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Paula Davis

Oral history interview conducted by Dwan Reece King

September 19, 1994

Call number: 2010.019.34

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REECE KING: Thank you, Ms. Davis, for letting me into your home and for being willing to sit down and talk to me and pick your brain about Carnival and how you're involved and, you know, what kind of role it plays in your life.

DAVIS: Thank you for inviting me.

REECE KING: Okay. Let's start with just some, your background a little bit. Where were you born?

DAVIS: I was born in Trinidad, West Indies. I came to New York, let's say in 1969 and I'm still here. And this is approximately twelve, fifteen years?

REECE KING: Yes, roughly, roughly. Let's talk about your years growing up in Trinidad. How old were you when you left? Maybe in your twenties?

1:00

DAVIS: I was maybe like thirty, thirty-two, something like that.

REECE KING: Thirty. What brought you to the United States?

DAVIS: Let's see. Well, you know, at that time, everybody wanted to migrate here, everybody wanted to come the U.S.A. My sister was already here and two brothers. And they encouraged me to come out, you know, and I came out and I liked it and I stayed.

REECE KING: So you already had family that made it kind of easier.

DAVIS: Yes.

REECE KING: Had you come out to visit beforehand, before you came over?

DAVIS: Oh yes, I had come on a lot of occasions. Because I was running a business in Trinidad. We had a bakery and a cafeteria. I used to come on vacation. And then I just decided to stay.

REECE KING: Okay. So you told me earlier that you stayed with your brother for a couple of months in Queens.

DAVIS: Yes.

REECE KING: And then you moved here to Brooklyn?

DAVIS: Yes.

REECE KING: Okay, what did you do when you were just getting settled? Where did 2:00you work?

DAVIS: Well, you know, at that time when I came here, I was an illegal alien, as you know, and I had to wait for the green card. So I did work in New Jersey, with a sponsor. I got a sponsor and I worked and then I got my green card. And I live here in Brooklyn. I got a job as a home attendant, and then after the lady had died. [redacted] And then I worked with a lady did baby-nursing and I stayed with that lady for almost twelve years because she had liked me so much. Taking care for baby and I realized after twelve years, I decided I wasn't going anywhere and I took a course in adult education. An accounting course because with the baby nursing it wasn't going anywhere, just more children and that's about it, you know. And I wanted to branch off into something else. And I found at my age that I wasn't able to retain as I should and I just stopped it, and then went back to being a home attendant. And that's what I'm doing today with 3:00the band, you know.

REECE KING: Okay. So you came around when Carnival just started. I think the first time it was here in Brooklyn, if memory serves me right, was 1968. What was the first time you attended Brooklyn's Carnival?

DAVIS: I would say 1974.

REECE KING: What did you think of it? Your first impressions?

DAVIS: Well, the first time, I played mas.

REECE KING: You did, okay.

DAVIS: Yes, I used to go to the park to look at it, but I played mas for the first time in 1974. With a friend of mine, a band called, at that time, the Mulalongolo Airport Mechanics.

REECE KING: Airport Mechanics.

DAVIS: They played Fancy Sailor. And I played with and I enjoyed it because I knew Carnival from back home. And I enjoyed it and then I decided I would play a little mas every now and again. I had my little boy in '77 and I didn't play for a couple of years and I used to sell in the museum.

REECE KING: Okay.

DAVIS: Yes, sell in the museum at night and in the shows. And then, Morris Stewart, I started to go with Morris Stewart. No before Morris Stewart, my 4:00brother, he used to play mas in Trinidad and he was a big character individual, and he used to come first. You know, first in the Port of Spain, and then he decided one day, he asked me "Paula, do you want to bring a band? You have so many friends." And I said, "Well, let me call around and find out if anybody is interested and then we'll do it." And that first year, I think it was 1980, we did bring the first band out. [redacted] That first year we came out we won Junior Queen, we won Junior King, and two little characters.

REECE KING: And what was the name of that band?

DAVIS: That would have been U.S.S. Maple.

REECE KING: U.S.S. Maple.

DAVIS: Maple, yes. Because we came from Maple Street, where my sister-- So we called it U.S.S. Maple for that first year. [redacted] We didn't even know anything about sponsor in those days, you know. And it was very hard for us, the next year, to get more money to bring this band again and make it up. So Morris 5:00Stewart, he knew that we had brought out a band, he had known us from Trinidad, and he said to me, "I have a section for you." And I said, "How can I play a section?" This is like two days before Labor Day. [unintelligible] And I'm going to bring my children up, and I won't be able to do it. He said to me, "Keep the picture, keep it. See what you can do with it." So okay, because I told you, as I said earlier, that we did bring a band. And I came back from Trinidad and I was too busy for Labor Day and I called around my friends and they said, "OK Paula, well, we'll try it." And I came out with like forty-two people in the section. We made costumes and everything.

REECE KING: In a couple of weeks' time you did all this?

DAVIS: Yes, I have a lot of friends. And, we did come out that year. We did two years with Morris and something came up with it, unfortunately. [redacted]

6:00

REECE KING: Okay.

DAVIS: He find it probably for the first three years, that I was known around here and I could get this amount of people. And he said to me, "If you're coming to play with me next year, I will give you twenty-five percent of everybody that you bring." And I said to him, "No, you know, I spend all my money and I do everything for myself, why it is that I will continue paying the band fee." So he said, "No, no, no, you never know what a band is." And it's from then that I realized that in all of these bands people scheming, you know, and things like that. So I didn't play with him again. My father died, my father had died in Trinidad, and that caused me not to bring any section that particular year. And then the year after that, a friend of mine told me that he's bringing a band to king. He used to play king for Morris and he's bringing this band and if I would come and play with him. And I did go and play with him because I knew him and he knew Morris. And that is all I really, Morris Stewart, Ed O'Connor, what's his 7:00name, Bert Retrograis, you know, to name a few. And then I went to Hawks, because I had friends in Hawks. All the benchwarmers in Hawks; they're my friends from back home, we went to school together. So they asked me, "Come with us, come with us." So that year I decided, well, this is going to be it. I'm going to go with the Hawks, and, you know, settle in there then, you know, because I know them and everything. The same thing with the Hawks. You know, this biting and conning, and, you know. I went into the Hawks, they didn't have a children band, brought a children band. They had like two children. Another friend of mine, she was the queen. And she had two children, and my children was the biggest section. And when they won the trophy they didn't give me anything. I was the first person that went in to Hawks to take t-shirts from them to sell. Because I said, "Look, I can sell a lot of t-shirts because I have a lot of friends. You know, I can sell a lot of t-shirts." And they gave me the t-shirts 8:00and I carried the money and everything for them. They found that I should come and bring my money to them and buy the t-shirts from them and sell them. Well, I said, "I'm a poor person and I can't do that. But if you give me the t-shirts, I can walk and sell it, you know." And they started [unintelligible] And Clyde, now my boyfriend, Clyde Bascombe, the king in Trinidad, he's my designer, he -- they asked us to come then and work with them and things like that. And he said that, he wasn't, what is that guy's name again, Mervyn Johnson.

