Brooklyn’s Eastern Parkway was packed Monday with an estimated one million people showing up to celebrate West Indian culture on Labor Day.

 

Parade-goers waved flags from countries such as Jamaica and Trinidad, and participants of all cultural backgrounds feasted on the traditional foods available on nearly each block of the route that stretched from Eastern Parkway and Schenectady Avenue to Flatbush Avenue.

 

While grilling Jamaican jerk chicken, 21-year-old Kwame Sparkes said food is such a big part of the annual parade because it “brings people together” and “represents all the different regions” of the West Indies.

 

“It really is a piece of the homeland,” Sparkes said. “The parade food gives people a good mix, they can try out everything from different cultures.”

 

Ramona Alexander, a St. Kitts native, said cooking traditional food at the parade makes for an “overwhelming but fun” day in Brooklyn.


Alexander, who has lived in the United States for 30 years, said she used to march in the parade when she was younger, but now participates by preparing foods, such as as spicy steamed vegetables.


St. Kitts isn’t as big of as a community as countries like Jamaica, Alexander said, so the parade is an important way for her community to come together and for her to connect with old friends.


“I look forward to this day all year,” said Zaria Evans, 16, who has been coming to the parade for the past three years. “We’re just here to represent our country. My parents are from Jamaica."


Mayor Bill de Blasio and his family kicked off the parade with a dance routine. Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams served as grand marshal, and many other local and state elected officials and labor groups marched in the event.


The NYPD reported several shootings in the early morning hours leading up to the parade. A 55-year-old man was killed around 3:30 a.m. in Crown Heights, according to police, and a suspect was taken into custody.


Before the parade’s kick-off, de Blasio said about 4,000 officers would be assigned to the parade route, and ensured a safe event.