival. In America here we hear of Carnival. They have their Carnival, so the word carnival is not associated with Black or White. There are White Carnivals celebrated in different ways. We might call it a block party in the Caribbean or even in Brooklyn, somewhere like that. 35:00But there are Carnivals. The word Carnival doesn't represent any ethnic group, but I would say what we refer to as Labor Day speaks for itself is an Caribbean American, African Caribbean, I mean African American celebration. African meaning Africa Itself and wherever the Africans have infiltrated and settled and now have a home and be a part of that community. It's an African American celebration when you talk about it in New York in the forms of Labor Day Carnival. In the Caribbean, we say Carnival. So in the Caribbean, the Trinidad Carnival is just like they know it in Africa. In other words, there is no change there. They do it. This is their culture. This is their home culture, and they 36:00celebrate it when it comes, and everybody gets involved. You don't have to worry about getting a permit or anything to play Carnival. It's a celebration that the country is dependent on. The government, whoever is there in power or whatever, is committed to make come true for the people, for the culture, for the root, for the upliftment of people. The culture means a lot to a lot of people. Maybe not to you and me as much as others, but culture, when you get involved in culture, something relating to ancestry and so forth, you're really getting involved in a very touchy area. When we're celebrating, we don't see it like that, but people get very touchy about their culture. That's why today you probably wouldn't want to, a White man wouldn't want to call, if you would call 37:00a White man a Black man, that Black man could be offended very much by just calling him a Black man. He knows he's Black, but you know you get a conflict there, because you know, people look at their cultures so differently that their culture means a lot to them, and you got to be so very careful. That's why it's a touchy area. You might get somebody telling you Black people are strong people or whatever. It might be a complimentary statement, but he not want you to call him Black person or nigger. Of course, not that. You know what I mean? So some people would look at it differently, but in the form of culture, we celebrate it as one people. In the Caribbean there it's one culture. That's all we know. It's one root. That's not to say there were not Indians there before and so forth. 38:00There were Indians there. That time has passed. We are there. We celebrate what our culture is.

ROBERTS: Now, you've been speaking about the West Indian Day Carnival, of course the highlights being Labor Day and the parade down Eastern Parkway. What are the differences, you having had the best of both worlds, so to speak, of having played mas back in Grenada and played mas on Eastern Parkway on Labor Day. What are the basic differences you would like to highlight in respect to both Carnivals?

ADAMS: Well, the difference is, first of all, I must mention that here you have people from various lands participating. You have Trinidadians who would play in 39:00a Barbadian band. You have Grenadians who would play in a Vincie band, from St. Vincent. We intermingle anywhere. So when yon compare Grenada, I really don't see a difference. You mentioned Grenada, right? I don't see a difference, because you know why? Just like I mentioned before with Grenadians playing with Trinidadians, Trinidadians playing with Grenadians in the different bands and so forth. Not necessarily you're from Grenada so you're gonna stay with a Grenadian band. You want to play in a Trinidadian band, or you want to play in a Bajan band. You're free to move and choose what band you want to play with, because it's all the same culture. It's the same heritage and the same root. Is the same thing you want to achieve, to present the culture to the public and the world, because this is what it's all about. We try to present the culture and make the 40:00people aware of where we stand, what kind of culture we have, the beautiful things, beautiful costumes in our parade, just like the St. Patrick' Day parade, for instance. I mean, I see a lot of beautiful things there. And in Grenada, we have a lot of Trinidadians coming in. We have Jamaicans coming in. We have a lot of artists coming in to present themselves there, to expose their part of it. We have, well, from Trinidad, we have lots of people playing Carnival in Grenada

ROBERTS: Because of the closeness?

ADAMS: Because of the closeness of the culture, even the closeness in relationship to island, you know, geography, from a geography standpoint. But just the closeness in culture. Because it's a culture. They can't stand to know that their Carnival is gone, Grenada Carnival is on now, and Grenada is right in their backyard. They're coming. They're coming to be a part of it. You know what 41:00I'm saying? Just like right in New York here. People leave from Toronto, nine-twelve hours away and come down here. Grenadians, Trinidadians, Jamaicans, whoever it might be, and they come here; South Carolina, Florida, Texas, New Orleans. California people come right into New York here and celebrate. It's not just New Yorkers, you know, resident New Yorkers participating here. Lot of people from abroad, and same thing in Grenada or St. Vincent, or Trinidad, you know or Barbados, wherever it may be. The people, you know, I know you gave the question towards me as a Grenadian, from a Grenadian standpoint, but I'm just showing you its relative throughout.

