Joe Budden recently came under fire for implying that Carnival just about being a “ho.” This self-hate, ignorance, and sexism happens when we don’t know the true history of our people’s cultural traditions. So what is Carnival really about?
Originally an African pagan celebration, Carnival was appropriated by Europeans, connected with Catholic celebrations around Holy Week, and turned into high-society masquerade balls.
When Europeans kidnapped and took enslaved Black people to the Caribbean and the Americas, they continued these Holy Week celebrations.
Once free, former slaves transformed Carnival into a celebration of the end of slavery, mixing a parody of those high-society celebrations with the cultural traditions we’d been able to keep hold of from the homeland, as well as a celebration of our own bodies, music, food, and culture that slavery had tried to keep down!
European religious leaders criticized Carnival celebrations as pagan, savage, sexually depraved activities. But we don’t care about their moralizing! Wearing colorful, fancy, sexy outfits is a way to celebrate our Blackness by showing our Black skin and refusing to conform to white beauty or modesty standards.
Carnival is a celebration of freedom! Wearing a Carnival costume, dancing, and enjoying a feast are all a message to the oppressor - you can no longer control our bodies or tell us what to do with them!