J'Ouvert and Labor Day --Merging History of Caribbean Struggles and Victories

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Each year during the onset of September millions of New Yorkers crowd the streets of Eastern Parkway throughout the 43rd Assembly District, for none other than the Labor Day parade.

Vibrant colors of blue, yellow, green, orange move amidst the sound of steel pans, as attendees immerse themselves in the scent of endless selections of island platters. Some who enter into these festivities after the early morning celebration of J'Ouvert, don't always take the time to delve into the history and value of this revelry.

During this season, families and friends unite to merge individual aspects of Caribbean cultural history with American history. Labor Day bodes well with J'Ouvert because many of those who participate in the Caribbean festivities are working families who have made contributions to this country. In the eyes of some, Labor Day and J'Ouvert may be viewed in America as one big party, but there is more to it.

J'Ouvert derives from a French term "jour ouvert" meaning day break. It dates back over 200 years when French plantation owners and stemmed from night celebrations where owners imitated enslaved Africans. This form of celebration was reversed when freed enslaved Africans began to mock their former master's behavior and continued to use this form of celebration in remembrance of their emancipation.

J'Ouvert is now recognized in various Caribbean countries including Trinidad & Tobago, Saint Lucia, Anguilla, Antigua & Barbardos, Aruba, Grenada, The Bahamas, Haiti, Jamaica, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, United States Virgin Islands and the British Virgin Islands, Dominica, Sint Maarten, and St. Kitts and Nevis. This day has come to represent freedom. Many would often smear paint and oil on their bodies to avoid recognition, and this practice is still done today.

Labor Day represents the contributions workers have made towards the well-being of our country. Government recognition manifested from 1885 and 1886. It is said that this day honors a high standard of living for all working families. Emphasizing the importance of this day every year holds deep value for those who participate.

With this rich history in mind, it is my hope that you use this time of cultural celebration to take our community to new heights. I look forward to seeing you today for this joyous occasion.

Assembly member Diana C. Richardson (D, WFP - 43rd AD), represents the 43rd Assembly District of New York, which covers Crown Heights, Prospect Lefferts Gardens, Wingate and East Flatbush.

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