At Witt’s End: A Stumpy Wagers Labor Day

West Indian Labor Day Parade
The J’Ouvert and West Indian Day Labor Day Parade in Brooklyn. File photo by Paul Martinka
Stephen Witt

“Nobody likes a parade better than a politician, and there isn’t a bigger parade in the city than this one,” I told political pundit Stumpy Wagers, while pulling out a reporter’s pad.

“Well you can do political watch dogging, but as for me I’m going to celebrate the labor part of the West Indian Labor Day Parade and just enjoy the festivities,” said Stumpy, taking a slug from a nutcracker he had bought from a passing vendor

We were sitting on a park bench on Eastern Parkway in Brooklyn waiting for the West Indian Labor Day Parade to begin and already things were getting underway. Food vendors were setting up tables with outdoor grills, while other vendors set up stands with costume jewelry and bandanas made of Haitian, Trinidadian and Jamaican flags.

Around the corner on Rogers Avenue, steel pan players rhythmically pounded out popular melodies, mixing with the Soca, Kompa and Reggae spilling from the speakers of passing cars.

“I bet Governor Kathy Hochul will show up. It’s an election year,” I said. “She’ll certainly be marching beside a float to show her solidarity with Caribbean culture.”

“If she really wanted to show solidarity she’d don one of those Trini feather costumes,” said Stumpy. “That would sure earn my vote.”

“And you can bet Mayor Adams will march along with State Attorney General Leticia James. No politician I’ve ever covered worked a parade better than Tish. And then you have all the Caribbean-American electeds from Brooklyn coming through. Yvette Clarke, Rodneys Bichotte Hermelyn, Mercedes Narcisse, Farah Louis, Rita Joseph, Chi Ossé, and Crystal Hudson just to name a few,” I said.

“They will show up all right, but if they really wanted to maximize their efforts they’d get arrested,” said Stumpy.

“What’s that supposed to mean?”

“Remember a couple years ago at the parade when then City Council Member Jumaane Williams got handcuffed with Kirsten Foy, who was working for the then Public Advocate Bill de Blasio. It got sorted out pretty quickly, but Williams and de Blasio rode that anti-police message all the way up the New York City government office chain to mayor and public advocate.”

“Well symbolism, just like sloganeering, is an important part of being an elected official,” I said.

“Enough already,” said Stumpy. “All year long I cover the government and its players. And before that I’ve always had a job. All my life, I’ve been toiling to keep up with the rent and bills. And it wasn’t always pounding out stories on my computer. I did my fair share of physical work as well. I bet in total I’ve done more labors than Hercules.”

Stumpy handed me a beer from a paper bag he had next to him. “Come on, man. Loosen up. It’s Labor Day.”

I put away my reporter’s pad, twisted the cap off and raised the bottle.

“Here’s to the working people of the world,” I said. “May you know your labor is not only appreciated, but it makes the world go round.”

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