ROBERTS: That's very important. So are you saying then that even though you may not have a lot of Grenadian bands on Eastern Parkway that does not mean that a 42:00lot of Grenadians don't play Carnival?

ADAMS: You've got the point. You know, I've had my band there, and people be passing by and another point, different costume and everything, and they say, oh, of course, you guys look good. We're gonna play with you next year or whatever, whatever, whatever, and you see so many of them. And they from Grenada and my band is a Grenadian band, well, they're playing with the Hawks or Sesame. In fact, Sesame Flyers, one of the top ranking officials in Sesame Flyers is Derrick Noel, who is from Granville, who is one of my producers of the record, and he is on top of the productions of the Sesame Flyers, who have won a couple prizes this year.

ROBERTS: Band of the year

ADAMS: Uh-hunh. I don't want to mention, but you know.

ROBERTS: What changes have you noticed about Carnival over the past years?


ADAMS: Carnival in general?

ROBERTS: Yeah. In New York, particularly.

ADAMS: Well, New York is a tough place to judge it, but I'll answer your question. Past couple of years, I would go over a period of about twenty years, is that too much?


ADAMS: I've soon huge bands in the past, bands encompassing about four blocks, three, four blocks. There was a band one year, one that just came up about '74, '75, not '75 '76, that band about four thousand members. The only time I've seen that is when Borokeete came back up and started doing something here about three, four years ago. And they had a huge band close to that size. But I've seen bands in the past that were so huge. Now what we see is a lot of small 44:00bands. There are a lot of small bands. You might find a few bigger bands, about a thousand or so, but what we called a big band is not there anymore. We see a lot of people looking on. Not many masqueraders. A lot of people who are looking on now, I would imagine, have played in the past and are not interested in playing anymore. I don't know that as a fact, but I would say the change is that the bands have gotten less, and the number of…

ROBERTS: Participants?

ADAMS: Not participants, only I will come to that. The number of band sponsors, you know, actual individual bands. I don't think we have that many bands as we 45:00had in the past. I might be wrong. The participants is a major part of it. We don't have many participants at all now in most of the bands, most of the bands. Bands that have been topping on an average about 800 or so, which, for six hours, that's a big band, you know? They're fighting to make a 500 good bands, fighting to make some good numbers.

ROBERTS: What do you think attributed this?

ADAMS: The economy, number one. Well, of course. The economy, you see, has reaped havoc on the average individual. Whether you're an minister, whether your a senator, whether you be a guy who's sweeping the drains, or not even the drains, because the 46:00sanitation department pays pretty well -­ but somebody who's probably just been a guard, looking to see somebody stealing something from somebody's store. Regardless, the economy, inasmuch as people have that zeal to get involved in Carnival, the money's not there. The money's not there, and I think that is the biggest setback for Carnival.

ROBERTS: What do you like best about Carnival?

ADAMS: What do I like best? I don't know, I like to sing. I like to sing. I enjoy the music, because you get so much of a variety of music and stuff. And then the beautiful colors, and of course, to be part of celebrating my culture?

ROBERTS: And of course, what do you like least about Carnival?

ADAMS: Violence, crime, and rain.


ROBERTS: You just mentioned violence. Why do you think there is, at times, violence in Carnival?

ADAMS: You see it just about all the time, I would say. You know, it's sad to even talk about it. You don't want to hear. You really don't want that to play a part in a celebration of culture like that. You expect to see some nice parade with the beautiful costumes and everybody orderly and portraying what they're portraying, and you know, and then letting the viewers get their view of what happening, what's involved, for them to get pictures. You would hate to see people running because somebody just pulled a gun and they just shot

[Interview interrupted.]

