By Antoine Hunter

September 1, 2017, PUBLISHED BY IN DANCE
SF Carnaval King and Queen
SF Carnaval King and Queen
Tiombe Valone and Antoine Hunter / photo by Robert Werner

It has been a blessing and honor to be King of the San Francisco Carnaval in 2017. I couldn’t help but to fall in love with the Bay Area all over again. I cannot thank my community enough for their support, love, wisdom, food, hug, laughter and dancing!

It’s not just dancing. It’s the celebration of life. It’s the celebration of our culture. It’s the celebration of our different traditions. It’s the celebration of color, it’s celebration of the growth for our children and ourselves, it’s the celebration for all those we lost and remember their name, it’s the celebration of every battle we’ve lost and won, it’s the celebration of our community.

No one is turned away or rejected. Tall, short, big, small, disabled, gay, straight, able bodied, weird and weirder. Hey, I’m Deaf.

While I’ve been a part of previous SF Carnaval celebrations I never thought I would be King one day. It’s an honor to be the first Deaf King of Carnaval. They didn’t vote for me just because I am Deaf. Last year I competed and won 4th place. Nevertheless I decided to try again and didn’t give up. I trained for a whole year to get ready to compete. I asked for great music from DJ Lamar, I practiced and I won first place. That’s proof that the community chose me because I believe in what I do.

Someone asked me what does the King of Carnaval do? Carnaval King/Queen duties include to act as ambassadors, perform at SF Giants Carnaval night, Carnaval VIP Party at Calle-11, meet and greet at Cha Cha Cha – Mission, dance at Bissop Baobap, promote Carnaval during an in camera interview with CBS, perform in stage shows and last represent Carnaval in the Grande Parade on our own float. However I must add, I do so much more than this. I represent my community and I outreach to find ways to support and highlight our cultural diversities.

Queen Tiombe [Valone] would like to add:

From preparing to compete and winning the crown, to fulfilling my duties as queen, to preparing to perform during and after the grand parade, my experience has been one I wouldn’t trade for the world, it’s been wonderful. The support of my family, friends and the community has held my heart and touched my soul.

 April 15, 2017 I was crowned Carnaval SF Queen. It has been a whirlwind. All the experiences I had were positive. Getting to know more people from the community, various comparsas and the staff and volunteers of Carnaval SF has truly been the highlight. There is nothing like walking onto the field at Pacbell Park to dance.

 The King is very handsome caring man. I love spending time with him.”

I have to admit that I forgot about the night life associated with Carnaval SF and these people party all night. The Grand Parade was spectacular. The streets were full of colorful people from all ages. Dancing, singing, over 100 comparsas in the parade and over 100 performances on stage. The music was Latin, Afro, Brazilian and more. Color everywhere, smiles everywhere, booty shaking everywhere! Me and Queen Tiombe will never forget this time. Next year will be the 40th Carnaval in San Francisco. As 39th King, my Queen and I invite you to come to the 40th Carnaval. If you plan to compete, you better work it and dance with your heart.

Thank you Oakland Carnaval for inviting me to be a part of your Carnaval by leading your parade and performing on stage as SF King Carnaval. To SF Carnaval for allowing me to be your King, and thank you all for the amazing love and dancing with me. Be safe and baile!

A Bay Area native, Mr. Antoine Hunter is an award-winning African-American Deaf producer, choreographer, film/theater actor, dancer, dance instructor, model, poet, speaker, mentor and Deaf advocate. Hunter received his training in dance and acting training at Skyline High School in Oakland, CA, California Institute of the Arts, and Paul Taylor Dance School in NYC. Hunter has performed with Savage Jazz Dance Company, Nuba Dance Theater, Alayo Dance Company, Robert Moses’ KIN, Man Dance, Sins Invalid, Amara Tabor-Smith, Kim Epifano, Push Dance Company, Flyaway Productions, Joanna Haigood, OET theater, and the Lorraine Hansberry Theater. Hunter is an active supporter of DeafHope, an organization whose mission is to end domestic and sexual violence in Deaf communities through empowerment, education, and services. He teaches dance and ASL in both Hearing and Deaf communities and is the founder and artistic director of Urban Jazz Dance Company and has been producing the Bay Area International Deaf Dance Festival since 2013. He was crowned San Francisco Carnaval King in 2017 and a valued esteemed keynote speaker for the VSA Intersections Conference 2017. realurbanjazzdance.com