Junkanoo peril

Dear Editor,

Junkanoo almost seriously injured a child on Boxing Day. Here’s the story:

Around 8 p.m. on Christmas night, I went to pick up my five-year-old niece for our weekly sleepover night.

I was exhausted from Christmas preparations and celebrations and was hoping (fingers crossed) that she was too so that we could not go to the parade but sleep in.

Of course, when I arrived she was already in her Junkanoo dress. I quickly told her parents that we probably weren’t going to attend the parade and the darling child lost it.

She cried and asked auntie why because she had been waiting and waiting and waiting to go to Junkanoo. So what do I do? I relented — after all, I started this by taking her to her first Junkanoo parade when she was two years old and every year since.

Her 10-year-old brother now in tow as well, we went home to get a nap before heading to Bay Street.

I bundle up the kids around 3:30 a.m. and we head out to see the Bahamian ultimate expression of creativity.

I found a great parking spot and we quickly walked a few blocks. We found a nice space to view the groups just two blocks east of the square.

The kids were all excited and impatient because there was a lull in the parade.

About 10 minutes passed before anything came our way. It was a beautiful lead piece with “Crusaders” across the top and two giant flamingos on either side.

The guys were having a hard time moving the piece and made slow progress maybe 10 feet a time, so we watched as they moved it fitfully down the street.

They got about within 15 feet of our position when they lost control and the giant sculpture rolled towards us.

The neck of the flamingo snapped and the 10-foot head came crashing down towards the tiny child.

I quickly pulled the child out of the path of the disembodied head and took a direct hit on the top of my head. The Junkanooers asked for their piece and carried on.

No care or concern was expressed for us.

I had no time to feel for myself. I was stunned. I quickly scooped up my charge and started comforting her. The child was/is terrified.

Even though physically uninjured, she is now scared of Junkanoo.

We had only been at Junkanoo for like 10 minutes!

She wanted to go home — now!

Auntie wanted to mitigate any long-term trauma associated with the national parade and insisted that we stay a while longer and watched the other colorful cardboard costumes go by.

I reassured her that cardboard isn’t really scary and we could easily beat up a box. We practiced taking deep breaths and hugging each other tightly when the large pieces came by.

The choreographed dancers were the only distraction from her fear. It was a rough early morning — not fun at all.

I took the kids to breakfast and returned them to their still sleeping parents and trundled home.

Now I could feel the pain in my back and neck—the constriction in my chest preventing me from taking a deep breath.

It must just be just the stress of carrying a 30-pound child and a hit on the head from a giant bird head.

Apparently, the hit from the giant flamingo head on the top of my head has lead to a compression injury of my upper back-cervical spine. This is going to take weeks to resolve and heal.

My concern, though, is greater than just for myself.

What if this had happened to a visitor? What if the child had been hit? What if it had been a larger piece? What responsibility does the Junkanoo committee have? How do we prevent spectators from being injured?

I am sitting on the couch at 5 a.m. in pain writing to let the country know that things have to change and improve.

The logistics of Junkanoo must improve!

We HAVE to do better.

– Tina Johnson

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