DC Caribbean Carnival

DC Caribbean Carnival

Date Observed: Last weekend in June
Location: Washington, D.C.

The DC Caribbean Carnival is an annual colorful, educational, and cultural event held in the nation's capital. Since 1993, it has showcased the diverse cultures of Caribbean immigrants who make their homes in the Washington metropolitan area.

Historical Background

Between 1980 and 2000, the Caribbean-born population in Washington, D.C., grew to more than 27,000. At least 7,000 islands, islets, reefs and cayes make up the geographical area known as the Caribbean, or West Indies. Twenty-five territories make up the West Indies, including sovereign states, overseas departments and dependencies (Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands are two of three U.S. dependencies; the third is Navassa Island). The countries and islands of the Caribbean are located south and east of Mexico and north and west of Venezuela in South America.

Most of the Caribbean came under European rule from the 15th to the 19th centuries. The Spanish, French, Dutch, and English each carved out portions of the islands for themselves, and some transported enslaved Africans to work on plantations. In 1804 Haiti was the first Caribbean nation to gain independence, and it is also the world's oldest black republic and the second oldest republic in the Western Hemisphere. Its path to freedom was begun by a slave rebellion, the Haitian Revolution, led by Toussaint Louverture (see also Haitian Flag Day). Many other Caribbean nations gained their freedom from European nations during the 19th century. However, some are still governed by them today.

Creation of the Festival

The first DC Caribbean Carnival was held in 1993. The not-for-profit organization that organized the event, DC Caribbean Carnival, Inc., sought to bring an authentic Caribbean-style parade to Washington, D.C. Additionally, organizers hoped to encourage cross-cultural awareness of the Caribbean to the Washington metro area in an entertaining way, educating both adults and youths about the arts, crafts, and culture of the Caribbean. In that first year, nine local bands participated in the parade and the event drew about 150,000 spectators.


The DC Caribbean Carnival is held over the last full weekend in June. The highlight of the festival takes place on the opening day: a five-hour-long Carnival Parade. ParticiTo view this image, please refer to the print version of this book. pation has increased to more than two dozen bands - steel bands, calypso, and soca, all culled locally - and about 5,000 masqueraders, whose colorful costumes are also mostly homemade. The route begins on Georgia Avenue from Missouri Avenue, N.W., and proceeds to Banneker Field, directly across from historic Howard University.

Banneker Field is the site where "De Savannah," the International Marketplace, is host to local and international artisans, live entertainers, food vendors, and others. The carnival now draws in excess of 300,000 people each year.

Contacts and Web Sites

DC Caribbean Carnival, Inc. 4809-A Georgia Ave., N.W., Ste. 112 Washington, DC 20011 202-726-2204; fax: 202-726-8221

Washington, D.C. Convention and Tourism Corporation 901 7th St., N.W., 4th Fl. Washington, DC 20001-3719 202-789-7000; fax: 202-789-7037

Further Reading

Carr, Robert T. Black Nationals in the New World: Reading the African-American and West Indian Experience. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2002. Haviser, Jay B., ed. African Sites: Archeology in the Caribbean. Princeton, NJ: Marcus Wiener Publishers, 1999.
African-American Holidays, Festivals, and Celebrations, 1st ed. © Omnigraphics, Inc. 2007

DC Caribbean Carnival

Last full weekend in June
Held annually in Washington, D.C., during the last weekend in June, the D.C. Caribbean Carnival is a colorful pageant celebrating the rich cultural life of the Caribbean region. The festival is organized by the nonprofit D.C. Caribbean Carnival, Inc., which conceived the event as a way to foster appreciation of Caribbean culture and to promote cross-cultural understanding.
Since beginning with nine bands in 1993, the carnival has nearly tripled in size, with groups representing every country in the Caribbean. The festival highlight is the opening-day parade that features more than two dozen calypso and steel drum bands accompanied by thousands of costumed masqueraders representing such themes as "Quest for Gold," "Party Time," and "Angels and Jumbies." The parade originates at the intersection of Georgia Avenue and Missouri Avenue N.W. and ends at Banneker Field, where the site has been transformed into "De Savannah," an international marketplace. Entertainment continues throughout the weekend, and craft and food vendors offer regional arts and cuisine. More than 300,000 people attend each year.
DC Caribbean Carnival, Inc.
4809A Georgia Ave. N.W., Ste. 112
Washington, D.C. 20011
202-726-2204; fax: 202-726-8221
Washington, D.C., Convention and Tourism Corporation
901 7th St. N.W., 4th Fl.
Washington, DC 20001-3719
202-789-7000; fax: 202-789-7037
AAH-2007, p. 119
Holidays, Festivals, and Celebrations of the World Dictionary, Fourth Edition. © 2010 by Omnigraphics, Inc.
References in periodicals archive ?
DC Caribbean Carnival (June 26-27), colorful costumes, music, and regional food.