ADAMS: sirens and all the works and all the police get around and that disrupt 48:00everything you knowand whoever saw what happened probably see somebody's head blown off, and it's disturbing that person can't enjoy the culture and the Carnival anymore. Violence is not good for anything, and you know, we try, this year, we saw a lot of police up there, and that really curbed things a lot. Boy, if it continues like that, Carnival, Labor Day at least, here, would be very nice in years to come if that trend keeps up and there were batches of policemen on every corner. No individuals standing there, and the police barricades, they're in place, and then they had policemen on every truck that participated in the Carnival. Two policemen per truck. I mean, that's a lot of security. And then they have police guiding the trucks. I mean, not guiding, but you know, a 49:00policeman in front of every truck. I think they were undercover, and in front of every truck, moving the trucks along, so no big lapse between one truck and the other, so the parade was smooth, constantly flowing and stuff. Violence, you see, when you don't have control, or when you don't show a presence of law, you will always get somebody, some little fool, some little bum, some person who is not concerned with culture at all, but probably came up there because it's a good opportunity to come and rob somebody's pocketbook or come and, you know, hold somebody up and run through the crowd and escape because it's a big crowd and millions of people. It's a shame that these things have to happen. But this year it was very nice on Eastern Parkway, very well controlled, and gee, I'm glad it was like that. And I hope we can get that every year.

ROBERTS: Now, have you ever gone to other places and experienced Carnival, like 50:00Trinidad, maybe London, Miami, or even in the United States, have you gone to other Carnivals besides the one in Brooklyn, and of course the one back home in Grenada?

ADAMS: Bad as it is, I will admit I never went to Trinidad for Carnival. I went there, I was in Grenada in athletics for a few years consecutively, and Barbados, a few other Islands, representing Grenada and other things, but never for Carnival. I feel bad about it, and you know, I only regret that I didn't have the opportunity. But that's not feeling bad. I've seen a tape of Trinidad's Carnival every year. It's nice to be a part of it, but I wasn't able to do it, and I don't get ulcers over there. I would like to go if I get the time. But I've had tapes from Trinidad. I have a couple tapes from Brazil. It's beautiful 51:00there. You know, it's a beautiful Carnival in Trinidad. Brazil is nice. But I've been, to answer your question, I've been to Carnival in Boston. I've been to Carnival, Toronto several years. I've been to a celebration which they started a Carnival in Washington. I don't know if it's still happening, but I've been down there for one of those. And you know, we see the same thing: a production of the culture, the art form, the music, and it's nice, it's nice that we can move the culture along in major cities like that and develop. There's one in Florida. I've never been to that. New Orleans has something down there, Dimanche Gras. I've never been. I was supposed to be in Houston this week, but that has been 52:00somewhat cancelled, or postponed I should say. I'm supposed to be in Montreal next, for Montreal Carnival.

ROBERTS: When is Montreal Carnival?

ADAMS: They're bringing me up there for next week. Not next week the 8th and 9th of October. That's when they're bringing me up for that.

ROBERTS: So what we've seen is that wherever Caribbean people have settled, no matter where it is; whether it is in the United States, Canada, London or beyond that Carnival has sprung up over the years.

ADAMS: Carnival has first of all, before I forget, I mentioned before Montreal Carnival. I'm not sure if it's Montreal Carnival 8th and 9th. I doubt that. I don't think so. I think I'm just going for a show. But anyway, I just want to correct that so you don't think that I… But Carnival, over the years, and I 53:00tell you really in the past, not more than the past ten, twelve years, Carnival has moved so far abroad from its root that that the roots, if you can imagine a terrarium with that monster below there uncovered, only soil at the top, one surface, flat, and Carnival is below there, with plants like what we call a sea cat, octopus, and all the roots of a grass seed, for instance, we plant many fibers. Carnival just extended to every part of the world. It moved to London, 54:00and that's a major Carnival right now; Notting Hill. You know, it moved to where you thought it probably wouldn't go, because Jamaica was a place just at one point people felt that it was a segregated country in terms of music, that they only play reggae music and not calypso. That's wrong. Jamaicans play more calypso than probably reggae. I mean, that's their root music. Trinidad's music is the calypso. And you would be, the two have just gotten together in recent years, about three or four years ago.

ROBERTS: Five years ago.

ADAMS: Five years, OK. Five years, and it's just another root that just bust the surface again, and supported by all.

ROBERTS: That's true

ADAMS: You know what I mean? And then Boston is a lasting thing. Florida has always, Miami Carnival. Here we say, you don't want to miss Miami, in Miami! You 55:00know. That has been a root. A Miami root has been sown a while back, and it is probably about three feet tall now. But it's growing, you know, and they got a lot of leaves on it.

ROBERTS: So the significant thing is that wherever groups of people from the Caribbean have settled, Carnival has flourished there.