REECE KING: Yeah.

DAVIS: Right. And he went through all of these things with them already and "Paula I don't want, you know, I'm your boyfriend now and I don't want to go through these things with these people anymore." So we are still in Hawks, and we still are common Hawks, you know, for things like that but I don't want to be involved that much. And he do my pig tails for me, we have a big section over here and learn something, you know. Plus other people that came in to Hawks and want to play on it, like the section, you know. And, you know, then Clyde was 9:00doing the pig tails and then they didn't say anything. And then the next year, you know, no, we rented a mas camp for them. They had their own mas camp, let me put it this way, and we were doing the king and queen and I couldn't have done it in my apartment. It's small. So we had to rent a place and they promised to give us the money for the rent, it was three hundred dollars, and they never did. They never did. So Clyde saying the same thing, "You know, Paula, I don't want to be involved in this anymore with these people. You know, I'm only doing it because of you". So when we realized that this cutting up was going on underneath now between us and Hawks, you know, and people telling us they didn't want us anymore but they were leaving it for like Labor Day to reach, you know, when we were coming to the mas camp and they tell us they don't want us anymore. I mean we decided to bring our own band.

REECE KING: You just say, so I don't want to deal with anybody else any more.

DAVIS: We're just going to bring our own band. You know, in our mas camp we don't have no drugs, we don't have no smoking the cigarettes, you know, and there's the littlies. We can bring the children. You can go to work, and in the summertime, you can bring the children and leave them in the mas camp. We don't have all sort of men in there. You know, just five or six men in the band, you 10:00know. We call it a family band, we call it a family band, you know. And for four years, we are all there.

REECE KING: So for the record, for the tape, what is the name of your band?

DAVIS: Aquarium Productions.

REECE KING: Where did you come up with that name? Was there anything that you--?

DAVIS: The first year we played aquarium, the fishes. The first year, whatever you play you keep, you know. We were based on Rogers Avenue between President and Union Street for two years, and now, and then we were on Maple Street, because the guy said that he wanted to rent out his place for more money. And then when he did, and the person didn't remain there, so we got it back for this year, 1994. And I'm trying with him now, you know, begging and "Let us have this place. We need help. We need help."

REECE KING: And what street is it on, your camp?

DAVIS: Rogers Avenue.

REECE KING: Rogers Avenue.

DAVIS: Between President and Union. So we are trying to, you know, persuade him to give us the place, you know, at a cheaper rate, you know. Regularly we pay 11:00like eight hundred. If can even hold it for a couple of months and pay like maybe a hundred, a hundred and fifty and then we start afresh in March next year. He said he's going to get back to me within the week.

REECE KING: So, is this like a partnership between you and [unintelligible]?

DAVIS: No, it's just me and my boyfriend.

REECE KING: And this is Clyde, Clyde Bascombe.

DAVIS: Clyde Bascombe. He has trophies there too. He plays mas in Trinidad and won King of the Bands.

REECE KING: So he's your designer.

DAVIS: Yes, he's my designer.

REECE KING: And what your role primarily?

DAVIS: Well, I'm the band leader.

REECE KING: You're the band leader.

DAVIS: Yes, and the finance and everything, you know.

REECE KING: So tell me, you're the first woman band leader I've talked to.

DAVIS: There was one, there were two others. But one gave it up and she joined with Mervin Johnson.

REECE KING: Oh really?

DAVIS: Yes, but there's [unintelligible].

REECE KING: Are there any challenges you face?

DAVIS: Yes, we face a lot of challenges, but, like I said, Clyde is one of the best wire benders over here. He's one of the best. There are not many. I should say, he is the best, because if you look around mas and you see any wire bending 12:00that is done-- I could show you a portfolio later on.

REECE KING: Okay. So how hard is it, organizing your own band and, you know, what are some of the daily--? I mean even this past year. What was your theme this year?

DAVIS: The theme was fire dance.

REECE KING: Fire dance, okay.

DAVIS: It's very hard to be a band leader. It's very, very hard. It's not like Trinidad where they have neighbors or people who come and help you for nothing. People look for money. People look for a little payment. They come and they stick on braid-- everybody looking for something. It's kind of hard. We all work. This is one band, I can tell you, that closes up during the day. You know, and we do everything in the evening time when we come home from work. Clyde he works from three to eleven, so he is there in the day, bending the wire. And 13:00then when we come in the evening, my sister, two other friends, and myself; we do all the coverings. All women, we just have like two, three and my brother, he comes. But he lives in the Bronx so he comes over on weekends. And, we are there. I want to explain the hardship. To get up every morning to go to work, and from work, to go straight in the mas camp.

REECE KING: Well, it's a lot of time.

DAVIS: It's a lot of time, Very time consuming, with this.

REECE KING: Even not the daily burden, even just the challenges and the organization, just having to work with the infrastructure, the personalities. Do you, I don't know, do you think having a band here, running a band here in Brooklyn is very different than in Trinidad? Do you think you experience 14:00different things because you're here?

DAVIS: Yes, I think the experience is a little different here. It's different in Trinidad.

REECE KING: In what way?

DAVIS: Well, I don't know much about running a band in Trinidad, but, you know, from visiting mas camps in Trinidad. In Trinidad people, they are in the mas camp all day. Yes, all day you have people working in the mas camp. There are people who will cook and bring food. Here, people don't do that here. So I have to, like, backward and forward, preparing something for us to eat in the mas camp, you know. People are more free in Trinidad in giving time. Yes, it's difficult.

REECE KING: So really when people are helping out they expect to be paid?

DAVIS: Yes, they look for some sort of payment.

REECE KING: Is that pretty average for most bands? Because I've gone to a couple of camps, you know, this past summer. You see the people--

DAVIS: People don't want to tell you these things.

REECE KING: I don't know. I never even asked anybody. I just assumed.

DAVIS: People wouldn't be honest and tell you that because it's an interview. 15:00That's why I asked you if there were some things, you know, if we could leave some things [unintelligible].

REECE KING: Well, we can restrict whatever you want, if you don't feel comfortable.

