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.
Oral history interview conducted by Michael Roberts
December 07, 1994
Call number: 2010.019.13
ROBERTS: 7th of December, 1994, Brooklyn Historical Society Project on thedocumentation of West Indian American Day Carnival. To begin, Ms. Dublin, how long have you lived in Brooklyn?
DUBLIN: About 27 years.
ROBERTS: When you came to Brooklyn, what was important to you when you just came here?
DUBLIN: Well, at that point, to me the important part was to go back to Trinidadfor the simple reason that I missed Christmas. I came to Brooklyn around Christmas time and I missed Christmas in the West Indies. Then I missed Carnival. I missed my friends, I missed the weather because it was cold. It was snowing and I didn't like snow. 1:00
ROBERTS: What was your first impressions, when you got to Brooklyn?
DUBLIN: First impressions of Brooklyn was that it was extremely big, it wascold, it was unfriendly, and I just missed --I didn't like it.
ROBERTS: Now, you spent your formative years in Trinidad and Tobago, and youobviously came here, so would you care to tell me a little bit of your background in Trinidad, relative to your educational background in Trinidad?
DUBLIN: Well, first of all, I'm not really a Trinidadian. My education reallybegan in Curacao, where I started in Dutch. Then I moved to Trinidad, where most of my formative --my basics --were done in Trinidad. And most of my friends were 2:00made in Trinidad.
ROBERTS: What about education?
DUBLIN: Well, education was also the basics, the straw basics was in Trinidad. Igot them in Trinidad. Although I had a little problem with the English, because I started my education in Dutch, so I had a little problem with the English. But as far as marks and so on, I was very --I got a very strong background, yeah.
ROBERTS: Now when you came to Brooklyn, what was most important to you when youfirst arrived?
DUBLIN: First arrival, I guess to get the know the area.
ROBERTS: For example, was education and Carnival and music and the culture, of3:00the Caribbean, important to you when you first arrived in Brooklyn?
DUBLIN: Well, when I first arrived in Brooklyn, I can't say Carnival and so onwas important factor, because it really didn't exist. It was --I had to go to school because I was under the age, so education played a big part. You know, that was why we moved to America, because of education for me. But as far as Carnival and so on, and the West Indian culture, really did not exist. Although they had West Indians, and you know, there was a few areas where you could get 4:00some of the West Indian culture -you know, parties and so on --but nothing much to say anything about. They didn't know what steel band was, they didn't know calypso at the schools, so you know, I don't think the Caribbean culture was doing any part. Although, you know, you met friends, and we talked about it because you find most of my friends, my family friends, who had migrated here, and we tend to sit down and talk of how we miss certain things, certain aspects, such as Carnival, such as the food, the games, the weather --going to the beach and so on.
ROBERTS: That's very important, because as you said, you came here 27 years ago,5:00and you would have just arrived when the West Indian Day Carnival Association was beginning to put what is known as the largest Black festival in the United States and perhaps the largest in the world on foot. And it's important for the point that you came here when the culture of the region was really not existent. How did you get involved in any type of cultural aspects that you knew in the Caribbean during that period of time?
DUBLIN: During that period in time, well, we more or less, it would be familyget togethers. It would be --you had West Indian associations, like the St. Vincent Benevolent club. You had the Trinidad Nurses Association. You had, you 6:00know, different Caribbean groups that had associations, that had parties during the winter time, and during the summer they had boat rides and so on, so that's how we kept up close cultural contact. And I guess at that time, people who started to migrate at that time, you find that kids tended more to hold on to their culture than just to forget about it, which the generation before, most of the kids forgot about their culture, you know, the Caribbean culture.
