As the sun shone overhead and the streets vibrated with drum beats, brightly clad dancers made their way down Martin Luther King Boulevard in Roxbury, wearing feathered crowns, body glitter, and sparkling jewelry. But this year, the dancers in the city’s annual Caribbean Carnival parade were joined by another group: volunteers wearing T-shirts and holding signs in support of their favorite candidates in Boston’s mayoral race.
The parade, in its 40th run, celebrates the cultures of the Caribbean islands, and many participants wore flags from their native countries. But Saturday, it also offered an opportunity for mayoral hopefuls to meet voters, increase visibility, and show off some dance moves.
Boston police officers and State Police troopers maintained a heavy and highly visible presence. Several reports emerged throughout the day of shootings and stabbings in neighborhoods around the carnival, though it was not immediately clear if those were linked to the festivities.
Past carnivals have seen horrific violence, as in 1993, when seven people were shot and two were run over by a car. In recent years, police have used preemptive sweeps to round up suspected troublemakers and those with outstanding arrest warrants in advance of the carnival, largely preventing such incidents.
This year, however, there were no such preemptive actions before the festival, said police spokeswoman Cheryl Fiundaca.
“Basically, we worked with probation and some of the other agencies to ensure that we had a peaceful festival,” she said.
As of late Saturday night, police has arrested six people and issued 48 civil citations related to the festival, Fiundaca said.
On Saturday afternoon, Laniah Jackson, 18, readied herself to join in the procession, swaying her hips to the music. She was dressed as an African warrior princess, she said, with large gold hoop earrings, golden sandals, and a gold necklace. She had attended the carnival since childhood, but this was her first year marching.
“I’m so excited,” she said. “I love the atmosphere and the cultures of all the different islands.”
Nearby, Ymahri Brown, 18, wore a mermaid costume, complete with a blue-green bra, blue fishnet stockings, and body glitter, with a Trinidad and Tobago flag tied to the outfit. This was her 10th year marching in the parade, she said, and for her, it has always meant music, joy, and community.
Caribbean carnivals originated in Trinidad and Tobago, when West African slaves mimicked French costume balls and added their own twist, said Boston Carnival Village president Michael C. Smith . Now they happen all over the Caribbean, featuring masquerade costumes, Calypso music, and plenty of folklore.
“Carnivals have grown into a time to celebrate life, spirit, happiness, the whole nine yards,” he said. “They were born of slavery, but today they have moved beyond that.”
Many arrived at the Roxbury parade Saturday to march for mayoral candidates they support. Cecile de Jongh, first lady of the Virgin Islands, marched in support of Charlotte Golar Richie, a friend from her days campaigning for Barack Obama in 2007 and 2008.
“It was wonderful to witness all the support Charlotte is receiving, but it was also inspiring that it was such a beautiful day and everyone was out enjoying themselves with great music,” she said. “It felt like being at home.”
While marching, Golar Richie also saw City Councilor Tito Jackson and mayoral hopefuls Rob Consalvo, Felix Arroyo, and Martin Walsh, among others.
A particular highlight, she said, was dancing a “Caribbean jump-up” with state Senator Linda Dorcena Forry.
Mayoral candidate John Connolly rode in a duck boat decorated in blue and orange “Connolly for Mayor” signs. On Friday, the Caribbean American Political Action Committee, a community group focused on voter education and mobilization, endorsed Connolly, citing his advocacy for the city’s Caribbean-American community. Connolly has previously served as Honorary Grand Marshal of the parade.
Amid the politics, Gloria Lattimore, 56, stepped into the street, gyrating to the drums.
“I’ve come to this parade for 33 years,” she said.
“This year, there are a lot of politicians. But it’s always a party.”Nikita Lalwani can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Correction: Because of a reporting error, an earlier version of this story on the Caribbean Carnival parade gave an incorrect title for Linda Dorcena Forry. She is a state senator.