DAVIS: There's some things I wouldn't like mentioned. They look for something. They look for a costume, you know. You don't mind giving them, like, maybe as a section.

REECE KING: So they work for their costume?

DAVIS: Yes some people like to come in and do that and expect you to do that. Whereas now, it's not like back in Trinidad. Here it's expensive, everything is expensive. Everybody's going out and working. [redacted] You have to take those two yards of cloth, three yards of cloth and make a whole costume. You have to put on braid. You have to make it the same way. It's just expensive. It's not like Trinidad. They say, well, you get it. Everybody turn up and help. Here, it's not like that. You know, it's my salary. It's Clyde's salary. We throw something; we call a sou-sou. I don't know if you heard about it?

REECE KING: Yes, I have.

DAVIS: All right, and these are things you do to bring the band. Like my rent 16:00here. What we do, is I have a little talk with my landlord, and I pay rent every three months. So I can use three months money--

REECE KING: To do some of these other things where you need to have the capital.

DAVIS: That's right. Have the capital. And then I pay him every three months. By that time, money start to come back, generating the funds back. I pay him my three months' rent. You see? That's the thing I have with my landlord. So that is the only way I could bring this band; one week pay rent and bills, and the next week spend it on the band. And the next weeks, pay a bit; and that is what we do to bring this band out. So then we have to wait now, we have to pay for the costumes.

REECE KING: Right. How many members do you have?

DAVIS: Right now, I have two hundred members.

REECE KING: Two hundred?

DAVIS: Yes, we have twenty to twenty-three characters, big pieces, and a balance of [inaudible].

REECE KING: How many did you have when you first started out, your first year?

DAVIS: My first year, when we started as a band, we only had about a hundred.

17:00

REECE KING: So a lot of the people who ended up joining you, were they your friends?

DAVIS: Friends bring friends. Yes, you know people see me up at the back of the museum with the kiddies' band and they remember me from school days and they say, "Paula, can we come and play with you?" and then they turn up.

REECE KING: How do most people do you think choose their bands that they join up with? Are there allegiances or they like the costumes? What kind of--?

DAVIS: A lot of people like to play band. When I say band I mean like a name, a big name, like Midas or Borokeete or Hawks. People like to play name. Some people like to play mas. They visit all the mas camps. They see the best costumes. They see the costumes and say, "I like what Borokeete is playing, I'm going back up there" or "I like what Olsons play, you know, I go down there." That is the way people choose bands. Some people follow friends. My friend is playing there; I'll playing there because I have friends in the band. That is the sort of way.

REECE KING: Do you think people switch a lot? I mean I talked to several people and some people just stay with a band.

DAVIS: Yes, some people just stay with a band, some people switch. My people, my 18:00followers, they stay with me. They don't switch. Because, like I say, it's friends you know, and my band won't have the smoking, and you know.

REECE KING: On a size scale, how does your band rate? It's not one of the large ones like Borokeete, which has, like, thousands.

DAVIS: I would say there are about twelve bands and I would say we are number four, five. I would say number five, but I don't think we're that low, but I'll say five.

REECE KING: Let's talk a little bit about how you get your ideas, your themes, and things. How do you and your designer work together?

DAVIS: Well.

REECE KING: What kind of ideas -- do you go back to Trinidad frequently?

DAVIS: No, I don't go. He goes and plays mas. Yes, he plays king down there. He used to play for Midas. Last year, he played for Mas Men because Midas joined up with us last year and they went on the TV. It was, they came under our banner, 19:00we shared all the expenses. They came under our banner because Steven and--we are friends. And, when it's the prize giving and they took the trophy. They got a trophy and money and everything and they didn't give us anything and that's what we have going on here with Midas. We were good friends and Clyde played their king all the time, and that is why I tell you there's a little scheming [unintelligible]. It gets so that people--I don't understand why people have to do these things.

REECE KING: Is it like the competition? Or does it get too--?

DAVIS: Well, he has the name. He has the name in Trinidad.

REECE KING: Right.

DAVIS: And they're bringing up the name here now. And instead of acknowledging that it was already of our banner, the West Indian Association, they acknowledge him.

REECE KING: Because that's something they know.

DAVIS: Yes, that's what they did. You know, as a courtesy to him, we did put his name on the t-shirt; Aquarium and the Midas. We thought we were friends. And 20:00people acknowledged him instead of us. And they give him the money and a trophy. And he was not a man to come and say, "Well, Paula, Clyde, look, a mistake was made. We all know this." Or even say, "The prize was two thousand dollars, look a thousand dollars." But Labor Day 1994 he came with a band and was trying to tell us why we should remain friends. "Paula, you know, I run with [unintelligible] It wasn't my band. It was the other people. They take the money. It's not my fault." I mean he was doing all these things. I turned to him, I said, "Steven, come on, you know. It's you who came to us. Didn't you say about bringing a band? But you'll bring the characters and form a band." You know, it's me spending money for the truck and the generator. Why it is that it was our band. He says he wants to be friends but I cannot, we cannot be friends with him. But he was undermining us. He used us. He didn't have the money to 21:00bring the band out here and he used us. And that is what we look at.

REECE KING: So is that going to stop you from working with other bands?

DAVIS: Yes.

REECE KING: Yes, you think so?

DAVIS: Yes, in New York here yes.

REECE KING: Really?

DAVIS: I have made a decision with Clyde and what we're going to do is if we have to join with anybody we're going to have women. Any woman bringing a band. If they want to come with us they can. We're not going to take any male band. What I did here for Baltimore, a friend of mine, have another friend who's bringing a band from Baltimore. They want to associate and we went and played with her. And I told her when we got there, "This is only because you're a woman. We're trying. There's no room for us here. They just acknowledge the men. And I'm going to come here and help you." And she came down for Labor Day and she helped us.

REECE KING: Do you think some people try and take advantage of you because you are a woman?

DAVIS: Oh yes, they do, oh yes. Women in the mas camp. There was women in the mas camp, people came this year for the first time and they don't like I'm being 22:00the band leader.

REECE KING: Kind of like those ideas about what men should be doing and women should be doing.

DAVIS: It should be Clyde carrying the band leader. And he kept telling them, that I met Paula with her kiddies' band, and I met Paula with her section. And she is the band leader but it is still women in the camp [inaudible].

REECE KING: Is just men that can't handle it, or women too?

DAVIS: The women, the women. I have no problem with the men. The women. Why I say that is because, women like to come and talk to men. You know what I mean. You understand, they like to walk in the mas camp and go Clyde this or, you know, Steven. They have a problem with me, being the band leader. But they are leaving me. They say what they have to say when they have to say it and nothing is going to change. And they understand my rules and they realize that.

