Parades spontaneously form around wherever the Soul Tigers happen to be. — Photos by Aaron Short
After sitting through dozens of community meetings in Bushwick over the past three years, sometimes I just want to take this show on the road.
That’s just what District Manager Nadine Whitted, Chair Julie Dent, and the rest of the Community Board Four regulars did Thursday morning, celebrating Brooklyn-Queens Day with a parade of their own. The parade, which had been revived over the past three years after a decade of dormancy, drew so many Bushwick leaders that it felt like a mobile community board meeting.
This year’s "Bushwick Day Parade" had a somber overtone, as local school children and volunteers carried white placards with the names of community leaders who died over the past year. The Board’s Civic and Religious Committee, led by Elvena Davis and Cyril Joseph, had decided on the parade theme of "Bushwick’s Fallen Heroes" months before former Chair Anna Gonzalez died in Elmhurst Hospital in Queens.
This wasn’t the only reason people’s spirits were subdued. At roughly the same time across town, a massive funeral march for Officer Omar Edwards was underway. Thousands of police officers lined Throop Avenue in Bedford-Stuyvesant, including many officers from the 83rd Precinct. I ran into Karen Cherry, a constituent liaison with Congressman Ed Towns, who represents the southeastern parts of Bushwick, and who arrived at the parade after coming directly from the funeral. She said the ceremony was difficult to watch and she looked a little drained.
Cherry joined Councilmembers Erik Dilan and Diana Reyna and Democratic District Leader Maritza Dávila at the head of the parade. Reyna and Dávila, along with CB1 District Manager Gerry Esposito, are locked in a tight battle for the 34 District City Council seat and it could be getting increasingly nasty this summer. I needed the wide-angle setting on my camera to capture both Diana and Maritza in the same photograph.
As the parade started, the elected officials fell into three distinct lines behind the lead squad car: Maritza and RBSCC‘s Rachel Fuentes in the front row, Erik and his staff in the second line, and Diana and her liaison in the third line. Both Erik and Diana later went back to City Hall for a Mayoral Control hearing that afternoon, but for now, greeting friends in the parade route and waving to residents peering out of their windows on Bushwick Avenue took precedence.
Barbara Smith, the 83rd Precinct Community Council President caught up with me just in front of Hope Gardens to give a gentle reminder.
"You better take good pictures. Don’t take Barbara’s picture unless you ask Barbara!"
Photography wasn’t as much a worry for the small documentary film crew that was filming the parade. Three members of Blowback Productions (I am not making their name up) bowed and wove throughout the parade to get the proper angles to fully capture the moment of Bushwick pride. The group has made documentaries about urban neighborhoods before, including one on Newark, NJ, though they are still thinking about whether Bushwick will be part of a larger series or their entire subject. You may see them around on occasion.
I didn’t get to talk with them much because they kept circling around to film the highlight of the parade: the Soul Tigers! Heyyyyyyyyyy!!! Ho!!! Heyyyyyyy!!! Ho!!! Dressed in sharp black and silver uniforms complete with capes and glittery hats, the best drumline in Brooklyn shook up the crowd with elaborate dances and more rhythm than I could ever hope to produce. Everyone, including 83rd Precinct Deputy Inspector Steve Capasso, said they were the favorite part of the day.
On the last leg of the parade, I caught up with Diana Reyna again, who noticed that the parade was crossing back into her district after walking past the Salvation Army on Bushwick Avenue.
"Potholes! Everyone look for potholes! From Cornelia Street on, it’s my district," said Diana.
Just then I saw a small divot just after Madison Street and pointed it out to the Councilwoman.
"Yeah, no, that’s not considered a pothole yet, unfortunately," said Diana.
"You want a crater, that’s what you want. She’s looking for a crater!" chimed in Elvena Davis.