ROBERTS: Now, turning to Carnival --let's just talk a little bit about Carnivalhere before we talk about yourself. Have you ever participated in Carnival? 7:00
DUBLIN: Yes. In Trinidad, but not up here so much. I play Carnival in Trinidad,which would be a junior's Carnival in Trinidad, and so once you get that under your skin, it's like something that you need. You want to participate. You want to enjoy. It's like, when you come here, you can at Carnival time. You tend to hear the music. You tend to want to forget about school. You keep wondering why --you don't understand. Somewhere inside of you, deep down inside of you, you can't understand why people are not playing Carnival. Why they have no sense of understanding about what is going on right around the Carnival time. 8:00
ROBERTS: Now, when you played Carnival in Trinidad and Tobago as a youngster,what are some of the most important memories you have about that, those times when you did play in Trinidad?
DUBLIN: Those times, well I must say I remember the fun. Also you tend to learncertain things about Carnival. Let's put it this way,
you tend to remember, you tend to learn, and you tend to understand what yourparents enjoyed, and it tends to grow into you just like it's in your parents. 9:00It's like something that you see handed down from one generation to the other, and it's a time when you see all the generations come together, just to enjoy a function or a festival.
ROBERTS: Do you remember how many years you might have participated in thoseyouthful times in Trinidad in Carnival?
DUBLIN: Well, I only participated two years that I can remember. One year afriend of the family got me started and the next year I just wanted to participate and I did in a band that was close to the house that originated close to the house, and then, well, unfortunately, I'd say, we moved from 10:00Trinidad to America.
ROBERTS: But in those two years, you looked forward to playing Carnival?
DUBLIN: Oh, yes.
ROBERTS: It was something that, as you said, got under your skin, and you thinkthat it is a situation that you --it has an ethnic composition to you?
DUBLIN: I don't think it's ethnic. Let's put it this way. Although you hear fromthe history of Carnival, where you heard that it's a mimicking, in Trinidad they say it is a mimicking of the slave, the African slaves of the white masters, but I think it has grown away from that type of ethnic background to just a people 11:00coming together, a mass coming together, and I think forgetting about all the grief here, all the hate, all the everything, and just an enjoyment of music, of dancing, of the different foods that each culture has donated to the composition of what a culture is.
ROBERTS: But I mean, that's important. That's interesting that you mention that,because in Trinidad and Tobago, you know that you have descendants of Africans, who are the Black people of Trinidad and Tobago. There are descendants of the East Indians, who are the Indians in Trinidad and Tobago. There is also a very large Chinese, Lebanese community, and of course, there are other communities that are developing as we speak, so Trinidad is one of the few Caribbean countries that can boast more than one ethnic race or group in respect to that. 12:00But as you said, at Carnival time, they all come. Do you see Carnival as being a unifying force, as an inclusive organ? Or as a thing that should be used only for the development of one ethnic group?
DUBLIN: Coming from Trinidad, I would say that it as unifying. I would like itto be, or I would see it as a unifying of different ethnic backgrounds; whereas you don't see the color of the skin, you don't see the kind of hair, it's just an enjoyment of a historical period of time. 13:00
ROBERTS: I have to ask you a blunt question. What does Carnival mean to you?This is the kind of test piece that you have to answer in respect to what Carnival is.
DUBLIN: What Carnival means to me. Gosh, I think it's a wide variety of things.It means colors, the wide spectrum of colors; artistically, musically. It also means development, because of such a musical instrument as the pan --also, the 14:00growth of Carnival also means growth of generations. I think the growth of generations, and I wish it also means people could see where, and understand and grow to a peaceful united, as how the colors artistically and the music has grown. That peace would be like that.
ROBERTS: So you don't think that Carnival should be associated with violence?
DUBLIN: No, I don't. Carnival to me, although it has had, you know, violence init from way back when, but when you see the different colors --in fact, for me 15:00it's like every year I wonder, well, how many more colors could they add? Or how many more colors could it unite? And if you could see all the colors artistically, you could also see the peacefulness in it.
ROBERTS: You just spoke of pan being --for people who don't know, pan is theonly new instrument developed and produced in the 20th century, and that is thanks to the people of Trinidad and Tobago, and thanks primarily to the whole question of Carnival. And you mentioned the pan, as pan music, as being synonymous, and being -not being able to be separated from the whole question of 16:00Carnival in Trinidad and Tobago. What importance do you place on pan music relative to Carnival?