REECE KING: Is it more older women than younger women?

DAVIS: No young, yes, you know everybody like below forty-fives. It's hard; it's 23:00hard for women to really acknowledge another woman over them. Some women are like that, not all, but some are like that. They still have that male figure thing. They'd rather speak to a man. They feel that the man know more than the woman.

REECE KING: Sure. It's like you have a man and a woman and you have no idea who's in charge, but you immediately would just go to the man assuming that he's in charge.

DAVIS: That's right. Yes, it's like that.

REECE KING: Let's talk a little bit about the creative side of things. You know, we've talked about the political side of things. The creative side which is much more uplifting.

DAVIS: Okay. Well, Clyde he, he did a course in art design. So this is where he comes in, right? Let me give you a little for instance which will bring you into 24:00the picture. And I hope you edit this in. For instance this morning, like three o'clock this morning, he woke me up. He got an idea. This is the sort of thing that goes on in his mind. You know, he gets an idea and he will come and say, "Well, look this is so, so, so" or "We're going to do so, so, so. We're going to do so, so, so." He do a lot of research, right? He played mas in Trinidad, he grew up in the mas in Trinidad. So all of his mind, he just bring out a name like that. So he comes up with six, seven, eight names. And even when he researched, he buys books.

REECE KING: Like a concept of a theme?

DAVIS: Yes, like he will say we will do fire dance. And I will say "Fire dance?", and he say "Well, yes, that will be like tribal, like Indians, they dance around fires, Hawaiians, they dance around fires," and then I start to pick it up.

REECE KING: I see.

DAVIS: You understand?

REECE KING: He throws out his ideas and says well this is what I'm connecting 25:00and you kind of go back and forth.

DAVIS: Right.

REECE KING: You know, tribes has been a real popular thing. Several bands I've talked to--this whole issue of tribes and dress and--

DAVIS: People keep away from Godly things. Egyptian things people keep away from. Because, because there's like a curse on people's things. So many mas men who play something like Tutankhamen, and the day after Labor Day they die. After Carnival entry and that, they just. Some people just get sick with certain things that they play. After Labor Day, they fall down sick. Right now, a friend, I can't remember what she played, but she just got hoarse and couldn't talk. Could not talk. I had to hold her throat to talk and then she joined a church. She stopped playing mas.

REECE KING: Oh really?

DAVIS: She went backwards. I can't remember what it is she played two years ago and she really realized it was whatever she played. You see? So them things that you see, we don't touch biblical things. We don't want to ever have cause to do 26:00it. We play Africa, we play, you know, Greece. We play, you know, goddesses and things like that, you know, Greek, Aztec. Things like that. Creative things that people will form. Keep away from biblical things.

REECE KING: So he gets a lot of things when he goes down to Trinidad to play?

DAVIS: No, he has his own ideas. He don't have to copy ideas, he has his own. You know, he's into art and design, he reads a lot so he has his own.

REECE KING: So he comes up with the ideas? He does primarily the research?

DAVIS: Yes, he does the research. He brings books home; I read it, things like that. Things that he would be telling me about it. I wouldn't be able to understand how he would form that into a character. He will just sit down and sketch it out and show me. He'll say, "Look, I'm going to play this, the goddess, or Venus or Bacchus." The wine god, and then he'll say, "Well, look, 27:00I'll put vines, or this."

REECE KING: Yes. So once he has the idea together you as a leader, now, you have to--do you guys work with a budget of anything like that?

DAVIS: Well, we start off with a budget. How many yards of material we're going to buy, start off with that. First, first of all we have an Easter party. There we launch the kiddies' band and the funds generate from that. We have a raffle. Funds generate from that. Then we start, we start to buy.

REECE KING: It sounds like you're really organized. You have some fundraising implemented. It's a yearlong process.

DAVIS: Yes, right. It's a yearlong process. We started going into the Christmas party.

REECE KING: Oh, so you have a Christmas party.

DAVIS: Christmas party, yes, for the kids.

REECE KING: Okay. Did you participate in Carnival when you were growing up in 28:00Trinidad? Did you participate?

DAVIS: Oh yes, I did. My brother, who plays king for us now, he used to play individual in George Bailey, Mack Williams, different bands in Trinidad. And he used to make costumes for us. My mother never liked it but he used to say, "You know, I don't want this material to remain here. I'll carry them there and bring them back safely." So I started to play mas when I was like nine years.

REECE KING: She didn't like you playing?

DAVIS: No, in Trinidad in those days, the older folks they gave us like one class of people used to play mas.

REECE KING: Is that a class issue?

DAVIS: Now it's everybody.

REECE KING: Now it's like everybody?

DAVIS: Yes.

REECE KING: Okay. You have a son?

DAVIS: Yes.

REECE KING: Now, how--is he involved?

DAVIS: Oh yes, he was the Junior King for like three, four years straight. He used to play character and then Junior King. And now he play King for the band once or twice when we started we didn't have a king and he played king but he didn't get anything. He got a lot of trophies. Right now he's into basketball, 29:00and he's got basketball trophies.

REECE KING: You got the basketball, you got the trophies, you've got Michael Jordan up here, and all of those things. What does Carnival mean to you? Why is it important to you to be involved?

DAVIS: Carnival is a local Trinidad culture, and we grew up with it. In those days you didn't know what Carnival was all about. You know, your mother never sat down and told you, this is our culture. This is from the days of slavery when we come out and everybody was rejoicing. They never sit down and tell you that, about emancipation. They never sit down and tell you about that. Carnival was just there. As a child growing up, we looked forward to Carnival. We looked forward to Ash Wednesday, to go to church and get little ashes. And as we grow 30:00older, you learn in school they start to tell you about Carnival, in the time of emancipation. And then, you go home and you tell your mother. You ask your mother, "Is this true?" What they tell you in school. And then she gave in and tells you well yes. But if you look at Carnival in those days, people used to play Carnival, and play mas. And to be part was like a stigma. People need to work, boys should go to school, and she thinks it's bad and she doesn't want us to grow up like that. And you've got to understand.

REECE KING: Right. How does that differ for, say, your son who's basically raised here? So Carnival is a totally different experience in a way because it's not necessarily part of that national culture. Did you have to make an extra effort to show him what it was all about, or was it important to you that he understood?

