Last weekend I went to North Carolina to participate in the Raleigh Caribbean festival. I had the opportunity to play with Unity MAS Band. This wasn't my first time on the road as we would say. In fact it was my 5th time playing MAS and my 4th Carnival. I have played in Atlanta twice now, been half naked on Hollywood BLVD, and busted a move on Eastern Parkway(Brooklyn). With this past weekend I can now say that down the road from my High school in downtown Raleigh I was busting a fast Whine. Yet truth of the matter is there are still times before I get on that road that I am a little insecure.
The pictures we see on the Carnival posters, on Instagram, or other blogs aren't of women who are shaped like me. They don't have stretch marks on their tummies, their breasts are perky, and they are just built for the typical model size, and baby I sure am not. I have these tiger strips all on my stomach from my pregnancy (went from 165 to 215 during this journey to motherhood) . I have no hips (as a African woman I lowkey hate that lol), an athletic butt, broad shoulders and big boobs. I am not shaped like a Video Vixen. Honestly most women aren't unless they have had surgery. Though I am very confident a small part of me has a issue with my body image and lets be honest social media DOESNT HELP!
Yet In 2018 I did something I never thought I would or could do..... I started "jumping" or playing MAS in carnival. I had just moved to Georgia thanks to my 'real" job and the year before, I went to the Dekalb county Carnival and was AMAZED!! November 2017 I also met a young lady named Tracey (americanwinematter) who at the time had already been playing MAS for 5 years. I told her I wanted to play and she was ready to help me jump right in.
Before we continue this story let me give you a brief history lesson, hey I might as well use my degree some how.
History of Carnival
Carnival in the Caribbean has a complicated history. It is tied to colonialism, religion, freedom and the ability for celebration. The festival originated in Italy, and it later spread to the French and Spanish, who brought the tradition with them when they colonized places like Trinidad, Dominica, Haiti, Martinique, and other Caribbean islands. The word "carnival" means "farewell to meat" or "farewell to flesh," which refers to the Catholic practice of abstaining from red meat from Ash Wednesday until Easter Sunday. The first "modern" Caribbean Carnival originated in Trinidad and Tobago in the late 18th century when a flood of French colonizers brought the Fat Tuesday masquerade party tradition with them to the island. These three elements; dressing in masquerade (MAS), music, and dancing are central parts of Carnival. Carnival costumes, masks, feathers, headdresses, dancing, music, steel bands, and drums all part of the scene, along with Hooligan Behavior. Makes for pure joy on the streets. Every Island has added its own twist and story to it, like in Grenada. The Jab jab masqueraders; the word Jab in french means devil, which is a term that the colonizers would call the slaves. Upon emancipation in order to regain their sense of self and pride they started playing Jab Molassie in order to make fun of their former masters. This history has taken on its own story and that is why being part of such culture and ritual as a little African girl this means the world to me.
Ok so back to how I got involved in playing MAS. Tracey was hype that I wanted to be on the road but what she didn't know is that i was elated that I would get this experience. She told me that she would show me the ropes and that is what she did. In February 2018, she was deployed when the bands launched and I was in training. We spent about an hour with shotty wifi trying to ensure that we could pick costumes that we would love on the road. We decided to play with We Kinda Ting MAS out of Atlanta. Fast forward to Labor day weekend and we are in Atlanta for Costume pick up. I won't lie the Costume you see on the right isn't what I originally purchased. The designer for my original section didn't receive their costumes from Trinidad on time. I was beyond disappointed but Sharon the band leader wanted to make it right. She provided the costumes for me and my friend ensuring that we got on the road and it was a VIBE!! We were lit from that morning until we crossed the stage (well attempted to at least). I was bitten by the carnival bug and couldn't wait to be on the road again
Yet I still wasn't super comfortable in my skin, half naked on the road some where. Don't get me wrong I loved my body, shoot I have been a solid 200lbs and loving it. Yet I just didn't know if I fit the mold of a Masquerader. Well boom fast forward to Labor day weekend 2018 and Playing with Stronjeh ON Eastern Parkway. I was feeling more comfortable and loving my High waisted panty. My stretch marks were covered and I was digging the whole outfit, and funny enough I was in the KILMONGER Section (the Band theme was Villains). As a little African Girl who loves SOCA this was perfect for me.
In wearing this costume I felt so beautiful and comfortable in my own skin but what really made this more epic for me was the fact that there were other women on the road who were killing it and their body's were not what we see on the Carnival blog sites and they were enjoying their life!!
This Queen right here gave me so much confidence she doesn't even know it. As well as so many other women I saw on the road that day. Lets be honest Social Media sells us something they think we want but in reality its just not facts. When you go to carnival ANYWHERE in the world you see women of all shapes, sizes, and shade loving who they are and celebrating their culture.
Carnival is honestly the real life celebration of body positivity! No one is afraid or ashamed of their bodies that day or that weekend depending on where you play. Its freeing to be on the road and dancing it up with no worries what anyone thinks, because they are right there letting loose as well. In two years my confidence has shot through the roof. I still wear my high waisted panty because I don't like my little pooch hanging out and plus I think high waisted panties are classy.
Playing with Unity MAS Band showed me all that. Not only was it about body but I saw beauties of all shades(which is something that we really need to appreciate because brown skin girls do play MAS too). Yet all in all I love my body now more than anything. I am way more confident than I was before, and its amazing!! What I am loving even more is seeing all the curvy sections that designers are making. I look forward to seeing more curvy queens on posters, as the models at band launches and even all over the Carnival blogs, the road isn't what social media makes it look like. Its filled with beauties from EVERY walk of life and ladies this can be you too! I hope to see some of you on the road real soon. Until then enjoy a quick video of me on the road.