DUBLIN: Well, I tell you, the reason why I plays pan music --because I've heardof the years when the pan was just an old dust bin; somebody's old dust bin, somebody's old pan, some pan some man pick up by the side of the road and they beat, where the music drive people crazy. And then from the time I know pan, it was music to today. The music that they played that was very crude compared to what the pan plays now, which is --it's just like the violin, I guess. You know, 17:00it's beautiful music. So Carnival and the pan is synonymous, because they have grown together through the years. You've heard of how crude the pan is, and today you cannot mention that the pan is a crude instrument. Where also carnival back then, you've heard of it being a crude time of the year, which fell before Lent, and now you cannot say that Carnival is something that's only in Lent, but it's also a growth of artistic ability. So that's how I see the pan. 18:00
ROBERTS: So what you're saying is both things, the pan and the Carnival, havegrown together.
ROBERTS: Now that brings me to a very curious question, and of course that'sfundamental. How have you, who have played for Carnival in Trinidad, have come to New York 27 years ago when the situation just started --what are your impressions of Carnival then and Carnival now?
DUBLIN: For when Carnival started here, it was a very --it was peaceful, and alot of people didn't… well it wasn't such a big participation. And it has grown enormously. When it comes to the people, to the bands, but the only 19:00fearful thing that I am afraid of is that other cultures who do not know what Carnival is supposed to be trying to eliminate it. Not only one group doesn't want Carnival played in a certain place, and also the violence that has come out of… in the last three years. People mugging and the shooting and so on, which is very sad, because that's not a time for that. It's a time where people should be able to get together and don't be afraid of being shot at. But Carnival has grown. It has grown here, but I would like it to grow to a peaceful time, and 20:00for all the different groups to know, to really learn what Carnival is about.
ROBERTS: Now this year, in 1994, West Indian American Day Carnival Parade doneLabor Day, for the first time we had some bands --we had a Korean band. I think we had a Japanese band. And we also had some band from the Dominican Republic and other Latin American countries who were part of the proceedings on Labor Day, which attracted about 3.5 million people. Would you like to see the West Indian American Day Carnival Parade being inclusive to the extent that other ethnic groups can join in and be part of this Carnival?
DUBLIN: Of course, yes. For the simple reason again, coming from Trinidad, there21:00are all ethnic groups in Trinidad, as mentioned before: the Chinese, the East Indians, the Africans. We even have White people, the Caucasian, in Trinidad at Carnival time, and I hear mention Japanese and Korean. I have seen Korean and Japanese people, in Trinidad, at Carnival time, filming the Carnival and enjoying the festival. So why not in America, where it is --America is not made up of one culture. It's made up of a vast variety. So therefore the West Indian Parade should not be limited to West Indians per se. It should be a joining of 22:00all cultural groups.
ROBERTS: It leads me to the most important --one of the most importantquestions. Do you associate any one ethnic group with Carnival, and if so, why?
DUBLIN: No, I don't. Because if you go back in history from the time Carnivalreally began, it began a mimicking of the --it really wasn't a Black culture. It became where the African slaves in Trinidad mimicked their masters at the two days prior to Lent, which is a celebration of the skin before Lent. So, it's not really one culture, per se. Carnival is known throughout other places. It's not 23:00known as Carnival. It's known as something else, because it' a celebration two days prior to Lent, all over the world. So it's not something that's synonymous to the Caribbeans, or whatever. So that's why I feel that Carnival should be of all ethnic groups.
ROBERTS: But still, you have to admit that Trinidad, in particular and theCaribbean in general, have been the ethnic group who has pioneered Carnival in the most part, both in the Caribbean and in New York City now.
DUBLIN: Yeah, we have pioneered it, but we are not really the discoverer ofCarnival for the simple reason --New Orleans has Carnival here, but they don't 24:00call it Carnival. They call it Mardi Gras, which, other places have Mardi Gras. But Caribbean has pushed it further. They have extended it. They have widened it. And I cannot see why the other cultures cannot join in.