DAVIS: It was important to me that he understood, number one, because, as I 31:00said, it is my culture and in case he wants to go to Trinidad. He'll have no trouble going up and seeing my family, or wants to see where his mother came from. So I wanted him to know about it. But when he was born, I used to play mas, just in a section. And, I take him out there with me and put him in a little costume. And he grew up to like it. He just grew up liking it. And I explained to him this is my culture and every year we have it in Trinidad. We have it two days in Trinidad. Not like this one day. And I explained it to him. And he just liked it. This year he didn't play anything because he was in Florida. My eldest daughter's in Florida. And he went down there for vacation. She got married and he went down and stayed. And when he came up, he's asking me, "Where is my costume?" I said, "No, we didn't make any for you this year." 32:00And he's like, "Well--" He enjoyed it, just to portray something. [redacted] He likes form. [redacted]

REECE KING: He identifies with that?

DAVIS: To identify with it. He likes that. He likes, you know, a dragon. He like a bird. You know, he does what he likes. He likes form, he likes something that he can identify with.

REECE KING: That's interesting.

DAVIS: I don't know if it's because he didn't grow up in Trinidad and see how you can take something and make like fantasy with it, you know. [redacted]

REECE KING: Do you think he might change as he gets older, and stretch out a little bit?

DAVIS: Probably.

REECE KING: Now, has he gone to Trinidad?

DAVIS: When he was smaller, I used to take him down. Yes.

REECE KING: When he was small. He hasn't been since he's been, now, a teenager.

33:00

DAVIS: No, since '85 we haven't been down there. You see, two years ago he played a New Guinea warrior, so we had to show in a book, this was part of it, we had to show him in a book, what a New Guinea warrior looked like and hope he learned it. And that was very interesting to him.

REECE KING: What changes have you noticed over the years, in Carnival? As a participant, now as a band leader, you've seen it from a variety of perspectives.

DAVIS: Yes. Well, the bands now, they're more bringing out costumes. They used to bring out just T-shirts and pants, and it would just be like one or two bands used to play in costume clothes. And now, it's grown so much, that any band coming out now wants to bring out costumes; big pieces, a king and a queen, and characters. Any band. They're not interested in t-shirts again. The bands 34:00started off like t-shirts which I didn't do, you know. A lot of the bands started off with a little t-shirt, Like for Hawks, when I went there, that is what they had, t-shirts and pants. I took in my big pieces and made them Hawks today. I don't like them saying this, you know. But, it hurts, as the years go by, it hurts, you know, to see that you take a band t-shirt. I don't mind how many people they had there, there might be two, three hundred people, and we went in there with big costumes and we made a name, and then they throw us out. You know, they didn't throw us out, I shouldn't use those words. They started to undermine us, and cause us to leave. When we look back, they were doing that to get us upset first. They didn't want to say, "We don't want that any more. We know that we have new people." But the things that they do, we realized that they wanted us out. Getting the t-shirt printed for somebody else without 35:00telling us, you know, little things that they did.

REECE KING: Okay. What's your favorite thing about Carnival, particularly this Carnival here? Do you go to any other Carnivals?

DAVIS: Well, we went to Baltimore. We went to New Jersey. I went to Boston.

REECE KING: New Jersey, where's--where?

DAVIS: New Jersey, East Orange.

REECE KING: I think I've heard that.

DAVIS: [redacted]

[Interview interrupted.]

REECE KING: [redacted]

DAVIS: Years ago, before I was involved in bringing the band I used to go Montreal, but now--

REECE KING: Too busy?

DAVIS: Yes, for a couple of years we were too busy to go anywhere and everybody keep saying that this is friendly, this is a family band, that friends. And they said, like, "Paula, why don't we rent a bus and go there?"

36:00

REECE KING: Have you been to Carabana?

DAVIS: No, not since. It's too much money for me right now. We have been to Baltimore, we have been to Boston, and we have been to New Jersey Carnival. They tried to get us on in Manhattan Carnival, too much money.

REECE KING: Yes. Starts to add up, I mean, even just after you've done it here.

DAVIS: Yes, we'd just been to Baltimore. We spend a weekend down here, pay for hotel, it's too much.

REECE KING: So what are your favorite things about Carnival? You have a Kiddies Carnival; you get involved in Kiddies Carnival.

DAVIS: Yes, Kiddies Carnival. My favorite thing is, I like to see people happy. I would not go in a costume. I would help anybody but I don't want any made for me.

REECE KING: So you don't play anymore?

DAVIS: No I would help you with a costume on your own, but I--

REECE KING: You're the administrator.

DAVIS: Yes.

REECE KING: To watch.

DAVIS: I just like to see people happy. And if I can put them out in it and see 37:00them happy, see their faces, dancing, doing the calypso. The kiddies the same thing; the joy coming to the kiddies' faces. The parents, they--they talk to the children; tell them that if you want to play mas you've got to get good grades. If report is bad, Paula won't let you involved or continue. And they travel a straight road. [redacted[ They're not giving their parents any trouble, and if they're giving any trouble, their parents call me and say, "Well, look, so-so-so is giving all the--Paula, you'd better speak to her, or speak to him." And I get them on the phone or go over to their house and talk to them. Try to keep them off the street.

REECE KING: Right. Right, it's always good for that. You always speak of your 38:00band as a family band so I'm assuming that most of the members are Trinidadians.

DAVIS: Yes, most of the members are Trinidadians.

REECE KING: Do you have other [unintelligible]?

DAVIS: Yes, we have people; we have one or two Jamaicans. We have people from Bermuda, which are friends of mine which I meet because Clyde and I we used to do, we used to go up in the Museum of Natural History, right, and they have a cultural week up there in October. And Clyde used to go and demonstrate how to make costumes and wire, through my brother-in-law, F. [redacted] Goodrich. And I met a lot of friends there because you don't know how many people could visit these. And I met a lot of friends there, that's how I had pictures on display [unintelligible] and bringing this band and these were the costumes from Labor Day. And they got involved with me. And they came from Bermuda. They live in Jersey, and they come over every year and they play with us. [redacted] We have 39:00one girl from Nevis. The first time she came was this year.

REECE KING: She's from where?

DAVIS: Nevis.

REECE KING: Nevis.

DAVIS: Nevis, that out in the West Indies. She came. She came for the first time this year. Friend of hers, or brother, you know. Working on the [unintelligible] that she brought. Then we have a lot of Americans that work on jobs, you know.

REECE KING: Do you have some Americans?

DAVIS: Yes, not many.

REECE KING: How do they find you?

DAVIS: Through friends again. Working with [unintelligible].

REECE KING: Are they African-Americans or White, or--?

DAVIS: Some of them are American-Americans. They like the costumes, they like the little dancing in the street. They call it marching. They want to march in the parade. They call it a parade.

