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Gailene Windsor

Oral history interview conducted by Michael Roberts

April 19, 1995

Call number: 2010.019.33

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ROBERTS: …Windsor, relative to the Brooklyn Historical Society's West Indian American Day Carnival Documentation Project, an oral history [unintelligible]; interviewer, Michael Derek Roberts. Miss Windsor, we know that you have been involved in Carnival for a lot of years, but before we get to that, could you start by giving me some background of your island of birth, how much you were involved in Carnival back home, when you were involved, and what are your feelings of Carnival in St. Vincent particularly?

WINDSOR: Ok, Mike. I started in Carnival when I was about ten years old, really just enjoying the festival and being around with my grandparents, but as an adult I started playing getting actually involved in Carnival about five years 1:00ago. You know, I've since migrated to New York, and go back to St. Vincent every year to participate as a queen of the band contestant, of which every year I place second. Also, besides that, I'm supposed to be the chairperson of the St. Vincent and Grenada Concert Organization, and that is involved with the culture, and besides me participating in the Carnival at home, I'm also active in the New York community cultural part of it also.

ROBERTS: And so where were your born?

WINDSOR: In St. Vincent

ROBERTS: And how long have you lived in Brooklyn?

WINDSOR: I've lived in Brooklyn for about 16 years.

ROBERTS: 16 years, it's a long time. And when you first moved to Brooklyn, what were your impressions of Brooklyn?

WINDSOR: I, my impressions in Brooklyn was like the home away from home, because 2:00I got to meet a lot of my friends that had migrated before me to New York City, and this kind of helped to clear the path for me, you know, so I wouldn't really be bored. If I needed any friends to be around, there was always someone to lean on.

ROBERTS: Now, let me just bring you back a bit before we start talking about your participation in Carnival in Brooklyn. Back home n St. Vincent, since you've been participating for so many years, what are your impressions with the St. Vincent Carnival as has to do with development and improvement, if any, over the years?

WINDSOR: Well, growing up in St. Vincent and living abroad and going back to see the standard of Carnival back home, there is drastic change in Carnival. It has declined. Carnival has deteriorated a lot in St. Vincent. The standard has 3:00really dropped. And we need, in order for us to climb to the top again, we're gonna have to do a lot of groundwork. The Minister of Culture was in New York about two weeks ago promoting the '95-'96 Carnival. That's just to tell you how deteriorated the Carnival has gotten, because this is the first time in about 15 years that a Minister has actually come abroad to sort of give a boost to the St. Vincent Carnival to get people to come back home. Because the people in the metropolitan area, who living in New York City, have already gotten disgusted with the way the Carnival has deteriorated, and therefore the plan was not to go back to the St. Vincent Carnival. But I guess the tourism home have seen the decline, so they're trying their best to really do something about it.

4:00

ROBERTS: Now, you speak about decline as it moved from a state of 10 to 6 down the line. What are the reasons you would give for this decline in this kind of St. Vincent's carnival?

WINDSOR: The reasons being political. The acting Minister --not really acting, but he is the Deputy Prime Minister of St. Vincent --has made a noise act in St. Vincent, and because of that, years ago during the Carnival season they used to have a lot of street bars. The music 24 hours. You know, you find it real busy. But now, it's just the last three or four days before the actual Carnival, people are allowed to really have these things on the street. So therefore, I mean, living in New York and going back to a quiet life with nothing to do 5:00because the country is so small, people get very bored, and it's all because of the noise act that the Deputy Prime Minister has created in St. Vincent.

ROBERTS: Now, how far has economics --people's standard of living and their ability of money in the pockets of Vincentians back home --contributed to the question of the decline of Carnival?

