Taji’s Mahal - J'ouvert 2012

By Taji Ameen

Last year I pre-gamed for the West Indian Day Parade by checking out a J’ouvert party at 3 AM the night before. Everyone had warned us about gunfire, stabbings, and gigantic asses at the festival, but we decided to go anyway. Luck was on our side because at the exact moment we arrived on Eastern Parkway, we ran into Andy and Aaron, two young skaters that knew their way around J'ouvert (a contraction of the French jour ouvert or day break). We followed them all around town, on a magical night of daggering, nutcrackers, and body-painting.

This year, I called up Aaron a few weeks before J'ouvert and asked him if he was down to go and shoot a video. He said "Hell no, that's where all the Fuck Boys go!" He also told me that he hadn't even planned on going last year, because he and Andy had been robbed at gun point the year prior. Somehow I convinced him that it wouldn't happen this year and got them on board. 

We all met at the Parkway again and hung out at our friend Cheney's house, departing for the festival at midnight. I asked a guy where we could find a nutcracker drink. He got really mad at me and said, "I'll give you a nutcracker!” I started to think Aaron might have been right. I might end up shot, or even worse, with a pair of cracked nuts.

The next few groups of revelers we ran into were a lot nicer and screamed stuff at the camera, leading us further into the festival. Cops were everywhere, but it didn't make me feel any safer because they seemed to be focused only on shutting down outdoor food sales. Soon after, we ended up in the middle of nowhere, but once again ran into some friendly reveler who led us to the parade. Once we made it to the parade, we were doused in a motor oil-like residue. Apparently, the guys drenched in the oil represent demons that we were supposed to avoid. 

All of a sudden, it felt like Occupy Wall Street because girls were dancing on top of cars mid-traffic, people were blocking trucks from moving, and everyone else was throwing paint on the police and their cars. At this point it started pouring rain, so I grabbed a nutcracker and posted up under a Burger King sign. We put a bag over our cameras and continued through the parade. We ended up at a gas station where a bunch of cops were running around trying to contain a riot-like outbreak. Once that mellowed out a bit, we headed back over to the Parkway where we regrouped and shared a feel good moment about how nice it was to celebrate Andy and Aaron's heritage. 

I got really sentimental and started to express how great it is to still be alive and that my Malcolm X T-shirt kept me safe, but was ruined. A reveler overheard me and said, "That shit ain't gonna come out in the wash!” I agreed and headed home and a fat chick on the subway made fun of me for most of the ride. I had enough and moved from car to car, being laughed at by everyone in sight. They all knew that I had been at J'ouvert and had a hell of a night.

Photos by Taji Ameen. Video shot by John P Campbell and edited by Justin Fly

@Redalurk

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