DC Carnival, Christmas and Cultural Intransigence

Christmas is that happy time of the year where we spend money, eat well, smile constantly, and to some extent miss the deeper meaning behind the celebration. Carnival in these respects is very similar.  The parties, costumes, and yes, the MUD harbor a much deeper celebration than simply a love for the masquerade.  Simply put, a Caribbean carnival is a non-subtle form of civic flexing and cultural posturing.  To pretend, or to discard it as otherwise would be foolhardy at best .

Mud Mas DC Carnival 2011

As much as the tenuous links to slavery have dimmed over time Carnival remains a celebration of equality and freedom. These freedoms are evident at many levels between couples, and between police, spectators, clean-up crews, retailers, and masqueraders.  The DC celebrations however is the assti-thesis of true carnival celebrations. The police try to micro–manage at every junction, in an incredible attempt to both keep the bands moving, and to keep order in the midst of irrational spontaneity.  Imagine non-minority police motorcyclists keeping lanes open by riding up and down the side of the band. It brings to mind the herding of “cattle” by Teflon cowboys!!  The trick however is to have the bandleaders themselves manage the order in the bands, keeping out non-paying masqueraders, subduing unruly members, and maintaining an atmosphere reflecting cultural norms. Usurping this authority reflects poorly on the band’s administration and the organization of the festival alike.

DC Carnival 2011 - Masquerader

It may seem moot to some, but the 2011 DC carnival celebrations mostly reflected the competency (??) of the badge, and the orderliness of the clean up crews. What a silly, short, scheduled, sanitized system. As the last band came through, the street sweepers came right behind, followed by an impressive armada of trucks filled with spare tires,  tow-trucks, and a winch, all complete with flashing colors, and  impressive lights., (bess band dat)!! This of course represents an added cost to the DC Carnival Committee, which ran into difficulty because they were short of monies owed to the state for 2010 services and police presence. There was even a helicopter present, (rolling eyes). The irony is that with all this expensive excess capacity, someone forgot to bring along an extra generator for the MUD band music truck. Maybe it’s time to bring carnival back to the people, (just a thought), everyone knows of course that “the road made to walk, on Carnival Day”.

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