WINDSOR: Um, I would on the average I would think not much, because really and truly, it's the people living abroad who really invest into the Carnival. Which, at home there is not enough jobs. People don't have a lot of money. They depend on the overseas connection to really boost them up, so if the overseas Vincentians were not to go back home and not invest anything, there would be no Carnival at all, because people just don't have money living there. The cost of living is too high, and they can't afford to really participate fully in the 6:00Carnival itself, and I don't think the government of St. Vincent is not making it the effort to make it a profitable business. To them it's more cultural than profitable, and in order for them to increase the tourism and build up the country and get people more involved in Carnival at home, they have to make it a profit. They have it an investment, matter of fact; they have to make it an investment. And until they realize that Carnival is not culture anymore, it's more of an investment, then I guess they will be able to wake up and smell the coffee.

ROBERTS: Ok. Now, bringing you back to New York City and Brooklyn in particular, what --how have you participated in the annual Carnival in Brooklyn over the years?

WINDSOR: I just recently got involved with the Vincentian-based Carnival organization in New York. About two years ago I became the General Secretary. 7:00Our group is three years old. We brought our first mas in the Parkway was in 1993, last year, which I also was supposed to be a queen of the band contestant. This year, we also going to be bringing another mas, and it's called Around the World in Eighty Days, and this is strictly to kind of get all the different cultural West Indian people involved, to show so sort of a unity and help to build our Vincentian culture in New York.

ROBERTS: Now, turning to a little bit more philosophical, what exactly does Carnival represent to you?

WINDSOR: Me-- Carnival is, you know, expressing your talent. You know, creativity in the culture. It's more getting together with your own community and sharing a bit of laughter you know, fun. You know, that's what Carnival 8:00should be. People have talent and they want to express them in the way of artistic, you know, or whatever. To me, that's what Carnival is really about.

ROBERTS: And have you seen that definition of Carnival in action in Brooklyn and in St. Vincent? Have you seen that?

WINDSOR: Yeah, in Brooklyn I've seen it, yes. Because of the involvement that other countries are involved, and because other countries are involved, and the way that other countries participate 100%; we feel that, as people from St. Vincent that we were left out of the enjoyment for like how many years; about 25 years ago, when there was a first attempt made to really bring the Vincentian culture to New York, and now that we have tried to rejuvenate this, it's like excitement for us, and we want to be able to keep this going.

9:00

ROBERTS: In your perspective, if we are going to put it into an organized perspective, who or what do you think are the most important elements relative to Carnival?

WINDSOR: I would think it has to do with the community leaders and the mayor as well, because there are so many Vincentians and other people from different countries that play that get involved in the community in the Labor Day parade. I mean, that just to tell you, there's so many people on the Parkway, that if we were all to become United States citizens and get involved, the politicians have to show us that they really appreciate us so that we can get involved as well.

ROBERTS: Do you think that Carnival, for example, as it is presented in New York 10:00City and in Brooklyn, do you think it gets the kind of recognition that it's supposed to get?

WINDSOR: No way. It does not. Every time after the Labor Day parade, I come home and I look at television to see what excitement --you know, I probably might see my costume on television or something. And I look at the news, and it just says Labor Day parade on Eastern Parkway, and they show you two minutes and it's all gone. I mean, a parade as big as the West Indian Labor Day parade with so many millions of people, and such just --so little media, it's unbelievable. Fourth of July, when they have a little parade on 5th Avenue, the coverage is so big and so great, you know, it's unbelievable. Like if no one cares about us because we are West Indians.

ROBERTS: Why do you think that is so?

WINDSOR: I guess because they figure that the other people from the Far East or 11:00different countries get more involved in the voting, the politicians, politics or whatever goes on in New York, while they figure that West Indians are not trying to become concerned citizens, so they look at the voting statistics or whatever to base their coverage on.

ROBERTS: So what you're saying to me is that perhaps the West Indian Day Carnival does have a latent political force to harness people? Do you think that is coming out of that?

WINDSOR: Yep. Definitely.

ROBERTS: And do you think West Indians on Eastern Parkway make a strong political statement? Do you think so, on Labor Day?

WINDSOR: Oh, yes. They send a very strong message. The message, well --I think 12:00the message that was sent to the politicians is that we are willing to reach out to them. They have to set the part for us, and once they set the part for us, and show where we become concerned citizens and get involved, but the politicians have to show us that they accept us at first, and then we will be able to work along with them.

