Smile - Jamaica 2019
I’ve traveled quite extensively in my 20s and I’ve loved every second of it. What I didn’t do during that time was to process what it meant to be 20 something to so many different cultures. I feel like this time was lost living but not examining. No regrets, but also not tangible growth.
It seems as though in the Bahamas, the gap between 20 and 30 certainly spans greater than a mere decade. I look at 20-year-olds, their insecurities, and daily struggles and feel so far removed. Was I not once that girl staring at her phone impatiently, somewhat desperately waiting for a text back? How am I so far removed from those girls when just a year ago I boasted the 20 something marker?
I realized that nearing my 30th year on this planet I had seemingly shed the skin of my 20-year identity, whatever that was. I was a woman. Not just proclaiming it, but actually living it. I was more confident than I’d ever pretended to be. I felt more powerful than I’d ever proclaimed I was. I wasn’t just coming into myself, I was who I always said I was. Actualized.
What better way to celebrate that than to be a part of a festival that has always fostered a sense of freedom and self-love?
Carnival definitely means a little something different depending on who you talk to, but to me, it was the first place I felt comfortable with being my true self. All sides of it. The quiet girl who never wanted to make waves, the girl who always wondered what the center of attention felt like but was never brave enough to pursue, the girl who just wanted to dance like no one was looking but truly didn’t care if there were, the girl who wanted to desire and be desired.
So that’s what I did, I boarded a plane and jetted off to Jamaica for their annual carnival. We landed in Kingston, where the festival had been hosted since April 1990. The energy was electric, as it typically is when a gaggle of people get together with one common goal: fete till ah fallin down. That was the goal.
Fete one: Soca Brainwash - Smile Jamaica. Paying homage to the late Bob Marley’s Smile Jamaica Concert held in 1976 at the National Heroes Park in Kingston. Marley played for 90 minutes despite the attack in his home just two days prior. DJ Private Ryan always is a gracious host. HIs fetes are always the benchmark of a good carnival event. The music is always energetic, the props always add a light, airy, playfulness to the event, the food and drinks are always in abundance and Ryan himself walks the crowd and greets his guests as a gracious host should.
Fete two: Caesar’s Army A.M.Bush. Oh Lord. Anyone familiar with carnival culture knows about this jouvert. Anyone that doesn’t, hang tight. A jouvert is typically a party where while drinking, you throw paint and powder. It’s the best! I’ve been to about 5 A.M.Bush’s since starting my carnival journey and this will definitely be my last. Every country has its own jouvert parties typically before, or even during Caesar’s Army’s A.M.Bush. Most fetes, you log in online, purchase a ticket and if it’s not already sold out you’re in. Caesar’s Army invitation process is so elitist you expect a high-end experience. This definitely shattered that notion. After applying to be accepted to the fete, then practically hounding down a ‘committee member’ to accept your application we were subjected to sub-par conditions. No drinks, because there were no cups to serve drinks in. A weird setup that constantly left you standing still at a walking party and the notion that the very same committee members you asked to be invited to this event really didn’t care if you actually enjoyed the overpriced party.
Kingston you are a true gem. Never did I imagine that a city plagued with such salacious headlines could ever be so warm and welcoming. Every corner of that island town is dusted in magic. Devon House with their homemade ice creams and curry goat patties are an integral part of the Kingston experience.
Sunday, April 28 at 7:00 makeup was done. Last minute touches and spritzes of glitter were added to out costumes and bodies. Sunscreen was aptly applied and our survival fanny packs were packed. We were ready for the road.
The carnival begins when the music truck kicks off. You’re following a few 18 wheelers, blasting sweet soca music, another few 18 wheelers mixing and handing out drinks and thousands of your closest friends reveling alongside you. It’s a celebration. What you want to celebrate is up to you. Life, freedom, the ability to express yourself in a way you thought you couldn’t. It’s the physical ability to purge yourself of burdens or worries you may have brought onto the road with. It’s the liberty of dancing and cheering with complete strangers in the brightest colors and tallest feathers you’ve ever experienced and leaving that road with strangers who became family. It’s dancing until your thighs burn and chipping until your feet throb. It’s drinking a gallon of water because the Caribbean sun is unforgiving and doesn’t care that you’re in the midst of the biggest jubilation of your life.
It’s the end all and be all of the revelries and it’s how I chose to bring in my 30s.