REECE KING: Do you think they don't understand it in the same way that you 40:00understand it?

DAVIS: No, no. It doesn't, because they come and have a good time with us. We invite them to the parties, and they come. And, it's clean and they like it. They will ask about the costumes. They don't understand it. They want me to explain them, in detail, about the costume. How can I say, well, how can I call that costume, Jewel Goddess of the Orient? They look at it and they don't understand, and I will have to explain it to them. The lady's face is this oriental face and the reason Jeweled Goddess is because of all the glittering you're seeing on it. And I have to explain the [unintelligible]. They ask me about it. Like when we're saying another costume was Goddess of Love and War. She couldn't understand it when she watched the costume, so I have to show her; this is Cupid and the heart that is in front of the costume and then that is the Goddess of War behind her with the wings. I have to explain it.

41:00

REECE KING: From what you've seen, and you've been participating a long time now, are there things that you'd like to see change?

DAVIS: Yes, I would like to see, for one, the reviewing stand change. Yes, I would say they should move that reviewing stand from down there around Army Plaza. And bring it up to maybe, maybe Nostrand Avenue, between Brooklyn, New York and Nostrand Avenue. Because the parade is supposed to finish at six and half the bands don't reach it on time. And that is unfair for people put so much time and effort into the costume making, setting up the band. And then can't pass the reviewing stand.

REECE KING: Has that ever happened to you?

DAVIS: Oh yes. The parade don't start at eleven with the amount of bands, and the bands getting bigger. Three bands pass the reviewing stand, four, and you have about twenty, twenty-five bands coming down the street.

42:00

REECE KING: What do you do in instances like that? Do you have a way to kind of voice your discontent?

DAVIS: Yes, they have meetings that you can go to and you will say, but then there's nobody say and they don't listen to you.

REECE KING: No change.

DAVIS: Yes, no change. Or like I say, start the parade from the review stand and then let's come all the way hack up to Utica. Start that way and bring the parade back up, you know. Something's got to be done because it's very unfair.

REECE KING: I've talked to other people who felt the same way. I can imagine it's very frustrating.

DAVIS: Did they say to move it or anything or what, is it just that it is--? What did the other people say?

REECE KING: Well, they just talk about how a lot of people just don't make it up there and they don't get their chance, and just from a basic point of view, you put all that work, and people just put their heart and soul in it, and not to get your chance to be judged is kind of heartbreaking. It is heartbreaking.

43:00

DAVIS: It is. I told, like I said to Joyce, maybe we should have some sort of opinion box. Everybody can voice their opinion and stick it in the box, or bring it to a meeting. And give it on the table there.

REECE KING: But that kind of forum hasn't been organized yet. Isn't there some kind of organization for the bands, to--?

DAVIS: Well, we have an association. We tried to form, the steel band and mas men tried to form something already. Same thing under my name, and who wants to be President and whose going to be Finance, and be this, but that went through.

REECE KING: What, in your idea, what do you think might be some of the solutions to these problems? How could we improve the situation? What could be done?

DAVIS: Somebody has got to be in there and somebody has got to be a chief. That's how I think about it, but everybody wants to be a president. Everybody 44:00wants to be treasurer. And these things don't work. And you can't get up in a meeting and say, "Well, I know you from Trinidad and you have no qualifications." You know, you don't do these things. And these are the sort of things that have been going on. In that meeting for instance, Steven Derricks, Neece and I, we clash. Because there am I, there am I with a t-shirt of Margaret Graham on the Midas, because what Steven said to us, and there is she in the meeting, the big judge, trying to form this group of steel band men and mas people, and there is she in the meeting saying that my uncle, that her uncle, doesn't have a band. [redacted] And that went on for like six meetings until Steven came up from Trinidad and had to come to the meeting to clarify this. So, you know, these are the things that go on in the meeting and we don't get anywhere. We don't get anywhere because everybody have their own--

45:00

REECE KING: --Issues, and something. Their own ax to grind.

DAVIS: Yes, you know. About this band. We go in there, we should have a vote. You should come and say, "Well, look, I want to be President." Put your name down. And then have a vote. Six people want to be president, well okay, then we have a vote on it, you know. Or if you want to stand, bring your qualification to run a steel band, to run a mas band. That is why I said earlier that, long ago, that my family didn't want me to be involved in steel band mas because of the certain type of people in it. I won't say uneducated, but, you know.

REECE KING: That has changed?

DAVIS: That has changed. It has changed, now, yes, plenty. It has changed. And when it changed there are people that still feel that if you didn't go to 46:00Harvard you can't be the president.

REECE KING: If you don't go where?

DAVIS: No, no, I say Harvard, you know.

REECE KING: So this whole, the credentials.

DAVIS: Right, right.

REECE KING: You have to have the proper credentials.

DAVIS: You see? And there are people now with no credentials who can be the president of the steel band or mas band.

REECE KING: So who are the people who are generally hung up on something like this? I mean I'm not asking for names but just like the types of people.

DAVIS: I would say people who can't get a position. People who [inaudible]. Well it is not only musicians, steel band [unintelligible], you look at ignorance, people who are ig--

[Interview interrupted.]

47:00

REECE KING: What's your perception of the West Indian American Day Carnival Association [Interview interrupted.] and their role in Carnival?

DAVIS: I think that they're doing a good job. Because they have to get sponsors like everybody else, right? The only thing I don't like about them is the prize-giving; it's always a year late. You always have to wait a whole year 48:00before we get the prizes.

REECE KING: Prizes for what?

DAVIS: For the competition, at the back of the Museum. For the characters, the kings and queens, band of the road, Kiddies Carnival. I can't understand why it's so long, why we have to wait so long to have the prize-giving.

REECE KING: So for next year, when will you get the prizes?

DAVIS: Well, usually the week before Labor Day.

REECE KING: Okay, the prizes the prizes, or the prizes to enter.

DAVIS: The prize-giving for all these trophies, you know. For the competition that we enter at the back of the museum on Thursday night, Saturday night, Sunday night and for Labor Day Kiddies Carnival.

REECE KING: Well, can I just give a guess? I think the Association, like a lot of the bands, sponsorship and things like that, every year, and what I've learned that Brooklyn's Carnival here is not like a lot of the other Carnivals which are government sponsored, so every year it's always back to the 49:00grindstone. Maybe they don't know until the last minute about what actually is going to be available. I'm just throwing that out.

DAVIS: Mrs. Quamina she had explained me that too. It is hard to believe, you understand what I mean. You know, people don't want to believe that Con Edison is going to take that long to give ten thousand dollars, or five thousand dollars. This is--

REECE KING: Well, working in a non-profit. A little bit of it is true. There's this kind of chain reaction where somebody doesn't let someone else now, so they can't let you know, and so you know you have a whole line of people who are totally frustrated.