ROBERTS: Now, let's leave politics for a little while and go back to the Carnival in Brooklyn. Is there any particular ethnic group that you associate with the West Indian American Day Carnival Parade or the Carnival in general?

WINDSOR: Besides mas production, I really think there is not one that I am involved with.

ROBERTS: No, I'm talking about generally as an ethnic group.

WINDSOR: No.

ROBERTS: You don't associate any ethnic group with Carnival?

WINDSOR: No.

ROBERTS: Ok, because you know, most of the Caribbean islands, perhaps speaking of Caribbean islands with the sole exception of Jamaica, all have their own carnivals. Jamaica has always been imported. How do you, when you look at 13:00Carnival in Brooklyn --you say you have been in Brooklyn 16 years?

WINDSOR: Yes.

ROBERTS: When you look at Carnival in Brooklyn over the years, have you seen any improvements over the years?

WINDSOR: The only improvement I've seen so far is the reconstruction of the Eastern Parkway, the Caribbean Parkway. That's the only thing so far. But to say, besides that, nothing to really encourage the West Indian community, as far as business sponsoring the bands, more advertisements, from big businesses, nothing like that. Nothing like that at all.

ROBERTS: How would rate the participation of people, and also of mas paraders over the years? Would you say they have improved, or would you say there's a degeneration in it?

WINDSOR: I would say they improved, because going back a couple of years, I mean, it's like everyone used to be scared going up to the Parkway, claiming that, you know, this can happen and that can happen. And for the past four 14:00consecutive years, I haven't encountered any problems at all. So, you know, it seems like it's attracting more people now than before, because they're claiming that it's so peaceful.

ROBERTS: What do you like best about Carnival?

WINDSOR: The dancing, the music, and just meeting up with old friends.

ROBERTS: So you think that Carnival has a strong social aspect?

WINDSOR: Definitely it does.

ROBERTS: And what do you like worst about Carnival?

WINDSOR: If there is any violence to break out where because people consume too much alcohol, and they don't know how to act, and then they have to cause problems for other people, it sends a bad message to the community. And we would not want something like that to happen. I would not want something like that to happen. So that's the bad part , the negative part of it, but besides that, I think Carnival is fun and it should be enjoyed that way.

15:00

ROBERTS: Over the years, especially in the Labor Day Carnival in Brooklyn, you see some groups who have never participated in Carnival begin to come in; tentatively at first. Last year we had a Korean band. The year before that we had some of our Spanish-speaking brothers and sisters join, and also last year we had the presence of a number Haitians, Haitian bands. We had the Koreans again. We had a lot of people from the Dominican Republic, and we had other groups, non-English groups, coming in to play Carnival. Do you see this as good or bad?

WINDSOR: I see it as more on the positive side, because you know, in Carnival show us that everybody has a culture, and everybody at some stage in their life likes to get involved in things to make people laugh and make people life more cheerable. And seeing that my group is still young also, which is three years 16:00old, since being involved with them and being on the Parkway, its' like getting to reach out to more businesses for ourselves, getting people aware that we also have Carnival back at home. So even we're participating in New York, we're also trying to promote our Carnival back in St. Vincent, because people didn't know that we had Carnival before from the island of St. Vincent, but because they see our band on the Parkway, they now realize now, well, here, there's a Vincentian band, you know? So more the positive side.

ROBERTS: Besides St. Vincent, and obviously Brooklyn where you live, have you participated in any Carnival or seen Carnival in different countries?

WINDSOR: Yes, Michael I just got back from Trinidad Carnival, the 1995 Carnival, and I mean, it's the first Carnival for me in Trinidad, and I think it was 17:00really exciting to see the amount of people who participate in Carnival in Trinidad, and the amount of foreigners. I mean, not being racist or prejudiced against anyone, but there were so many Whites that were in the bands, just socializing and having fun between the local based Trinidadians was like, unbelievable. You know, how come we can get together like this and have fun and once you're back into the United States or wherever you come from, it's different. It's like, you know, we don't socialize with other people. It was a great experience for me.