ADAMS: Yes, and we have seen it spread vast and wide over the very recent years. I remember growing up that only two islands had Carnival. Trinidad, or Trinidad and Tobago, and Grenada. And the Carnival was together, the same day, same Monday, same Tuesday, all the celebrations were matching. That was in February, 56:00right before Ash Wednesday, the official Ash Wednesday, like we know from the Bible. And all of a sudden, we have St. Vincent following, Barbados following, Antigua following, and it just went like a germ, like a disease. We just spread it all over the world. We got heavy Soca music in Germany. I wouldn't be surprised next year we have Carnival. Caribbean, American, West Indian, Black, White, general Carnival. I don't want to, when you're touching foreign masses like that; you don't want to call it Caribbean American anymore. You want - we want to make it, German? Well, we can call it that because it's in Germany, but we want to make it…in America, we don't call it American Carnival. I'm just saying we want to call it some name that would encompass all masses, because 57:00it's gonna be White, Black, African, Caribbean, European, Russian. The whole

ROBERTS: What you call in Grenada a callaloo. A mix-up.

ADAMS: Or a pillau.

ROBERTS: What kinds of problems regarding Carnival have you noticed have come up over the past years?

ADAMS: Well, problems. Are we speaking generally or are we speaking New York?

ROBERTS: New York.

ADAMS: Ok. Well generally speaking I'll talk generally first because I think it might a little bit. Problems in carnival, from the home front, I've seen 58:00something recognizable enough, in terms of Grenada first. It's where I'm from and I can recognize it there a little more. The absence of qualified musicians, for instance. We can do in Grenada with much more qualified musicians and artists. A lot of us outside who are not going back who are not even playing music anymore but who have done that for ten, fifteen years in Grenada while I was growing up and have the talent and so forth. And we can do that. In Trinidad, I can see, in terms of problems, Trinidad is doing pretty well, except that I can find that they are moving in one, definitely towards one angle now. I don't want to specify and say what that is, but they're running more or less one track. You're not getting the variety that you normally get from Trinidad. In 59:00the past two years, you have not seen that variety from Trinidad.

ROBERTS: You're talking in respect to music at Carnival time?

ADAMS: Music at Carnival time.

ROBERTS: And you think that's one of the problems the quality of the music coming out of certain areas?

ADAMS: Yes. The quality of music coming out of certain areas have been on the decline and, as much as the music, what we're getting, is fine, it's nice, but if you are very attentive and you have been following the trend of the music, you will know that the music has somewhat dipped a little bit. You're looking at, in Trinidad for instance, not Trinidad, sorry, but St. Vincent. I remember that while Grenada and Trinidad were the only ones having Carnival, that St. Vincent just started up doing their Carnival, and Trinidad was the first country starting to give Trinidad what we call giving them a run for it. In the Soca 60:00business, for instance, the music, with Beckett and so-so and so forth that was a hot island for music. And all of a sudden, I think they put certain laws in there forbidden certain things of the calypsonians and the entertainment and the performances and what regulations, you know, when they can come, when they cannot come, when they can compete and when they can't and so forth, and that has really made the music take a downward trend, and it killed the St. Vincent music, so that's negative, and that's a problem. You know, I've come to understood that they're trying to introduce that in Grenada, and it will affect the future of the Carnival.

ROBERTS: Now, closer to home, because coming closer to home, we saw in the 1994 61:00Carnival, there were some problems of logistics, there were some problems of misunderstanding, if you want to call it that, between the West Indian Day Carnival Association, the sponsoring organization of the event for the past 27 years, and the Jewish Hasidic community in Brooklyn. And I'd like to know if you have any thoughts on that, because there was some difficulty there initially.

ADAMS: Personally, I feel that the function of the Caribbean American Day Labor Day parade, well I realize that there were major problems. In fact, I was in Grenada when the violence happened, and when I came up I heard about it. But I mean, when you have these conflicts between ethnic groups, you gotta give 62:00respect to it, and whatever move you make you gotta be very careful making them, because you're hurting culture on both sides, and you're affecting a lot of things among both peoples. The violence up there, of course I would never like to see that happen. I don't like to see it happen because I hate violence.

ROBERTS: You're talking about a couple years ago.


ROBERTS: No, what I'm talking about is this year, there were some problems where the Hasidim went to the Mayor and asked for certain special concessions. The West Indian American Day Carnival negotiated and lobbied and so on and the matter came to a close. But there were some problems initially. That's what I wanted you to comment on.