DAVIS: That's what Joyce said, so I shouldn't get the--You know, they don't come up with the money until next June, when they're closing the books and things like that.

REECE KING: Are you saying, that even prizes for this year?

DAVIS: We don't get them until next year.

50:00

REECE KING: Or even in your hand, or even up to that point?

DAVIS: Maybe till, maybe before Labor Day. Last year prizes, they gave it to us early in January because they were going to have this town meeting.

REECE KING: Town meeting, right.

DAVIS: And [unintelligible] came over to give us the prizes because this is what the public is saying.

REECE KING: I wasn't clear on that. Now I understand, now I understand. So even after right now--

DAVIS: We will know nothing until the next prize-giving. So we don't know if we're going to get in January again, like what they did this year. Or if we going to get it a week or two before Labor Day.

REECE KING: So does it, like, every year just, you never know?

DAVIS: Until the time she call in to come and [inaudible]. Long ago they used to have a party; they used to have a dinner. Nice little banquet or something. You used to rent like, [unintelligible] Pavilion. And then all these things just stop and you just go for a little, down by Trinity Hall, you know, and just go 51:00to the prize-giving and you pick up the prize.

REECE KING: Why do all those things stop?

DAVIS: Nobody says anything. Nobody saying anything.

REECE KING: That's interesting.

DAVIS: [redacted]

REECE KING: Five years from now, where do you see Carnival? What do you expect to see?

DAVIS: Five years from now I expect to see the Labor Day parade much better than it is.

REECE KING: Which would mean?

DAVIS: More bands.

REECE KING: More bands.

DAVIS: More organized with the people on the street. If they can put up bleachers or something, you know, somewhere between Nostrand and Franklin Avenue. Put up the bleachers that the costumes can come down. I'm seeing that. But on the political side, five years ago from now, when the Jews was going on there.

REECE KING: Yes, how did you feel about that this year? I talked to someone, you 52:00know, a lot of people said that it was always going to happen. It was always going to happen, there was never any danger. Then I talked to some people who said that the membership went down quite a bit this year because people didn't know if it was going to happen or not and then they felt very disappointed because of the constraints. Because of, you know, this regulation or that regulation and then this whole thing about the mas camps and the police, and all these other sorts of issues. And they said it kind of disrupted the spirit of the whole thing.

DAVIS: It's true for a lot of bands. A lot of bands had that problem. I wouldn't call it a problem. But the police came by my mas camp one night and they just stood in front of the camp for about an hour. And then another night they stood across the street and had the lights on; shining on the sidewalks for no apparent reason. And everybody in my mas camp was inside, nobody on the sidewalk. And they stood there for about an hour.

53:00

REECE KING: So how do you feel about that?

DAVIS: I think they were sent to do that. And I wasn't in their way.

REECE KING: Did it make you feel a little uneasy?

DAVIS: Yes, you feel uncomfortable. We was feeling uncomfortable in the night because we don't have no music, there was nobody on our sidewalks, so why should they come and do something like this. But then again, like I said, people doing their work. If we don't get in the way, they won't get in ours. So we were inside here as usual, making our mas, and they just over there until they were ready to leave. And I guess, I don't know, they were trying to sniff to see if any marijuana scent was coming out. We didn't know what was going on. They were just down the block and had the lights on, right there, in front of the sidewalk there; on the canvas it was bright. And they stood there for about an hour. But, you know, everybody we doing the right thing inside of here so it didn't bother 54:00us that much. Nobody was drunk or that. If they'd come in to now to see something, you know, we might have [unintelligible] It wasn't minor. I know, at a lot of mas camps they have too loud music, you know. Some of them have their band launching party, which are to generate funds to start the band. The police went and let them know your backyard party. We had a backyard party in a friend of mine's backyard and probably the neighbor must have complained about the noise, which wasn't loud, and they just passed and they shined the--they drove the--cop up in the garage. They shined the lights and they just went because we didn't have loud music. Our music wasn't loud at all. [redacted]

REECE KING: People will react to it or get tired of it.

DAVIS: But if everything runs smoothly I can see this Labor Day generating into 55:00something that the West Indian Association will not be able to handle by themselves.

REECE KING: By getting bigger than what you can handle. Do you think Carnival gets enough recognition in Brooklyn?

DAVIS: No.

REECE KING: No? Why not?

DAVIS: I don't know if it's because of the West Indian Association not pushing it that much, because I, I, being a band leader and working I can't go many places and look for sponsors. And get to the news, you know, to the papers and get to the TV to come in, you know. And I think that these are the things that the West Indian Association should do for us. They should be able to go and get Channel Five, Channel Seven, Channel Four, somebody to come out here and we should be able to be seen on the news for a good ten, fifteen minutes. Because 56:00other shows, other people, they have the parade and you can see it. But we don't have that and I really think that the West Indian Association should be doing that for us. I really think so.

REECE KING: Well, is there anything else you'd like to have on the record, or just say about your experiences, or any thoughts you'd like kept down or passed on?

DAVIS: I would really like to see a change on Labor Day. I would like, the West Indian Association to get more involved with the bands. I mean, they have their enemies, and if the enemies don't want to follow them, the bands out there are willing to help them and willing to work with them. And I think they should get 57:00involved with us. I don't know much about the judging but the people, the voice of the people should be--They should have a prize for the people's choice because I went to Baltimore, I was talking about myself. People saw me on Channel Five, it was before Labor Day, and they recognized my face and they pulled me out and said to me, "They rob you all. They rob you all, big time. They rob you". Like I said to her, I don't know much about the judging, you know, and I believe that the judge's decision is final. That is all I can say to them. And she said, "Don't take it like that. Don't take it like that. They rob you all." You know, maybe band leader should know who the judges are, because 58:00some of the band leaders know who the judges are.

REECE KING: And some don't?

DAVIS: And some don't. To say that some of the judges are some of the band leaders' friends. These are the things that I get through the grapevine. I proved it this year; I proved it this year at the back of the museum. And something happened at the back of museum that terrified me a lot, with people in the West Indian Association. To name a few, Errol Payne is one. Carlos Lezama was listening to me. He didn't mention, say anything, to me that we have a problem up there. He didn't say anything to me, he listened. I went to Joyce. She came, she tried to give an ear, she tried to get things settled. She said that she is not concerned with that part of it. But like I said, I just wanted 59:00her to hear for herself what went on. Because other people have to know what has been going on behind the museum and when judging and things like that take place. What happened to us is that when we were up there on the Sunday night, they said bring back the queen costume on the Sunday night. And they called out the name of our costume, the name of my costume for first place with the Midas band. They said, "The Midas Queen of the Band for Labor Day, Goddess, Jewel Goddess of the Orient." Jewel Goddess of the Orient is my costume. They call it with the Midas name.