ROBERTS: How do you think it compares with Labor Day Carnival?

WINDSOR: It compares well. It went down very well, because now that I've seen the amount of people that went to Trinidad Carnival, I guess I'm looking forward to a bigger crowd from the American-based community at the Parkway this year participating.

18:00

ROBERTS: Over the years, the West Indian American Day Carnival Association has been the foundation, the organization which has directed the Carnival on Eastern Parkway. It has been the group which has molded the carnival over the years. What are your comments on the West Indian American Day Carnival Association, even though you are not a member of the organization?

WINDSOR: I think that they're doing a great job. They're doing a great job, and even though I'm not an individual member, the mas production group that I'm affiliated with is a member of the Carnival committee, and out of the meeting, I heard that they're planning on having the media coverage for about two hours starting as of the 1995 Carnival on the Parkway, and if that is so, they have my one hundred support. Because if we are going to achieve this, then we can say that we as West Indians are definitely going somewhere in our culture in New York.

19:00

ROBERTS: Generally speaking, you read the issue of the question of the lack of recognition of the Carnival. What are the things that you would like to see to improve that recognition?

WINDSOR: More coverage, more media coverage.

ROBERTS: When you say media you mean the mainstream media, television?

WINDSOR: The television media. Even the radio, radio media, and newspapers.

ROBERTS: And how do you think that the organization of the West Indian American Day Carnival Association can go about dealing with that?

WINDSOR: Ok, approaching the mayor's office, getting involved with the mayor's community based committee that deals with organizations like ours, like the Carnival Day committee, and also trying to get the mayor to set up meetings with 20:00the television medias and the radio medias, you know, so that we can sit and have an exchange of what we have to offer and what they have to offer us in terms of promotion and exposure.

ROBERTS: Now, in places like Toronto, Caribana, and in Notting Hill Carnival in England --I don't know if you went to any of these carnivals, but from my experience. The government is involved in the Carnival not only to the extent of providing security and allocating space for the Carnival, but in providing financial, providing money and financial support for the organizations running these carnivals in a way that speaks to the question of subsidy. Now, in New York City that is not the case, and there have been problems in terms of sponsorship from major corporations, as you alluded to. Would you like to see, 21:00based on what I just said, government, local government, the mayor's office, city government, being more involved in Carnival in New York City?

WINDSOR: Oh, yes. I would really love to see that happen. But again, I mean, with my 16 years living in New York and the things that we have experienced, like right now we have a budget crisis. You know, there are so many cuts here and so many cuts there. I mean, although I'd really love to see the city of New York get involved in the Carnival committee programs by funding, by assisting whichever way they can, you know, that would be a great help to us, but still, that is something that would have to pass through all the politicians for approval before we can even start looking at that.

ROBERTS: If it does happen, what kind of formula would you like to see and I say 22:00formula from the point of view would you like to see a sort of equitable distribution of power and influence where the government shares this responsibility along with the West Indian American Day Carnival Association?

WINDSOR: Yeah.

ROBERTS: Would that be the type of formula you would like to advocate?

WINDSOR: Yeah.

ROBERTS: Aren't you afraid, for example, that government incursion in the Caribbean festival would disintegrate it?

WINDSOR: Not really. I think it would have more, more positive can come out of that, because again as I said, look at the millions of Caribbean people who come out on the Parkway. And if the government of New York City is willing to support us, I'm sure a lot of us are willing to get involved back and you know; contribute something back to the community politician. So it would be more of a positiveness coming out than negative.