ROBERTS: You just mentioned New Orleans Carnival, and they call it Mardi Gras.We in the Caribbean know that as Dimanche Gras, which to us is Carnival Sunday night. You can't just tell us what happens on Carnival Sunday night, which is Dimanche Gras, based on the fact that the New Orleans Carnival, which is known in France and in French as Dimanche Gras.
DUBLIN: Well, in Dimanche Gras in Trinidad is Sunday night, and it's a coming25:00together of all the different functions that we have: the crowning of the Calypso King, the monarch; the crowning of the kind and queen of the bands, which they have all these competitions that are going on since, say, after Christmas holidays, and it's the final to see who is the best for the year, for the season. And when that is over, everyone goes out and parties, and now, well, as of the last two years or last couple of years, it goes right from Dimanche Gras right into J'ouvert. Which is also, you hear J'ouvert, it's a French word, and that's Old Mas. And that goes into another competition. Dimanche Gras is the 26:00finalizing of the best of the best for the season.
ROBERTS: Now we've talked about Carnival in a general sense, and you havementioned pan, you've mentioned Dimanche Gras, you've mentioned calypso. And it seems to me, it's these components which make up what really Carnival is, but we have not spoken in any sense yet about the whole question of what calypso is. What is calypso to you in the first place, and how important is calypso to Carnival?
DUBLIN: Well, calypso really is the how should I say it? It's the song made up27:00of the things that happened the year before, the year --when I was small I heard, they'll do anything so Sparrow won't see you, or any other calypsonian to see you, cause sure enough, it's gonna be one of the calypsos for next year. I guess, going back to what Carnival in the Caribbean started, as a mimicking, calypso is making up of songs of what certain people did for the year. The politicians, the teachers, whoever had anything to do, the society group. Today 28:00it's not as much as what it used to be then, but they still try to keep it to that.
ROBERTS: It's called social commentary.
DUBLIN: Yes, in Carnival. In calypso.
ROBERTS: What changes have you noticed in Carnival over the years?
DUBLIN: Well, Carnival has grown. It has grown from a band of being five hundredto a band of being five thousand. That's a big change right there. I think it has really only grown on a large scale, because back then you heard, you know, 29:00you saw people who were of high society class, who didn't mix with people like the rest of the year --you saw them in bands, and you saw them winding with other people. It's the same thing that still goes on. Well, a few things have gone, and you don't see anymore, such as Jab Molassi, Robbers, you don't see those anymore. You know, a lot of those little bands you don't see anymore. But I think, and also, it has become very commercial. Very, very commercial. But I guess that is how the world is going. Everything is becoming very commercial. 30:00
ROBERTS: Has new technology --computerization, access to more type of improvedfabric, etc. Have these things influenced Carnival in any way, in your opinion?
DUBLIN: Oh, yes. They have influenced. It has given them more materials to workwith, definitely. I know about five, six --let's see --I would even say about ten years back, when Peter Minshall bought out the river come down, where he had man crab. Everybody was totally against him, for they felt that his king shouldn't have won because it was very mechanical. But art has a wide variety it 31:00goes a wide spectrum. I guess that was showing the changing of the times, bringing Carnival into the future. Bringing Carnival into the future where he was showing technology; where technology was playing an important part. Whereas the costumes, also to the destruction of --to me, depicting the destruction of nature. It had a lot to say.
ROBERTS: --about technology and culture. You want to conclude in respect to this?32:00
DUBLIN: Yeah. I guess as everything else, you're gonna have people who areagainst it. You have to face facts. Carnival is gonna continue to grow, just as the rest of the world is growing. The materials are gonna get better, and let's face it, the artistic people are gonna know how to use it, and they're gonna make it --you know, they're gonna go with technology and with the computerized age.
ROBERTS: So you see Carnival as being improving in the next century or so, andthe next millennium?
DUBLIN: Yes, I see Carnival as improving.