REECE KING: They didn't mention you at all?

DAVIS: So we had to go up there now to get it clear that the band would come first, the costume that won, is from my band and not the Midas. And Errol Payne had a lot of nasty words to say. And I don't think that that was right, you know. They're saying there was a mistake made. It was there on paper, the guy 60:00had it, we called Lezama, we showed him everything. He's still saying there was a mistake made. How can you make a mistake like that and call it out after a whole day. It was called out Saturday night. This is Sunday night. So they keep saying there's a mistake made, there's a mistake made and Carlos didn't say anything. He just listened, he just listened to me. My sister came and just listened. You know, the girl who played the queen, I mean she was annoyed. Errol Payne was very nasty to us. And I don't see why the steel band men don't like my call. It was very nasty; if you want to sue me, or they could sue us. You know, we'll come with a video. Things like that. It was very nasty. The judging, I don't think they should judge these the same night. I don't think so. I don't think in Trinidad they judge the same night. They could tell you the next day. But in Trinidad the judges are real mas people. They know about fantasy, they 61:00know about creativeness, they know about--here, I don't know the judges. Like I say, I don't know who the judges are but we should know who the judges are. They should send out a flyer telling you who the judges going to be in the Kiddies Carnival, who the judges are going to be in the adults. So everybody has an idea, because when you don't know who the judges are, you can't go and talk to anybody, tell anybody. You know, they're sending me now to one of the judges, to say it was a mistake made. It was a mistake made. It was a mistake made. All right, you don't need to get nasty for that, you know. And people seem to think that because of what went on the other night, the judges failed me. People think 62:00that. Because I don't know this lady in Baltimore at all, she saw me on Channel Five with the costumes and the band. She knows the band name and she saw the t-shirts. She pulled me out and she said, "They rob you all, they rob you all, big time, big time." [redacted] is a new band that come up, and I stayed with Borokeete Hawks, then Midas, then Sesame Flyers and then us. But then again there are other bands. So we get more press, we just got a queen that put us second place, and then they came now and they put us first on the road, which I don't understand at all. How can that be, coming second in the back of the museum and then coming first in the video on the road? What kind of judgment is that? They have to send out flyers telling you, we're judging you on creativeness.

63:00

REECE KING: They do, or they don't?

DAVIS: No, they don't. We don't know what you're being judged on. They should do that. That is what I find. People have been saying these things all the meetings but they don't hear. I personally think that if we can talk to like one person, sit down with one person, that person can put it to the others. Because when you go to a meeting or whatever, it's six of them around a table and everybody saying, "No, this can't go this way and I say this, I say that." You know, we don't need that. Put your opinion on the table. I'll say, "Joyce, look this is how I feel about that, or this is how I feel about that." She says, "Look Paula, let me take it to the meeting, and next meeting we will bring it up." They don't do these things. They don't do these things. So I find the West Indian 64:00Association should really get together. They do a good job, but sit down together and plan to help the steel band and the mas. This could be bigger because people will begin to bring out bands. There are people over there who want to bring out bands next year. They want to come, they want to study. [redacted] You know, the prize-giving is so late. The time you put into it for nothing. You know, they mightn't be able to cross the Parkway because they're small, you know. It's hard. You have to rent a truck. That is a lot of money. My friends in my band is not big enough to generate that kind of funds to pay for a truck, to pay for music, to pay for generator. So it's hard to put that kind of effort out, and then you can't reach home. They even say you're coming fourth, or you're coming fifth, or you're not coming at all. The point is you pass, you 65:00reach the reviewing stand. This is what people want. You'll reach the reviewing stand. If you don't come in there's no bad feelings, but the point is you reach there. They'll be turning off on New York Avenue, Brooklyn Avenue, come on, you can reach much further.

REECE KING: Well, I think that's a strong plea to end with and, maybe, someone will hear it.

DAVIS: I hope so. I hope so. When Joyce comes back, I'm going to speak to her again and try to get her, and let her call a meeting. Because a lot of band people, members, leaders, they have their complaints, they have their gripes.

REECE KING: Well, hopefully, maybe, this will be a step in that direction. People will sit and listen and see what the feelings are.

DAVIS: I hope so. I hope so, because it's going be big. This Labor Day parade is going to be a big one.

REECE KING: Well, I think with that, we'll end the interview and I'll turn off 66:00the tape recorder. And I want to thank you very much.

DAVIS: Thank you too, thank you for the interview.

REECE KING: Alright, we'll end the interview here.

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Interview Description

Oral History Interview with Paula Davis

Paula Davis was born in Trinidad and came to New York to join family members in 1969. She headed her first Carnival band, the "U.S.S. Maple" in 1980. Soon after, she founded Aquarium Productions, working closely with her boyfriend Clyde Bascombe, the band's designer. The bandleader of Aquarium Mas Band, she was initially one of the few women bandleaders in the community. As of 2016, Aquarium has won at many carnivals for the past thirty-five years; from Children to Adult Band categories. They are recipients of over 140 trophies and certificates from carnivals in New York (Brooklyn and Long Island), New Jersey (Orange and Newark), Baltimore, Philadelphia, and Orlando. Davis attributes the possibility of these accomplishments to being inspired, supported, and culturally invested by Bascombe, sister Louella Davis, brother George Davis and Aquarium's friends and supporters.

In the interview, Paula Davis talks about the internal competition that exists amongst masquerade bands and some of the challenges of being a woman in a male dominated arena. Davis begins with a brief description of her origin, immigration and formative Carnival band experience. She closes with a critique of the process and bias found in the judges who award prizes for the band competitions. Interview conducted by Dwan Reece King.

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.

Citation

Davis, Paula, Oral history interview conducted by Dwan Reece King, September 19, 1994, West Indian Carnival Documentation Project records, 2010.019.34; Brooklyn Historical Society.

People

  • Davis, Paula
  • West Indian American Day Carnival Parade (Brooklyn, N.Y.)
  • West Indian-American Day Carnival Association

Topics

  • Caribbean Americans
  • Carnival
  • Multiculturalism
  • Parades
  • West Indian Americans

Places

  • Brooklyn (New York, N.Y.)

Transcript

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Finding Aid

West Indian Carnival Documentation Project records