ADAMS: Well, the conflict came about due to the fact that one of their holy days 63:00fell on the same day that the West Indian American Day parade was to be held on. And it was a matter that they put to the Mayor, and the city to decide which one should supersede the other. Which one, you know, which one would happen, because they couldn't see both happening at the same time. But I didn't really see a major problem. I mean, from the Jewish standpoint, I find that they made a big thing about it, in my opinion. Because their celebration starts at six on that same evening, not all day. OK? They might assemble earlier, but their thing starts at six o'clock on that same day, September 5th, 6:00 PM. That's when the Caribbean American African, I saying it all the way because it doesn't matter. 64:00The words just come to me. Um, that's when that celebration ends. Our celebration ends at six. Theirs starts at six. So, hey. I didn't see the cat se for trying to stop the African American Day parade because your religious celebration starts on that same day. Hey, yours starts when ours stop. Fair game. I don't see a problem. And I thought it was handled properly, that justice was done, that we had ours. They were free to have theirs.

ROBERTS: Do you think that Carnival gets enough recognition in Brooklyn?



ADAMS: The reason being, as was mentioned, in just about every paper or magazine 65:00that I have looked over to see around that time advertising different things for the Labor Day weekend, per se, I have observed that the newspapers, the medias, the different tv or radio stations have not been you know paying any, what you call, giving any representation, in fact, of the Caribbean American African celebration, the Labor Day parade on Eastern Parkway. I find that we have been lost in there; they don't give it much credibility, in my opinion. Inasmuch as they would announce it or write about it as the biggest parade or the biggest 66:00celebration in the United States of America. They would not talk about it on the radio as much as they do with the other parades that would only have about fifty, a hundred thousand people. You're looking at a parade that has close to two, maybe a little above, two million, three million. Close to it. The numbers, after the report is done the following day, they tell you a million and a half, close to two million. I say about three million people on that parade. And you would never find one anywhere probably no place in the world with that number of people. And they give it very, very little publicity, except for the Caribbean papers like the Carib News, the Amsterdam News; a few of these newspapers; the African News and so forth. They give you a whole literature. They tell you what 67:00it's about. They tell you how old it is, they tell you what's involved. They tell you who is participating. They give you, I mean they give you unending literature and news about what's happening on that day in that celebration. Not even on that day, for that week, because there are many other things: panorama, the kids' programs, which White, Black, Jewish, whoever kids want to participate are welcome to do it. It's not just a Black or just an African. It's named that because these are the people sponsoring. This is from the heritage. But we welcome, the army or the navy one of them usually have a band on the Parkway participating, playing their instruments, their own band. There is no mention about what involvement you can partake. You can get involved in a lot of 68:00different things in there. You don't have to be Grenadian, Trinidadian, Barbadian, Jamaican, or whoever. You know what I'm saying? And it's astonishing to just look at it and say, geez, why aren't, I don't want to mention stations, but why aren't these people giving us the air that they would give a St. Patrick's Day parade, or a Macy's, I don't want to mention Fourth of July. That's independence, and you must respect this is the American day. Whatever parade, Veteran's Day, well, OK, that's American again. I'm hitting the wrong ones. But you know, what I'm saying is, for the biggest celebration, not biggest celebration, but the biggest parade in the country, the media have lacked a lot 69:00of presentations of what's happening. They have lacked their involvement. They haven't been involved enough. And to tell you the truth, this year is the first year I saw for about, they had it on the news the same night. I saw about five minutes news broadcast on three stations, because I mean, flipping through the stations. And they brought pictures of the Carnival and stuff, and it looked so beautiful. It's so nice. I wish we had more of that. I wish we could have it live. They have it live in Toronto, for instance. In Toronto, Canada, you can see the masquerade while it's on for a length of time. I mean, I guess they have 70:00other things, the programs involved and stuff, and they can't get to punch out one and put one in. They probably have yet to negotiate that and the finance and so forth, but in Canada, you see it almost all day. You see it on the television. Live. You don't even have to go there. You're seeing articles, you're seeing them presenting you the masquerade, and you don't get it here. I mean, for a city of this large population of Caribbean, African, American, you know, the volume, the numbers that are partaking in this, with three million people presenting themselves up there to take part of a celebration that's part 71:00of their lives, part of their culture, and it's not being publicized, and not being shown throughout the world or throughout the country. What's happening. What this culture is all about. How they celebrate it. See what beauty; see what costumes; see what myths and other things that you can gather from it. It's a shame that they're not broadcasting or not reporting it as widely as they're doing.

ROBERTS: Do you think that that is a lack of respect?