ROBERTS: During the last question to ask you. You spoke about Carnival, and you33:00mentioned art. Do you see Carnival as art?
DUBLIN: Yes, I do. It's an art where people every year are able to bring outbands of a different quality, of a different beauty, of a different artistic ability. The artistic ability alone is something to marvel at. I always remember, I guess the year that Carnival really played a part in my mind was the first year when a band came out, the Snow Kingdom, and to me I wondered, well, what could they do next? This is it. They have reached all heights. And the 34:00following year, it just came out more beautiful. And I think I can remember from then on until now, and you keep on wondering what are they gonna do next year? And next year they come and it's something even more beautiful.
ROBERTS: Now, I'd like to ask you what it is you like best about Carnival? Maybethat might be a difficult question, but however I'd like you to attempt to answer it. What do you like best about Carnival?
DUBLIN: That's a very difficult question to answer. I think first thing aboutCarnival is the music; the calypso. Because it's where you get a first taste of that starting from, well, I would say around Christmas time to Carnival time. 35:00Then after that, I would say it's the pan panorama. The different bands competing against each other. And after that, I would say they're looking at the different kings and queens of the bands. For me, the Carnival is from Christmas time to the Dimanche Gras show. That's to me the real, true Carnival. The bands on the road is just, well, it's the icing to the cake.
ROBERTS: And of course I have to ask it, what do you like least about Carnival?
DUBLIN: My least --what I like least about Carnival I think now is the crowds,36:00because sometimes it seems like if I'm being suffocated when they come around the band, and there's so many people. It's as if you can't breathe. That's what I hate most about Carnival. I guess that's why I prefer the shows and so on. But, I guess the world is growing, and so we must expect, you know, the crowds to be larger.
ROBERTS: Speaking about crowds, the West Indian American Day CarnivalAssociation has been at the forefront of organizing Carnival, in Brooklyn, in New York City, and what has happened over the years is that a small group of 120 people has grown in 27 years to over 3 million, so we do have a large crowd. 37:00Have you visited, in your 27 years in New York City, the West Indian American Day Carnival Parade, on Labor Day?
DUBLIN: Oh, yes. I guess my years between, say, my last year in high school anda couple years in college, every year we couldn't miss Labor Day. It was something to look forward for, to the end of the summer. I haven't really per se, purchased costumes, played in costumes, but oh boy I was there getting my little jumps, on Eastern Parkway. But since the major shooting, I guess, I have 38:00gone away from Eastern Parkway. And also my work schedule has not enabled me to be out there. So I haven't visited Labor Day in the last four or five years, on Eastern Parkway.
ROBERTS: You mentioned about a major shooting, and of course we have to take thegood with the bad. What year was that, and what was it about as far as you can recall.
DUBLIN: Well, I can't even remember the year now, but I remember it was a clashwith Jamaicans and Americans, and I don't know, I think it was about the big boxes at the side where Jamaicans were blasting their reggae, and all I know is 39:00it ended up into a big shooting match. And I think that horrified a lot of people. I remember taking it as firecrackers, and one of Trinidad experts in guns and so on, I remember him grabbing me and saying, "No, that's not firecrackers," and pulling me into a building. I think since then I have become very nervous about it, and that's what keeps me I think the majority of time away from Eastern Parkway.
ROBERTS: But still you would have some educated opinion in respect to theCarnival, and my next question to you is, do you think that the whole week of 40:00Carnival, culminating with the Labor Day Carnival parade down Eastern Parkway, gets enough recognition in New York City?
DUBLIN: No, it doesn't. I, for the last couple of years, it really amazes methat the news media covers it gives it about a three minute --not even three minutes, two minutes for one day, one 11 o'clock news and then it's gone. The Labor Day gets covered in the Daily News on two pages. The front page might get a half a page, and then somewhere in 27 or in 1 A, B, or whatever, however they 41:00number it, I would guess another half a page, and that's it. And I feel very sad about it, because I think they could cover it even bigger and better, to show people that it's --you know, the artistic ability of people, of the different cultures being able to get along. I think the news media only tends to show a few minutes of the good, and then if anything bad happens, they labor on that, and they make it a real Labor Day of laboring on bad aspects of the Carnival parade.
