A man dressed as the "Bat King" walks down the street as he takes part in J'Ouvert, ahead of the annual West Indian-American Carnival Day Parade in Brooklyn, New York, Sept. 5.
J'Ouvert, pronounced Joo Vay, is a West-Indian celebration that begins a few hours before dawn, celebrating the coming day. It is a tradition kicks off Carnival celebrations and dates back to slavery, when black people were prohibited from celebrating and participating in the French masquerade balls. African slaves in nations across the Caribbean have adopted the masked parties and infused it with their own folklore and traditions.
According to archives at the Brooklyn Public Library "preparations for Carnival begin months in advance. Masqueraders may be committed to a particular club or band, which selects a designer who provides drawings and a concept for the entire display. Each camp will produce numerous, sometimes hundreds of costumes embodying the camp concept. The king and queen costumes are the most elaborate, while those for the ancillary characters are less complex."
Spectators watch the festivities from the sidelines. Despite the violence that has peppered J'Ouvert and the parade over the years, the event remains a mostly celebratory family event.