ADAMS: Well, I don't know. It puzzles me. It really puzzles me. We're seeing reggae music came and dominate the world market. That's Caribbean. That's African, American. And we've seen calypso, just about everybody imagines calypso. They might not have heard calypso, but they heard the word. They know 72:00there is something, some type of music called calypso out there, and they are aware of it, and they've heard it somewhere before. But I mean, you know, feel that they are just not interested.

ROBERTS: What do you think about the fact that Carnival brings together so many types of people. For example, Trinidad, Jamaicans, African Americans, etc. coming and enjoying what the beauty of the Parkway has to offer every Labor Day.

ADAMS: I figure, you see, I'll come back to something I talked about earlier -·they don't have a choice. It's the culture. Culture is a thing, when it calls you, if your culture is African, when that calls you, you're gonna go to it. 73:00You're gonna go to it. You know what I'm saying? If it's not your thing, you're not gonna get involved. You might go and see the costume, and you might just stand on the side and never partake, never participate or anything. But when culture calls you, if you are true to it, you will be a member of what's happening. You will be part of what's happening, you understand? I've seen people, sometimes they borrow money just to put a costume on them for the few hours, you know what I mean? And because they can't stand just looking at it. They cannot stand just looking at it. They gotta play. Some people put aside their money long ahead of time to make sure they're playing. They're gonna be part of it. Sometimes you wonder where people get the money to, things so hard. 74:00Where people getting the money to play? You're making a mistake. These people put aside at least ten dollars a week, each paycheck, what have you. They gonna play. The only thing turns them off, like I said, earlier I mentioned the economy. Yes, that has had its, it has been a burden. But in the long run, overall, in a general sense, that person who has contributed, that kind of thing, gonna still find somebody to lend him. He don't know how he might pay back the person, but he gonna borrow if he had to do that.

ROBERTS: To play the mas.

ADAMS: Just to play. You know what I mean. So it's something that, as I mentioned before, I thought that the numbers had dwindled a little bit over the years. It's never ending. Everything has a cycle, and this is a cycle, this is a 75:00down turn of the cycle. We've kind of hit the bottom now. I kind of imagine that we hit the bottom now. I don't think you will see less than that. I don't think you would get worse than that and this year was a very good year. Peaceful. Lots of people, lot of masqueraders. We're just begging for more masqueraders, but I'm just saying, in terms of the masqueraders, participants, people with costumes, I think we reached that level, a bottom level. I think from here, let me cut here. One of the reasons people did not play or get in costumes this year was because of the conflict. They were scared that there might be some kind of thing, some kind of violence, some form of uprising, you know, within the 76:00community; the Jewish, between the communities, in fact, the Jewish community and the African American community. And that, people are funny, because they know it's not like back home where you know a stubborn man or two guys gonna fight and punch each other out. Here, the Caribbean, the African, they know that somebody's not gonna come and hit you with anything and give you a chance to defend yourself. Once there is a little violence, or some eruption or whatever. It builds fear, it builds anxiety, and if it happens that somebody, one of the ones we don't want around actually, would be carrying a gun. He wouldn't want me to fight you. He would pull that gun and shoot. So the point is, a lot of people 77:00got turned off because they were very fearful of what might happen if there was a clash between the Jewish community and the African American community. So that kind of brought the level, the numbers down somewhat. That played a part. So we gotta respect that. Everybody has their choices, and everybody would choose what they want to do, what they want to play, or they don't want to play, and everybody's free to do that. But hey, the Carnival on Eastern Parkway there, the cultures that come out to take part in a celebration that they have grown up to know, and it's something that is embedded in their system, in the blood, in the 78:00body, in the brain, and you know, they just will not let it die. And, it will always be building stronger and stronger. And that's very good for the different cultures. It's really one African culture, but as you move from island to island or country to country, you get different ways of celebrating it, or different presentations and so forth, you know. But all in all, it's one thing, and we will strive towards keeping it going as one thing, and keeping, you know, the sense of progressing towards bigger numbers each year.

ROBERTS: Now, earlier on, you made a very interesting comment that, in Canada 79:00for example, Carnival is highlighted and featured on national television. I happen to know that is because the Canadian government subsidizes the Carnival festival in Canada. Do you think that if you were to recommend to the city administration that that would be something that you recommend that they do, to assist the development of Carnival in Brooklyn and in New York?

