Confessions of a Carnival junkie

Judelle Tyson

For Caribbean students (like myself) who departed our homeland for educational purposes, Carnival, which is a festival of Caribbean culture and traditions, is a pilgrimage. We look forward to our island’s festivals every year, and being away from home would mean that we would miss out. Caribfest is our way of having that experience at MSU, and we eagerly await it every year. With the anxiety of surviving each school week, a full college course load and 21 hours of work, Caribfest is a time for a release.

It is a moment of true freedom where I can unwind and pelt my waistline to sweet soca music. Whether it’s steel pan music or the sounds of a big drum, it is almost impossible for my body not to respond. The spirit and rhythm of Carnival pumps through the veins of island people. It is an authentic celebration of culture that suppresses my anxiety. It is my stress reliever.

My alarm went off at 8 a.m. I got up, headed to the bathroom then out the door to my 9:30 a.m. makeup appointment. It took me about 20 minutes until I realized I went to the wrong apartment building for my appointment. Once I arrived at the correct address, I got my makeup done or, as we say locally, “face beat” for the parade. Minor setback for a major comeback, I suppose.

It was about noon when I arrived home and it was almost time to head to campus for the parade at 1:30 p.m. My costume was a two-piece work of art, consisting of gold and teal jewels, baby blue in color and accentuated with a vibrant, feathered headpiece and bedazzled arm and foot pieces. It was definitely a sight to see and my fete mode was instantly activated after I got dressed. Being the true island girl that I am and operating on what we call “island time,” I arrived after the troupes had already left the starting point. However, that didn’t deter me from joining in while they came up Comanche Street. As soon as I caught up with the crowd, cameras were flashing at me from every angle. I must’ve stopped a million times to take photos with spectators and reporters who were fascinated by my daring costume.

With the fiery soca music blasting through the speakers, a burst of rhythmic shockwaves sent the crowd into a frenzy. Suddenly, we were all singing word for word, wining our waistlines without a care in the world or, as I’d say in my island dialect, “wukking up.” I looked around in complete amazement at the festive chaos around me — in that moment, I felt at home. Underneath that bacchanal chaos lied a melting pot of Caribbean culture, embodying freedom, togetherness and clean fun. I felt at one with all my island people and, with my curves on full display, I wined to the ground with every song that called for it to be done.

I had the time of my life, and when the parade came to its end point at Mustangs Walk, I was still stuck in fete mode. Nevertheless, I am ecstatic that I got to be a part of this culturally rich and diverse festival, even though I am now suffering from post-Caribfest depression. I can be at ease knowing that I was there for more than to act as the life of the party — I was there to party as a service to life. For me, to experience Caribfest is to experience the ultimate expression of freedom and a source of rejuvenation. It’s the perfect antidote for everything I am subjected to on a daily basis and the cure to my sometimes overbearing nostalgia. As I close the curtains on this year’s festivities, I look forward to what next year will bring.

Until next time Caribfest.

Judelle Tyson is a mass communication sophomore.