With the goal of promoting Bahamian culture and a skill for creating head-turning costumes, Brandon LaFleur has officially launched the Atlanta Junkano Group.
Junkanoo, considered one of the most notable cultural expressions of The Bahamas, is a combination of color, art, music, and presentation. The small but growing group has already made several appearances in Georgia and will be participating at one of Atlanta’s Caribbean carnivals on Memorial Day weekend. To provide signature Bahamian styles and sounds, the group will have a choreographed dancers, pulsating drums beats, cowbell shakers and horns.
“Atlanta does have a thriving Caribbean population and within that, is a Bahamian population,” says LaFleur. “It just started off as something that I wanted to do to celebrate my culture as a Bahamian abroad and then word got out and we were invited to events, cookouts and even the Bahamian independence day celebrations hosted by the Bahamas Consulate Office in Atlanta. The Ministry of Tourism has also invited us to a few events and now, we are getting more invitations to other festivals, parades and events.”
With metro Atlanta being spread out over a few counties, several Bahamians travel over an hour to Junkanoo practice on weekends. LaFleur said it is an encouragement to have people make the effort to be a part of the group and non-Bahamians are invited to participate as well. Back in The Bahamas, Junkanoo parades are normally held weekends in summer and at special events, with massive early morning parades shutting down downtown Nassau on Boxing Day and New Year’s Day. Featured in several Hollywood films, the art of Junkanoo gives a glimpse into the heart of The Bahamas’ artistic pride. Origins of the parade are said to come from celebrations stemming from slave plantations in the archipelago. Caribbean connoisseurs are able to spot the difference between Carnival and Junkanaoo parades and many Bahamian tourists from Atlanta are looking forward to local performances.
“Our Atlanta Junkanoo Group Facebook page has been getting views and we do have a lot of phone call inquiries,” he said. “The group was recently booked at a birthday party, a press conference, a launch and we are planning to travel to a few other major events this summer, including a few out of state.”
For now, LaFleur gets a lot of support with Atlanta Junkanoo Group from his wife, Sabrina and core members of the group. He says it’s just a small project that he has done to keep himself connected to his culture but also to share the appreciation and love with others.
“I’m just a guy from Nassau, Bahamas who enjoys connecting to my roots and to share this amazing culture with the world,” he said. “There truly is nothing in the world quite like Junkanoo and I think as the group grows and we make more appearances, we will certainly be able to share our joy and passion with Atlanta, Georgia, and well beyond. Wherever you go in the world, you should never be ashamed of your roots and this is just one way of showing that we are proud of our heritage and ready to place it on a world stage, while at the same time, providing a way for Bahamians in the area to stay connected.”