ADAMS: I figure that the recipients of that kind of honor in Canada are very pleased, very happy, very fortunate to get it, and with something like that, nothing can go wrong. You have government backing, and that's why it's more orderly. Everything is in line, with time, with the movement of the bands, 80:00masqueraders, up to where the spectators supposed to walk and not walk. You don't cross the street and stuff like that. There are certain places you can cross the street. Regulation. You want a decent parade, government and so forth gotta get, more people gotta get involved. Right now, we have a parade, all we get is police protection, which we respect and we appreciate. If we were to compare what we have in Brooklyn, the West Indian American Day Parade on Eastern Parkway, to what is in Toronto, which we call Caribbana, there is no comparison. There is no comparison whatsoever in terms of putting on a parade that you can 81:00say that you saw a parade. On Eastern Parkway you see numbers of people. We have to encourage the people, more people, first of all, band leaders, sponsors of different functions and so forth, promoters, have to encourage the people here to play some more. I know Carlos Lezama very well, and he and his committee, I think, do make it move a step further, with Carnival leveling off at the plateau and we don't need to. I think we can keep it moving higher. We leveled off over the past few years, and we need to bring it to a higher level, and I think he should probably at this point, we should maybe, it's just food for thought. 82:00Maybe we should see if city, state, would like to get involved in maybe not the running, under his guidance maybe, based on what he would like for his people, because it's his parade. Not his parade, our parade. Whatever. I don't know how he runs it. From the top and so forth. But to get them involved in such a way that we can control it better than we do now, so that you can actually see the masqueraders. You probably put a strict warning to spectators, if you don't have a costume you have no right in the middle of the street, or something like that. That's what they have in Canada, and that's what works.

ROBERTS: In England too.

ADAMS: You know what I mean? So then, you know, if you want to play, get down there. Let people look at you. Put on, buy a costume. If you don't, then stay behind the police barricade. But in the whole streets, you can't get pass. And 83:00who's creating the problems 99% of the time is people who are not supposed to be among the costume bands along the Parkway. They're in the middle of the band among costume members. Plus you know, we have to find -- It's difficult, because you get really stubborn people out there.

ROBERTS: People want to enjoy themselves and it's sometimes difficult.

ADAMS: What I could suggest is that after certain hours, you have certain bands at the end of the parade, maybe, for a last lap jump up, you understand? Maybe you might have three trucks. So that maybe you start them up, they would not be able to travel the whole Parkway, maybe, but you have a last lap jump up. 84:00Probably starting from about

ROBERTS: 5:30?

ADAMS: About 5:00. 5:30 might be a little late. Let them enter probably at about Kingston so they can reach Nostrand. You pass Kingston; you got Brooklyn, and then Nostrand. You got New York, too.

ROBERTS: About four blocks --

ADAMS: About four blocks on the Parkway itself, and then turning off on Nostrand, and let them branch off and go in their different directions, whatever. Have about three, four trucks, four last lap jumpers, so they get a part of it. But, just for the heck of it. The numbers up there, I know it's hard to control, but something has gotta be done. You know, something has gotta be done. And if we get, if the police presence this year was very, very important 85:00to the success of the parade this year.

ROBERTS: Finally, Mr. Adams, do you think that the 28th year of Carnival on Eastern Parkway would present any surprises or face any difficulties? Do you foresee that for 1995?