23:00

ROBERTS: In the last couple of years, particularly with 1992, when a young Guyanese boy was killed by a Hasid Jew and driver, a Jewish driver, and Crown Heights was turned into some serious riots that did put kind of a pallor on the Carnival parade. This last year, again the West Indian American Day Carnival Association was involved in a protracted battle by elements within the Hasidic community by elements who wanted to stop the Carnival. What do you think that firstly thing, the community can do, and secondly West Indian American Day Carnival can do to stop this attitude-- because it's more or less an attitude-- to stop this attitude by the group in the community who would like to see the 24:00Carnival killed?

WINDSOR: For one, I think that situation with the kid was very unfortunate. It sort of separated both communities and that should not have happened, because Labor Day parade goes on in that particular community. On the other hand, in order for us to really show a show of forces also with the other community group that is living in the area, we have to reach out to these politicians again. We have to sit down with these politicians, get the other groups involved, you know, from the other, the different community that is living in the Labor Day area, and discuss everything with them, because if we don't do that to show that we are even. Our strength is not your strength is greater than mine because I 25:00know how to get to you and you, because of our color we cannot reach out more. I mean, it should not be that way. Everything should be shared evenly. You know, whether we are Black or whether we are White, everything should be evenly. And until the people in the community, the politicians and the people who are in charge of the Labor Day parade reach out to all these different groups, have more community meetings, try to get that particular community from the Eastern Parkway involved, we could exchange culture. Who knows? There might even be a Jewish band in the Labor Day parade.

ROBERTS: One of the things over the years that the West Indian American Day Carnival has been criticized for --not in a very, any stringent way, but nonetheless criticism --has been the fact that as the Crown Heights situation proved, a lot of people outside of the Caribbean American community are very 26:00ignorant when it comes to Carnival. For example, what might be perceived as a vulgar act of winding and grinding on the Parkway is a Carnival expression. And a people like the Hassidim would look upon it as being vulgar and coarse and [unintelligible] has to do in more ways than one tp education. What do you think are some of the methods that the West Indian American Day Carnival Association and other organizations, community based organizations, can do to educate people as to Carnival in general?

WINDSOR: Well, this is what I was trying to say before. If they have community leaders in the Jewish Hasidic community. The leaders of the community, the leaders of the Carnival Day committee, the council people from the community 27:00have more meetings. Let them know what these West Indian culture are about. It should not be looked at in a vulgar way, but looked at more; this is the way that the West Indians enjoy the culture. Should be appreciated and looked at in that form.

ROBERTS: Now, we've spoken a lot about Carnival in its entirety, but for some people, do you think the Carnival just really means the donning of costumes coming down Eastern Parkway on Labor Day. Not many people realize that there are some activities that are associated with Carnival. With the question of steel band music, with the question of calypso music, and luckily now reggae is making incursions into Carnival, the diffusion of both reggae and calypso to produce a dance hall effect. Do you think that there is, that steel band is given the kind 28:00of prominence in Carnival, both here and in St. Vincent, as it should be?

WINDSOR: No. In St. Vincent it's even worse. And here, you very rarely see a steel band on the Parkway, and I think that steel band is a talent, playing steel band is a talent, and it should be given more exposure so that people can see the type of talent. Because even youths these days, kids 8, 10, women, you know, play in steel band, and it's great music. So I think it needs to be given a boost.

ROBERTS: What are some of the reasons that --well, I won't say people, but why steel band of itself is not given that kind of prominence in Carnival? In the olden days, maybe ten or twelve years ago, steel band was an integral part of Carnival.

WINDSOR: It's because of the reggae music and the soca music, and everything 29:00that has taken over, so the people prefer to dance now to the calypso and soca music than the steel band music. They look at steel band music now as a concert. When you go to a concert and you listen to steel band play. That's now, but years ago, that's what you had to dance to, the steel band music. But now seeing music has taken over in the form of high amplifiers and stuff like that. You're not gonna find people enjoying the music to dance on the street like before.

ROBERTS: You're just talking about high amplifiers. I'm gonna pick up on that question form the point of view --do you think that technology has played a great part in the disintegration of steel band as a cultural part of Carnival?

WINDSOR: Yes, it has.

