Bright colors, glorious headpieces, glitter. Steel drums and xylophones. As people with Caribbean roots, we feel our chests swell with pride and our hips begin to sway immediately when we think of Carnival (which ended yesterday) and the ancestral rhythms of island cultures from Trinidad to Jamaica.
The costumes are sexy, sassy, and everything we aspired to be as Caribbean-American preteens. We fawned over Carnival outfits like many tweens do for their future prom gowns. The feathers, the strings, and the beads became our markers of someone no longer a child, but a grown individual who could finally do grown things: show off your body, stay up late, drink, wine the night away, and of course have sex. Without a doubt, Carnival is about ownership of our bodies, about an annual recommitment to our sexuality and broader sense of liberation. Through dance, we tell and retell a true, old-timey story of freedom fighting and of pleasure for pleasure’s sake. When we rush the DJ stage to party front and center at the show, when we jump in the parade “playing mas,” we re-create together the movements of our ancestors who rushed gates, barricades, and slave owners for their freedom. It is a reminder that movement is part of movement work and part of social justice.