By Yolanda T. Marshall
It is said, “well behave women seldom make history,” so some of us will continue to ‘get on bad’ on August 5th, 2023, with soca in our ears and our flags in the air as we chip down the road for Toronto’s Carnival. It is empowering to see women leading in influential positions within our Caribbean community, such as the Festival Management Committee which oversees our Carnival. This is a celebration of freedom from oppression, power, and strength in Caribbean nations and throughout the diaspora, for all. Here are a few traditionally published Carnival books written by award-winning, Canadian women, including myself. Free-up yuh-selves!
Carnival Is Woman: Feminism and Performance in Caribbean Mas
Edited by Dr Frances Henry, a member of the Royal Society of Canada specializing in Caribbean studies and a retired Professor Emerita at York University. Dwaine Plaza is a Caribbean studies professor of sociology at Oregon State University. This book includes contributions by Darrell Gerohn Baksh, Jan de Cosmo, Frances Henry, Jeff Henry, Adanna Kai Jones, Samantha Noel, Dwaine Plaza, Philip W. Scher, and Asha St. Bernard.
“Women are performing an ever-growing role in Caribbean Carnival. Through a feminist perspective, this volume examines the presence of women in contemporary Carnival by demonstrating not only their strength in numbers but also the ways in which women participate in the event. These essays address anthropological and historical facets of women and their practices in the Trinidad Carnival, including an analysis of how women’s costuming and performance have changed over time. Through an array of methods in qualitative research, including interviews, participant observation, and ethnography, this volume explains the new power of women in the evolution of Carnival mas’ in Trinidad amid the wider Caribbean diaspora.” – University Press of Mississippi, 2019.
Talking About Freedom: Celebrating Emancipation Day in Canada
Written by Natasha L. Henry-Dixon, a lecturer at York University, a PhD candidate in the Department of History and the author of “Emancipation Day: Celebrating Freedom in Canada.” This book is a must-have for anyone interested in learning about the history of our Canadian Carnival.
“On August 1, 1834, 800,000 enslaved Africans in the British colonies, including Canada, were declared free. The story of Emancipation Day, a little-known part of Canadian history, has never been accessible to the teen reader through either the school curriculum or classroom resources, despite its significance in the story of Canada. Talking About Freedom closes this gap by exploring both the background of the August 1 commemorations across Canada and the importance of these long-established annual celebrations. What is the connection between the Caribana festivities in Toronto and emancipation? Why are some communities restoring Emancipation Day to their roster of annual events?” – Natural Heritage, 2012.
Malaika, Carnival Queen
Nadia L. Hohn is an award-winning Canadian author and one of Canada’s most influential literary voices. Nadia is an educator who earned a Master of Fine Arts (MFA) degree in Creative Writing at the University of Guelph. Her picture books include the popular Malaika series – Malaika’s Costume, Malaika’s Winter Carnival, Malaika’s Surprise and the recently released Malaika, Carnival Queen. These books are exquisitely illustrated by the award-winning, Toronto-based artist, Irene Luxbacher. In Malaika, Carnival Queen, the young girl “learns about her father, who came to Canada as a migrant farm worker when she was just a baby and who shared her love of carnival. The farm workers tell Malaika that her daddy had always dreamed of celebrating carnival there, just like back home. Will Malaika agree to be their Carnival Queen for the harvest festival?” – Groundwood Books, May 2023.
C is for Carnival
Written by me, Yolanda T. Marshall and beautifully illustrated by Daria Lavorva. The UK and US editions of this book were released by the Canadian publisher this year.
“D is for dance! E is for emancipation! From A to Z, this is a rhyming alphabet book that celebrates Canada’s Caribbean Carnival. This engaging and educational book features a diverse cast of children in vibrant costumes as they “play mas” while dancing to Soca and Calypso music. A glossary at the end makes it easy for readers, including parents and teachers, to review what they have learned.” – Chalkboard Publishing, 2021.
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