ROBERTS: Do you think that the West Indian American Day Carnival Parade, on42:00Labor Day, down Eastern Parkway gets recognition outside of Brooklyn and outside of New York City?
DUBLIN: Well, no, I don't think so. Although there are a lot of people thatprobably attend it from all the different places, because you meet people who you know live in Canada, in Washington, DC, in LA, in England, and they are up here for that; Miami, you name it. But I don't think it really gets a real recognition anywhere. I cannot understand why, because when you stand and you look, if you stand at the top of Eastern Parkway, all you can see is a sea of 43:00different colors. Therefore, it should be covered. It should let the world see what, you know, what unity could be.
ROBERTS: Now, do you want to see more recognition of the West Indian CaribbeanDay Carnival Parade and the Carnival festival per se and why?
DUBLIN: Yes, I would like more recognition. I would like to see it get morerecognition, because it's something to be recognized. They recognize movies, they recognize all other cultures, and I think that the Caribbean festival should be recognized, because it is something to be recognized. It's also of a 44:00big scope. Millions of people attended, and it's nothing bad. It's artistic. It's time to recognize another spectrum of the artistic ability of the human race.
ROBERTS: Do you think the Carnival how it is presented in New York City each dayaround Labor Day is of any economic importance to the city?
DUBLIN: Well, yeah. It is an economic. It gives itself a lot, when you think45:00about it, just with the costumes alone. It is economic. People make money on those, the materials, the feathers, the wires, the beads, the material. People make money on that. Then the next thing is the foods, the drinks and all of that. People make money off of that. And all the different things that you can walk up and down Eastern Parkway and buy, such as products, you know, hair grease, balloons, you name it. That's an economic right there. But to me, it's the way it's done, it's only one set of people making it, and not the other. It should be where it's done in such a way that it's an organized, and I find that it's not organized. That's part of it. And also, the police make money on 46:00overtime. The cleaners, the sanitation makes money, because they have to clean the streets and so on. So as far as economics, it makes money.
ROBERTS: Let me just mentioned one question about organization. I'm gonna askyou it in a broad sense. Do you think that the way, from your own experience and your own participation, that the West Indian American Day Carnival Association handling of the Carnival festival, leading right up to the Labor Day Parade, could be better organized?
DUBLIN: Yes, I think it could be better organized, but as far as giving of howmuch better, right now I can't really say, but it can be better organized. I 47:00know that to get the bands or have the leaders of the bands get started earlier. I don't know, I really can't tell you per se, you know, how, but it could be better organized.
ROBERTS: Now, the West Indian American Day Carnival Association, which is thesponsoring organization of the event, have been doing this for the last 28 years. If you had to give them some ratings on a scorecard, how would you do it?
DUBLIN: Well, I really can't --that part, I think, you have me stunned there. I48:00really can't --this is one question I really wouldn't be able to answer.
ROBERTS: Fair enough. This year, in 1994, the West Indian American Day CarnivalAssociation had a protracted struggle with the Hasidic community relative to the Carnival, and the problem was that the festival coincided simultaneously with the whole question of Carnival and the Jewish community. The Carnival Association, of course, triumphed in the end, and the Carnival Parade became a reality. However, the underlying problems that people apparently do not 49:00understand what Carnival is all about, and there were some fears that there would be violence relative to that situation. However, it did not materialize to its credit. Do you think that people outside the Caribbean community need to be educated more in respect to what Carnival is?
