"We live in Brooklyn, baby!"
Those of us who live here know, not think, that Brooklyn, U.S.A., is the center of the universe. Forget that one in six Americans can trace a relative to the Borough of Kings, or that if BK were to secede, it would instantly be a top five American metropolis. While demographers have stated that Queens is more diverse in terms of ethnic populations — a conclusion we still challenge — Brooklyn is home to the world. Manhattan is not over as much as it's played out.
Witness the steady stream of defections from that little island to our fair borough as the real estate boom endures and crime continues to plummet. There has been an explosion of cultural activity, entertainment and nightlife. Manhattan staples, such as The Knitting Factory, have relocated to Brooklyn, this one in Williamsburg, bringing a glut of live music. Then there is an entity such as Havana Outpost in the heart of Fort Greene. Part restaurant, part people-watching location extraordinaire, it's a full-time example of green, powered by solar panels, and operates from late spring to early fall.
As bartender-turned-posh-restaurant-manager Chris Massiah so eloquently put it: ''Brooklyn, where all the beautiful people live!'' If you visit in the summer, don't miss the Celebrate Brooklyn! Series, which takes place at the Prospect Park Bandshell. 0r the two free concert series produced at borough parks. This year, Aretha Franklin will finally make her borough debut on Aug. 9, at the Martin Luther King Jr. series at Wingate Park in East Flatbush, and then on Aug. 12 at the Seaside Summer Concert series at Asser Levy Park/Seaside Park in Coney Island. As Franklin recently rhetorically said in The New York Times: ''What's better than having a foot-long hot dog at Coney Island?"
Quick, what's the second-largest museum in New York City? The Brooklyn Museum. (Of course!) The museum, which has been embracing more communities in recent years, plays host to Target First Saturdays. On Aug. 7, from 5 p.m. to 11 p.m., it presents Konbit Haiti (Together for Haiti). There will be music and dance performances, discussions, art critiques, an important film (Poto Mitan: Haitian Women Pillars of the Global Economy) and a concluding dance party.
So it's a Friday night and you're wondering, ''Where can I go to dance?'' Head to Bembe in south Williamsburg. The multicultural sweatbox features deejays that play everything from samba to compas, and hard-driving live drumming complements the speaker-box rhythms. If you have personal-space issues, don't bother to show up. Then there is Langston's, a predominantly gay party that takes place on weekends on the border of Bedford-Stuyvesant and Crown Heights. The music is top notch, and the vibe a throwback to the late '70s and early '80s, when house music ruled.
But there are at least a dozen other restaurants, like No. 7 in Fort Greene, Fatty 'Cue in Williamsburg and Cheryl's Global Soul in Prospect Heights and Convivium Osteria in Park Slope, that are expanding the culinary limits and legacy of Brooklyn.
So you say you like to drink? Have a seat at Lady Jay's in Williamsburg or the classy speakeasy Weather Up in Prospect Heights or the Black Swan in Bedford-Stuyvesant or Sweet Revenge in Clinton Hill. And we haven't even begun to talk about the revival of neighborhoods such as Red Hook, aided by big retailers such as IKEA and Fairway, which have made it easy for eateries such as The Good Fork to thrive. We must mention the Red Hook Ball Fields, a string of food stands, where every type of Latin American and Caribbean foods from Ecuador, Guatemala and Colombia predominate. Try a pupusa.
Speaking of the Caribbean, the West Indian Day parade, which takes place on Labor Day, serves as the unofficial end of summer. Now in its 42nd year, the parade has seen its popularity soar, and you don't have to be a West Indian to participate. Though more regimented than in the past, with tightened security, it still exhibits the best in cultural entertainment the Caribbean has to offer. If you're not down for making a day of it, make a point of attending J'ouvert, the early-morning street rambling, which begins at 3 a.m. Just be careful that a Moko Jumbie doesn't grab you around your waist.
Nick Charles is a regular contributor to The Root. He lives in Brooklyn.