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I flew Brooklyn for Pan

Published: 
Monday, September 18, 2017

Let me tell the story again. How I went Brooklyn. For Pan. Carnival Thursday night. Entering Despers USA’s panyard, I brush past police. On duty. Inside, news spreads. Kathleen Reilly, who’s waged a long nuisance campaign against the band, has herself been arrested. For harassment.

It’s not the same yard I recall. Gentrification’s spread of new residential buildings onto old industrial blocks pushed Despers out their longtime home. After years, they’re back. On a block that got away. As Odie drills the band he grew up in, White women shimmy shoulders. In a corner, a man thumps a mini-conga. Out of time. Unperturbed.

Panorama eve. Approaching D’Radoes’ spacious yard, next-to-nowhere, the cloying welcome of Sanitation Depot #14 is respite from the bodyshops on the unlit block where we parked. A police cruiser pulls up. Music stops. Alcohol disappears. (Except one woman who say she done pay.) Agreement is struck. They run the tune one last time. By Pan Evolution, a few blocks away, we’d stacked up single-file, against one wall.

Panorama night. Family members, aficionados who’ve paid US$50 or more, pick a wet plastic chair from rows set out in the open-air Brooklyn Museum parking lot (habitual location of the competition), try to wipe it dry. Space out a little. So our umbrellas won’t drip on each other. We look up. The view of the reportedly $90,000 stage is obscured. Two canopies, to shelter judges and officials, brand a health insurer into our memory. The company who block us from seeing the pan.

Ninety minutes later. My fingers quail so badly the phonescreen won’t respond. We’ve abandoned the chairs, climbed atop the bleachers. We see pans on stage in the unrelenting rain. Angela Cooper makes a false start at the national anthem.

Gemma Jordan announces the band. Aaall the way from Phil-a-del-phi-a. The Full Extreme recording cycles nine times. The arranger is poised to count them in. They walk off.

William Howard, the new, African-American president of the 50-year-old West Indian-American Day Carnival Association (WIADCA) said in 2015 Labour Day Carnival was “maybe the last thing Black people have in Brooklyn.” He comes on the mic. Says—in American—a decision will be made soon. Makes a barely coded appeal for bandleaders to gather somewhere dry where we can talk civilly. No other announcement follows all night.

A hijabbed guard approaches us. (The City refuses to disclose who gets all the money spent policing Labour Day; but WIADCA’s hired Black Muslims for Panorama security.)

It isn’t going to stop raining any time soon, she says. So waiting around for that is pointless. You may as well leave now. Because “I have to go home.” In between, she mentions there will be no show tonight.

WIADCA Facebook-posts a 12 noon to 4 pm Sunday re-scheduling, weather and authorities permitting. Some panpeople saying: Is not noon; is 4. Nothing further from WIADCA.

Noon Sunday. Pans, players, a small crowd gather. Stagelights are lowered, blowdried individually, ascend, redescend. Two hours silence. Restive patrons engage what seem officials gathering onstage; are admonished: Calm down. Wait. There’s no information. The executive is meeting. Suddenly, people jostling chairs toward the Museum building. Gemma on the mic: Apologies…patience…blahblahblah…insurers…banned wheeling pans on-stage…slips-and-falls.

Now it’s no longer raining?

Please turn your seats right, toward the area where the bands will play. The nutsman asking, please make a aisle for him. The young Philadelphia panside gone back home. No microphones. Meh, the audience tiny-tiny. Where the judges? Who care? The pan sweet.

Sunday 5ish. CASYM beats, second-to-last, and Gemma reveals: Bands aren’t being judged.