Carnival with a rainbow twist
By Alicia Sealey
The proud sound of the Caribbean will be heard as, for the first time in North America, the fourth-ever WorldPride is presented this week by Pride Toronto.
WorldPride will culminate with its usual, vibrant street parade on Sunday, June 29.
Returning to the parade will be seven-time Pride band-leader, Jamea Zuberi. She entered her band, Pelau Masqueerade, from 2002 – 2007, took a seven-year break to help grow Pride’s Blockorama along with other personal projects, and is now back on the road for 2014 and WorldPride.
Pride celebrations come out of its community’s struggle to live and be accepted openly. It includes several definitions: Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Trans-sexual, Inter-sex, 2-spirited, Queer, Questioning and Allies – or LGBTTI2SQQA.
When asked if she was doing anything special for WorldPride, Zuberi said, Absolutely! I played a role as the vice-president for WorldPride at one point and it really opened my mind to a global perspective and some of the challenges that happen on the world stage. It’s beyond the Caribbean. In India, there are a lot of struggles for a lot of young people and older people; Nigeria too.
“All over the Caribbean, many of us are not aware that being LGBT-identified is still illegal. On the books, it’s known as buggery; the same thing for many parts of Africa.”
“So it is very important that we make our presence known when the world is watching. We are gonna make a conscientious effort to emphasize the African, Black diasporic presence in the Caribbean, Africa and the diaspora.”
Trinidad-born, Zuberi has a deep love for her culture, including Carnival. Pelau Masqueerade allows her to keep the two connected.
“We people of colour – African people, Black people, Caribbean people, world people we cannot separate Caribana and Pride. We exist as a complex conglomerate, or simply there is intersectionality with us. So I cannot separate my gayness and say I’m gonna do this for Pride; then separate my Caribbean heritage and say I’m gonna do this for Caribana.”
“Basically, we are authentic Trinidadians and others because – there is no doubt – the carnival comes from Trinidad. No doubt, right?! So we are Trinidad-based in the great worlds that are going to celebrate by bringing out the essence of our culture and our cultural practices on the Pride parade. So basically, I call it Carnival with a rainbow twist.”
Pelau Masqueerade’s theme is UMOJA: United we rise. Check its website at www.masqueerade.com for costumes including T-shirts, Phagwah, Blue Devils, Body Art and Pretty Mas.
If you have a costume from another mas band and want to play in it again, for a modest fee, you can do that with Pelau Masqueerade in the “Pretty Mas” section, a sort of BYOC (bring your own costume). Her principal production team includes Natalie Wood, Christopher Pinheiro and Sonilda Teague.
Coy about who will DJ on the road, she says, “As we are representing the Caribbean diaspora, we will have Soca, Kaiso, Chutney, Reggae, Dancehall, Latino, African beats, Zouk, Cadasse – everything!”
I asked if she had any last words.
“Being identified as an LGBT person, educator and a teacher in the TBSD, I find that a direct gateway or a point to fight homophobia , especially when it comes to the African-Canadian, Black, Caribbean community is through the arts.”
The African, Black, Caribbean communities and its diasporas are traditionally hostile towards their LGBT sectors. Changing views are slow and/or non-existent. “I just want them to know that there are lots of us out there, that love and celebrate and are very happy in life. And we wish the same for them.”
If large parades are not your thing, check out STILL WE RISE: BLOCKORAMA 16. Developed by Pride Toronto’s Black community, this 16th-annual signature event takes place June 29 and features special guest, dance hall icon Crystal Waters. Check www.worldpridetoronto.com for concert details.