ROBERTS: And do you think there should be a move to look at steel band music 30:00more futuristically, harnessing the talents, the technological talents of, particularly here in the United States?

WINDSOR: Let me take it back to the Trinidad Carnival that I, you know. That's something that the Trinidadians are trying to bring back also, because they're finding that technology has definitely taken over. So what I noticed that Trinidadians were doing in this year's Carnival was to put a steel band in front of each band to really bring back old times, you know, life into the Carnival with the steel band music. And that is something that I think we should try to do. This young group that's called CASYM steel band with all the kids playing, I think we should give them an opportunity to participate in our Labor Day parade so that the people can see how talented these kids are and hear a bit of what 31:00good steel band music is all about.

ROBERTS: What about calypso, because you just mentioned the whole question about soca, the incursion of reggae into Carnival? What have you seen as the rule now of calypso in Carnival?

WINDSOR: The role of calypso that's taking over the steel band?

ROBERTS: No, the role calypso per se in the whole question of Carnival, separate and distinct from the steel band? [Interview interrupted]

ROBERTS: Calypso in Carnival, looking at that as… [Interview interrupted.] What are your comments on the role of calypso in Carnival, looking at let us say 32:0015 years ago and what pertains now during the Carnival season?

WINDSOR: Well, as a kid growing up and listening to the calypsos, these calypsonians used to sing more of a type of sound where you could follow the words and it very easy to catch on. Now, the calypsonians are really singing what the people want to hear. You know, more light and jumping music where you can really have fun and enjoy yourself.

ROBERTS: So that has been the change, the change has been one of lyrics?

WINDSOR: One of the lyrics, and more a flavor of the music, you know? Spicy. Something to make you really want to dance just by the sound of the music.

ROBERTS: So in essence, what you are saying is calypso has harnessed the 33:00technology available and made it better?

WINDSOR: Definitely.

ROBERTS: There are some great calypsonians that came out of St. Vincent; Winston Soso, Beckett. Beckett of course is one of the premier calypsonians in the business today. How do you compare today the standards of St. Vincent calypso with the other calypso produced in countries of the region like Trinidad, Grenada, Barbados?

WINDSOR: I would say right now the calypsonians coming out of St. Vincent have been doing a good job. Well, you spoke of Beckett. You know Beckett is known to everyone, and Winston Soso. Also there is a new artist on the block. His name is Soca Devil. Speaking with Don Bob, at WLIB one day, and Don Bob was playing this song, "Real Girl Want Wind", and I thought this song was really great. We went 34:00to this function, this Vincentian function and the other guy was singing. I couldn't believe that it was him that sung that song, because he was Vincentian. And it made me feel proud to know that we have gone this far in calypso, you know? And even on the New York market our name plays a great importance. Trinidad --everybody always know Trinidad for the calypso, but form the time Beckett hit the scene, you know, he made history. Everybody knows that Beckett is Vincentian. Even the Trinidadians are trying claim him.

ROBERTS: Well, you would find that they think that Sparrow is from Grenada. That brings me to an interesting question. The question of the recognition for calypso and Carnival and also when you put that near to the whole question of reggae, as gaining international acceptance. Not that calypso has not gained 35:00international acceptance, but not in the scope that reggae has. Why do you think that is so?

WINDSOR: I think our music in whole is like easy to catch on. People hear this type of music, and it kind of, "I've never heard this type of music before." And they want to be able to get more of it. And go to Manhattan, speaking about reggae, I see these White youths driving the cars, and the reggae music is really loud, and I'm saying, they're getting into the Caribbean stuff now, you know. It's amazing, you know? So I think that because we have something to offer in terms of music, in terms of the way the music is different to the slow type of thing you constantly hear when you hear these New York based artists, you know, love songs. You want to hear something different. You want to be able to 36:00get on the bandwagon with the music.