DUBLIN: Yes, they do, for the simple reason, as you said of, with the Jewishholiday and the Caribbean, they need to understand how the Caribbean feels about Carnival, just as the Caribbean people need to learn of what the Jewish holiday is about. But there it came to the point of stopping the Carnival, the West Indian community could also ask there --although I guess the Jewish holiday is 50:00older than the Carnival, but I thought that it was very unfair for the Jewish people to say that they didn't want Carnival on Eastern Parkway. I think that they have to be taught what our holidays are about, what our carnival is about, as well as we have to learn what their holiday is about and have a mutual respect. That's why, as I said before, I feel that the media is very unfair to what Carnival is, and depicting of Carnival, because if it depicted better, then I don't think the Jewish community would have wanted or gone so far to say that 51:00they didn't want Carnival on Eastern Parkway. Whereas I was glad to see that it worked out toward amicable resolution.
ROBERTS: Now, do I understand from what you're saying that you suspect or youdetect an element of racism relative to how the mainstream media covers the West Indian American Day Carnival?
DUBLIN: Yeah. It is, I wouldn't even say racism. I would say it's an ignoranceof now knowing, because there are White people how enjoy Labor Day on Eastern Parkway. So it's not a matter of racism there. It's a matter of ignorance. The 52:00media is very ignorant to what Carnival is about, and those who covers it, they cover it from their ignorant point of view.
ROBERTS: Now, 3 million, 3.5 million people on Eastern Parkway is a seriousamount of people in any, any sort of circumstances, whether it be cultural, whether it be musical or otherwise. Do you believe, in your opinion, that the amount of people who accumulate on Eastern Parkway to celebrate the Labor Day Carnival Parade gives an indication or signal of a latent political power just 53:00waiting to be awakened at some point in time?
DUBLIN: No. Probably, it might be a yes and it might be a no, but right now Ican't see anything with politics, because you have 3 million people, but not all 3 million people are from New York. They're not from the New York area. They're from all over. So I don't think. If there is, you know, I can't foresee it. But who knows? Who could say?
ROBERTS: Now, in recent times, there have been some complaints within theCaribbean community that the city, who stands to gain a lot financially from the 54:00Carnival, should in fact get more involved and offer more systems apart from granting the license for the revelers to come down Eastern Parkway. They should get more involved, put some more money, more financial assistance with organization and planning. Do you agree with this? What's your views on it?
DUBLIN: Yes, I agree with it. I agree that the city should help a little more inthe planning. Probably that's why I couldn't answer the question before about the Caribbean committee, how they should, you know. Because they have become a very, as you said, there's three point something people attending every year, and I think now the city should really get involved, because they gain a lot 55:00from people coming in to the city, spending a lot of money. 'Cause a lot of people come from all over and they spend a lot of money here. They buy up so much things. Taxes. They pay a lot of taxes. So I feel the city should give back a little bit of what they receive, and over 20 some odd years they have been receiving, so I think they should be able to come into the organization and help somehow in controlling a crowd of three point something million people.
ROBERTS: What about the business community?
DUBLIN: Well, they also should help, because they stand to make a lot of money56:00from us, too. As I said earlier, different people come from all over the world to Labor Day, or from other States, who can't get certain things. They buy and take back. Therefore the business community should also be involved in it, in helping some way.
ROBERTS: What kind of statement do you think Carnival makes in Brooklyn and inNew York City?
DUBLIN: Well, to me it makes a big statement in Brooklyn, that the Caribbeanpeople have a way of attracting or bringing people from all over the world, and 57:00I think it's time for New York City to wake up and include the Caribbean community or extend a hand in the Caribbean community to see that we help. We do some financially. We do attract people to the New York area. And I guess so far nobody really has seen it but the Caribbean people themselves.
ROBERTS: Over the years, we've seen the development of Carnivals in Atlanta, inBoston, in Miami, and of course outside of New York City and outside of the 58:00Caribbean region, there is Carnival in London, Notting Hill Carnival, and there is also Caribana every year. Have you ever visited other Carnivals outside of Trinidad and outside of New York?
DUBLIN: Yes. I've been to Caribana in Toronto, I have been to Carifesta inMontreal. I've also been to Miami, and I'll tell you, it can never be as the one in New York.
ROBERTS: Why so?