ADAMS: I think its smooth sailing. I don't see any problems. We don't have the religious problem with the Jews, because the days will fall on different days. Their religious day would fall on a different day to the Labor Day Monday. The people are rather peaceful. There is no sense, I mean, crime has dropped a lot. You don't have -- I remember a couple years back we had a lot of little youths running through the bands, and if you have a chain, they grab your chain. People who get snatched, and they snatch your chain, and they snatch your watch. Sort 86:00of things going on the Parkway itself a couple years ago, come back. About 8-10 years ago. And we have come a long way. You have not really heard of any violence at all. Not in the parade. A lot of people misconstrue information in the news and stuff and say, well, they heard somebody got shot on Labor Day. Two people got shot, so and so, not on the Parkway. Not on Eastern Parkway. People don't get shot and get robbed and stuff in the parade. So I want to make a comment and say that it's a disrespect and a misinterpretation of what was put forward by news medias and what have you, because I'm not aware of any form of violence during the parade on Eastern Parkway this year 1994, and neither was I 87:00in 1993. So I figure that we went through two beautiful years of a decent celebration, and with how this year came through, nice, peaceful, on time, well, not the starting, because we worked it late again as usual. I would like to see the Mayor and whoever has to officially open the Eastern Parkway be on time. I mean, repay us that. Brooklyn, I'm not a politician, so I can't quote the exact percentage of the population of Brooklyn, but this is predominantly African American in this Brooklyn globe here, and we seem not to get the respect of 88:00government in starting our programs on time. But they would cut it on time. And I feel that they're giving us the raw end of the deal. I kind of find they should pay us a stronger commitment and be there on time. If we know, I think the parade as I said before is officially opened at eight. But nobody gets up at eight o'clock. We're just coming from parties, or we just finished fixing up the trucks and so forth, the floats, and getting everything in order. So we get up there by twelve. And my God, if we got to start the thing at twelve o'clock be there at 12, not 2:30. At 2:30, you're leaving us with three and a half hours to parade. Fifty bands or so, three million people or so, to have a good time in 89:00two and a half hours. That is chaos. I can't see it. If we can get a solid six hours of celebration, you know what I mean and we can get it started on time. I mean, the St. Patrick's Day parade don't start late. Veteran's Day parade don't start late. Fourth of July. If I tell you on it comes on at 12:00, you're seeing it start there at 12, on TV, which means that the Mayor and everybody else, they are there since about 11:30, lining up and getting together, or quarter to twelve, or whatever. But the program would start at twelve. Ours can't start not until two hours later. And I find they resent the Black community of Brooklyn and take us for granted inasmuch as the number of the votes, when you look at it 90:00and tally it up, we got numbers here to account for you know what I mean, to put any one of them inside. I feel that, I'm not taking sides. Regardless of who is in charge or who is in power. I'm just saying, I've never seen It start on time, and at least, I'm asking them, whoever it might be there this year, next year after, or the year and the year after, that give us a little bit of respect, and if we say, if you authorize us to use your Eastern Parkway from 12:00, that you're gonna come and officially open for our use at 12:00. Oh, God. Please don't come at 1:30, 2:00, because you're deceiving us, you're cheating us, you know, and getting us frustrated with our efforts to produce our culture.


ROBERTS: I want to thank you very much on behalf of Brooklyn Historical Society for granting us this interview Mr. Adams.

ADAMS: Thank you.

Read All

Interview Description

Oral History Interview with Val Adams

Val Adams was born in St. Patrick's, Grenada in 1956. Raised in a musical family, he began performing at an early age and achieved local success in his teens. He immigrated to Brooklyn in 1974 at age eighteen. He continued in music, forming his own group, which became a fixture at Grenadian functions in New York City. Adams was instrumental in increasing Grenadian participation in Eastern Parkway festivities.

In the interview, Val Adams discusses his musical beginnings and his participation in Carnival in Grenada with particular reference to local mas genres, Jab Jab and Shortknee. He discusses his early impressions of Brooklyn and talks at some length about his continued musical career in New York. He discusses his involvement with the Carnival on Eastern Parkway and his attempts to increase Grenadian participation despite some resistance. Adams describes his impressions of the Brooklyn Carnival as a unique expression of pan-Caribbean unity and African American culture. Adams compares regional differences in Carnival traditions, how the Brooklyn Carnival has changed over time, the economic benefits and some of the challenges facing the celebration. Interview conducted by Michael Roberts.

The West Indian Carnival Documentation Project records include photographs, oral histories (audio and transcripts), publications and research, and ephemeral materials relating to the Carnival and the project itself. The materials were collected and created within the context of a documentation project undertaken by the Brooklyn Historical Society in 1994, which later culminated in an exhibition. Exhibition materials are not included in the collection.


Adams, Val, Oral history interview conducted by Michael Roberts, September 24, 1994, West Indian Carnival Documentation Project records, 2010.019.01; Brooklyn Historical Society.


  • Adams, Val
  • West Indian American Day Carnival Parade (Brooklyn, N.Y.)


  • African Americans
  • Caribbean Americans
  • Carnival
  • Emigration and immigration
  • Ethnic identity
  • Grenadian Americans
  • Music
  • Parades
  • Trinidadian Americans


  • Boston (Mass.)
  • Brazil
  • Brooklyn (New York, N.Y.)
  • Eastern Parkway (New York, N.Y.)
  • Jamaica
  • Saint Vincent and the Grenadines
  • Toronto (Ont.)
  • Trinidad
  • Washington (D.C.)


Download PDF

Finding Aid

West Indian Carnival Documentation Project records