ROBERTS: Right. Technology. We touched on it while we were speaking just now. Last year and the year before on the Parkway, there was some very creative mas. One of them was an alien with a lot of different hand and foot movement that drew a tremendous amount of attention. And we do know that for example Trinidad's Peter Minshall, I don't know what you know about Minshall, has been very famous because he is creating mas harnessing modern technology. Do you think Carnival in total being a cultural event that can take advantage of the technological advances in the United States and rise to a different level in the next couple of years?

WINDSOR: Oh, yes. Definitely, because I mean, everything you want is in New 37:00York. You name it and its there. The people like Peter Minshall, if he was to put out something like a class or --what do you call it?

ROBERTS: An exhibition?

WINDSOR: An exhibition, just to show some of his creativity, and show the type of mas that he brings, I mean, definitely exhibition of different people, different cultural backgrounds, it would be something to take a bite out of.

ROBERTS: Absolutely. So perhaps in the next couple of years you might see our mas camps utilizing the computer with certain databases of people who play mas to send out letter to, that kind of thing. You don't think that's farfetched?

WINDSOR: It is not far away. I can see it happening soon.

ROBERTS: And even in terms of mas design, somebody might be making a software program that makes mas design more easier and measuring much more compatible and 38:00that type of thing.

WINDSOR: Yes, that is definitely gonna happen soon, because again, the technology, everything is possible.

ROBERTS: I'll let you go now. I know you have had a long interview. What statement, if any, do you think that Carnival makes to New York City and New Yorkers in general? What statement does it make?

WINDSOR: Well, I just want to say that after last year's Carnival, I've had a conversation with two of Brooklyn leading influential, I wouldn't say politicians, but people that work closely with politicians, and what came out of the conversation is that they told me that the mayor was looking --this is a 39:00conversation that they had with the mayor --at possibilities of having the Caribbean Carnival Day parade as an exhibition coming up in the 5th Avenue parade that they usually have. And I think if that is really true, that would be a great achievement for us, because it would mean a step forward for West Indians and their culture.

ROBERTS: I want to thank you very much on behalf of the Brooklyn Historical Society for giving us this time and for conducting such a very informative interview. Thank you.

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Interview Description

Oral History Interview with Gailene Windsor

Gailene Windsor was born in St. Vincent & the Grenadines. She moved to Brooklyn, New York in 1979. When she was interviewed in 1995, Windsor was very active in the Vincentian community abroad, acting as the general secretary of a Vincentian-based New York Carnival organization. She played mas (masquerade) in St. Vincent and in the West Indian American Day Carnival, Brooklyn. In 2016, Windsor was a member of the non-governmental organization, The St. Vincent & Grenadines Diaspora Committee of New York.

The interview begins with Gailene Windsor's consideration of the political reasons why the Carnival in St. Vincent has declined in the years preceding 1995 and how the island's economy will be affected by the lack of Vincentian diaspora in the event. She discusses her involvement in promoting the culture of Vincentian community and her participation in the Brooklyn-based West Indian American Day Carnival. Windsor notes the lack of media coverage the Carnival receives and suggests political and community solutions. She addresses the cultural conflicts between the Hasidic Jewish and West Indian communities of Crown Heights, suggesting solutions to ease the tension. She also discusses the need for planning and financial support from the local government for the parade, noting the need for the Caribbean community to unify its population in order to gain political clout. Windsor addresses the emergence of technological advancements in Carnival mas costumes and music, noting the loss of steel pan music to soca, calypso and reggae. 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.

Citation

Windsor, Gailene, Oral history interview conducted by Michael Roberts, April 19, 1995, West Indian Carnival Documentation Project records, 2010.019.33; Brooklyn Historical Society.

People

  • West Indian American Day Carnival Parade (Brooklyn, N.Y.)
  • Windsor, Gailene

Topics

  • Caribbean Americans
  • Carnival
  • Ethnic identity
  • Multiculturalism
  • Music
  • Race identity

Places

  • Brooklyn (New York, N.Y.)
  • Eastern Parkway (New York, N.Y.)
  • Saint Vincent and the Grenadines

Transcript

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Finding Aid

West Indian Carnival Documentation Project records