DUBLIN: Well, it's not the big Carnival, and those places are very structured,whereas here it's a little more freer. And I don't know if it's because it's 59:00easier to get to New York or it's easier, which I don't see the problem, but I don't know. It would take a couple of years for any of those Carnivals to get to the tune, the size of what is in Brooklyn, New York.
ROBERTS: Now, one of the things that has been of concern to a number of peoplewas the passing on of the Carnival tradition to new generations of Caribbean Americans; children who were not born in a Carnival culture like yourself, who comes from Trinidad, but who were born in America and raised now on American values to West Indian parents. How important do you think it is to impart or to pass on the culture of the Carnival to this young generation? 60:00
DUBLIN: Well, I think it's very important. It's something our grandparents, ourgreat-grandparents have given us, and I think it's important for our children to also partake of it. Simply to understand a culture where it came from, and also to take it to heights that we haven't been able to, but probably their generation may be able to take it to. Also, the reason why I'm thinking that way is because I have happened to have had a discussion with a lady in Trinidad who 61:00is over a hundred years old, and who was able to talk. And it was very nice to sit down and listen to her talk about Carnival from when she knew it as a little girl growing up, and I think I will always remember that picture of four or five of us sitting down listening to her, and I always hope that that picture will always be carried on from generation to generation, of the younger people sitting down listening to the older ones telling you about what they enjoyed about Carnival, and hoping that it would continue for, you know, infinity. 62:00
ROBERTS: One of the things that has happened over the years, over the last 3 or4 years with the West Indian American Day Carnival Association, they have made a serious move in this direction to improve and organize the Kiddie's Carnival, which is a feature of Carnivals in the Caribbean. This year alone there were over 15 to 20 thousand kids participating in Carnival on Eastern Parkway and at the back of the Brooklyn Museum, which we call Carnival City. Do you think that that is a correct move by the West Indian American Day Carnival Association to involve these young kids? You see kids as small as being unable to walk, they are in strollers, to kids of twelve years old participating in Carnival; fifteen 63:00thousand kids. Do you think it is important? It makes an important statement?
DUBLIN: Yes, it does. Just like in any other cul--If you watch the kids with therap, before they could even probably say a good word, they're singing along with these rap tunes. So it makes a very important statement for the parents to have the kids out there to also be part of a culture that has been handed down from generation to generation and for them to enjoy and for them to understand…. 64:00
Oral History Interview with Angela Dublin
Angela Dublin was born in Curacao. As a child her family immigrated to Trinidad & Tobago. In Trinidad, she participated in the Carnival for two years as a child. In 1967, Dublin immigrated to the United States, settling in Brooklyn, New York. She was a participant of the Brooklyn West Indian American Day Carnival. At the time of the interview in 1994, she had not attended Carnival for a number of years, because of a fear of violence.
In this interview Angela Dublin describes her immigration to the United States. She reflects on the West Indian community's interaction in the seventies. Dublin describes her childhood experiences of Carnival in Trinidad, comparing the historical premise of the event to her personal experience. She also provides detailed histories of the Carnival traditions of Dimanche Gras, calypso and pan music. Dublin discusses the event of the Carnival in 1994, noting the participation of international bands and media. She relates her frustration that although the Carnival produces revenue for the city, it continues to receive little local media coverage. There is also a discussion of a conflict with the Hasidic Jewish community and their desire to reschedule the Carnival because of the Jewish New Year. Dublin notes the influence technology has had on Carnival. She sees Carnival as an art that brings together different communities to share the beauty of the Caribbean culture. 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.
CitationDublin, Angela, Oral history interview conducted by Michael Roberts, December 07, 1994, West Indian Carnival Documentation Project records, 2010.019.13; Brooklyn Historical Society.
- Dublin, Angela
- West Indian American Day Carnival Parade (Brooklyn, N.Y.)
- Caribbean Americans
- Costume designers
- Ethnic identity
- Race relations
- Trinidadian Americans
- Brooklyn (New York, N.Y.)
- Crown Heights (New York, N.Y.)
- Eastern Parkway (New York, N.Y.)
Finding AidWest Indian Carnival Documentation Project records