OH MY GOD I’M LOST!!!!
As I looked out into the darkness at the sea of red Digicel t-shirts I felt like a lost toddler in a mall looking out at a bunch of legs that all look like Mom. It had only been 5 minutes since our band, the Cocoa Devils, had started moving when my request for a beer from the drink truck turned into Home Alone 4 live from Trinidad. It felt like an eternity passed as I jumped up and down and waved my hands in the air, frantically running up and down the sidewalk hoping my girls would see me. My panic quickly descended into completely irrational hysteria as I imagined my mother having to identify my body covered in chocolate wearing a blinking cowboy hat.
And then it happened. My friends dropped out of the heavens like manna in the desert. Or maybe I’m being dramatic and they were 2 inches from me and I panicked. Either way, I had never been happier to see Cass, Mel and Nik than I did at that moment when I recognized their faces in the crowd. I ran over and from then on, vowed to never let them out of my sight again…until I heard someone scream..
OH MY GOD IT’S A DEAD CAT!!
The tomfoolery I experienced at J’ouvert will go down in the history books as some of my favorite moments in life. Because I’ve heard many Brooklyn Jouvert stories, I knew to expect paint, powder, water and people smeared in things that I wouldn’t touch if I were paid to do so. What I was not prepared for, however, is how being covered in paint, water, oil and mud invalidates all home training and causes you participate in shenanigans that could get you arrested in some countries. As the sun rose and it apparently became acceptable to down Johnny Walker Black like orange juice, it was like someone turned up the amp on the entire country. The sun revealed a rainbow of bright colors, smeared over a sea of cultures from across the globe, all celebrating the dawn of a brand new Carnival Monday. I danced with British angels, a Korean devil, an Indian woman I mistook for a man, and a older Trini man with a tree growing from his head (don’t even ask). It was like the colors of the paint had erased the colors of our skin beneath and blended into a bright shade of unified energy.
Over the course of the next 2 hours we climbed walls, whined on top of fences, powdered our noses in behind innocent buildings, and gave a good whine to a guy in a wheelchair. Yes you read that right, a wheelchair. I mean, I figured his friend didn’t wheel him out to the road just to watch right? It’s J’OUVERT DUDE!!?? What did he expect? (From the look on his face I think he appreciated the gesture)
For over a century J’ouvert has marked the opening of Trinidad Carnival. At that time it was celebration of ex-slaves who had recently been emancipated and the mud, paint and powder along with masquerading as devils and robbers were all ways to camouflage those who participated in what was a political expression of defiance. Today the tradition continues as a celebration of heritage and Trini playwright Tony Hall describes it perfectly from a local perspective:
“It is half-five, six in the morning, and the colour of dawn coming through and all these people all paint up in different colours, a riddim going and all of a sudden you feel this sense of suspension. You see all these people, all these people are your community and you realise, you feel a strong sense of love and you realise that what you are really doing is renewing a vow to love these people for the year coming.”
J’ouvert 2011 sealed the deal on my return for 2012 and I vow to love these people, and their music, for many years to come.