Junior Carnival- an Important Platform for Youth

Miami-Broward One Junior Carnival is this weekend on Saturday the 3oth of September. This event kicks off one of the largest Caribbean events that occur in the United States.

In a country of immigrants, the showcasing of culture and the vibrancy of diversity are pillars of the true power and engine that makes the United States exceptional. This pillar helps to keep the culture alive and to build a reality that helps to contextualize the existence of the community that culture represents. The key for the continuing existence of such cultures is, however, the younger generation learning and becoming the embodiment of said culture. For the Caribbean, this is illustrated in a most powerful way through the Junior Carnival.

The Carnival is the largest physical manifestation of the Caribbean culture exported worldwide.  It has become entertainment and celebration at the highest level. As such, for many Caribbean and Caribbean-American parents involving their children in Carnival becomes a rite of passage and a moment of pride along with the passing of a torch from one generation to another.  

This is happening throughout the United States. From New York to Hollywood to Atlanta to South Florida. The Junior Carnival (in some places interchangeably called ‘Kiddie Carnival’) is a focal point for the very young of Caribbean families along with families interested in Caribbean culture. The Junior Carnival, like the adult version, is inclusive of all persons from all walks of life, just that at the Junior Carnival the masqueraders are all youth (obviously). Both Carnivals are also a festivity of the vibrant music, culture, colours and food of the Caribbean.

Big sister Hadassah applies the last touches for Nalubaale as Nya watches before the carnival starts.

Pam Ramcheran is a Trinidadian who migrated to the United States for decades and while there she raised a family and helped to lead and orchestrate Atlanta’s Junior Carnival for years. Ramcheran passionately states that “it is important to me because we cannot allow our culture to die. Carnival is our culture, our heritage. It’s the one thing we can call OURS. We have the Kiddie Carnival so that our kids can learn about their culture at an early age, of course, not necessarily with just beads and feathers, but we have to teach them how Carnival began, let them know there is a history to Carnival, not just “jumping up” and partying.  Their participation is important and an integral part of the Carnival as a celebration.  We must also teach them the skills associated with Carnival.”

Therefore, not only is Junior Carnival a platform for showcasing the Caribbean culture and being a great opportunity for all youth to participate, it is a great avenue in the development of artistry and fabric designing. Michelle Figari who also has an extensive history in doing Junior Carnival in the USA, comments on this: “involvement in Jr. Carnival opens their eyes to colours, shapes, music, movement, whether on a spectator level or as a participant. Children are attracted to all these different forms of artistry individually and especially when presented altogether on the same stage, it is simply fascinating to a child.”  Figari goes on to state that “costume-making is an art because of the different processes and stages of it. Some costumes may have wire that needs to be bent, or feathers to be sewn or beads to be stuck on, cloth that may need to be painted on or processed depending on the theme of the particular band.”


Figari shares a memorable moment: “One of my most memorable moments was being a part of the children’s band presentation. This band truly allowed the children to participate in creating a part of their costume whether it was to stick a tassel or a few beads onto a piece of cloth or paint a stick to make it look like a wand. Just seeing the look on their faces and the sense of accomplishment in completing the task was one of the most thrilling experiences of being involved in the artistic process. The children were excited to be part of it and proud to wear the costume they “made” at the parade. They could not wait to be part of it the next year.”

The impact of Caribbean, Caribbean-American along with American youth being involved in Junior Carnival goes further than just the event or the impression on the involved youth, it has a greater imprint on society when the youth return to school. Figari share that “what it does is it creates awareness of the culture. When the children went back to school and were asked what they did, their interpretation of the event make other children in the class not exposed to the culture interested in such an artistic event. The next year the same Jr. Carnival band that allowed the children to participate in creating their costumes doubled participation not only with other Caribbean-American children but those of other diasporas. It allows children of other cultures to understand and appreciate artistry in a different format.”

She elaborates by stating: “by bringing art back into the classrooms in the form of creating carnival costumes, it can create a rejuvenation of some sort in an art form that may become lost to commercialism of carnival including Jr. Carnival where it’s cheaper and more convenient to import costumes and hence losing the true meaning and artistic value. If it starts with children appreciating the art form in a classroom setting of learning how to bend wire or the art of papier mache among other things creating different shapes, exploring different processes and mixing colours, it stirs imagination and creativity for the future generations of the….form of true carnival artistry.”

In South Florida, Caribbean and non-Caribbean families will have an opportunity to take part in the Junior Carnival for 2017. For more information on both the adult and Junior Carnivals, one must go to http://miamibrowardcarnival.com. This year the Junior Carnival will be held on Saturday the 30th of September at the Central Broward Regional Park, 3700 NW 11th Place Lauderhill, FL 33311. Doors open at noon. The event starts at 12:30pm and ends at 9:00 pm.

Jason Walker is a freelance writer who has had an award winning journalism career that spans over 20 years. He can be followed on twitter at www.twitter.com/jasonwalker_ or emailed at jasonarticle@gmail.com


Jason Walker25 Posts

Patriot, Jamaican, Caribbean, Pan African, Humanist, Radio Personality, DJ. I have worked over 20 years as a Journalist for Caribbean Today Magazine, WRFG Radio 89.3 FM, Cross Over Media and several media outlets in the Caribbean and the US.


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