By Yolanda T. Marshall
August 1st is Emancipation Day – the day slavery was abolished in Canada and throughout the British Empire in 1834 for enslaved people of African descent. Many Caribbean nations and parts of the United States observe this day on various dates. Historically, Carnival celebrates freedom from oppression, power, and strength in the Caribbean countries and the diaspora. It is the time of year when people are encouraged to jump, wave, dance and “free up” themselves.
In Canada, we celebrate Carnival Day, often referred to as “Caribana”, around the first weekend of August. Emancipation is the essence of Carnival. Marcus Garvey’s words resonate best in this space and time– “we are going to emancipate ourselves from mental slavery, for though others may free the body, none but ourselves can free the mind.” Here are a few of my recommended books to energise and free-up your minds this week. Happy Carnival!
Emancipation Day: Celebrating Freedom in Canada
Written by Natasha L. Henry, an educator, a Canadian historian, the president of the Ontario Black History Society and a curriculum consultant specialising in learning materials on the African Diasporic experience.
“When the passage of the Abolition of Slavery Act, effective August 1, 1834, ushered in the end of slavery throughout the British Empire, people of African descent celebrated their newfound freedom. The social, cultural, political, and educational practices of Emancipation Day festivities across Canada are explored, emphasising Ontario, Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Quebec, and British Columbia.” – Dundurn Press, 2010.
Talking About Freedom: Celebrating Emancipation Day in Canada
Written by Natasha L. Henry, 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 activities.
“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.
Written by SM Robinson, an author, journalist, music instructor and communications specialist of the Toronto-based business, Kya Publishing. This novel is an invitation to wild times.
“Toronto’s former dancehall reggae princess, Delia Chinn-Wright, is lured back into a seductive party lifestyle when she meets Jessica and Victor, members of a hot soca dance group.” – Kya Publishing, 2014.
Blood Like Magic
Written by Liselle Sambury, a Trinidadian Canadian author raised in Toronto, Ontario. The depiction of the atmosphere surrounding our Canadian Caribbean Carnival in this YA novel will surely entice you deeper into the story. Voya must kill her first love before the Caribana carnival in Toronto, Canada.
“Voya is determined to save her family’s magic no matter the cost. The problem is that Voya has never been in love, so to succeed, she’ll first have to find the perfect guy—and fast.” – Margaret K. McElderry Books, 2021.
Chronicles of Coryn: Traditional Carnival Characters of Trinidad and Tobago
Written by Coryn Clarke and illustrated by Tiffany Nicholas. Coryn Clarke is a child prodigy from Trinidad and Tobago, the land that birthed Carnival. She is an early reader with many talents, and at just five years old, Coryn became an author. Coryn not only represents the children she writes for, but she is also one of the most brilliant young minds preserving our beautiful Caribbean culture in literature.
“This easy-to-read picture book teaches children about the awesome characters at the heart of Trinidad and Tobago Carnival and contributes to it being the awesome celebration it is.”- Caribbean Unicorn, 2021. Visit www.chroniclesofcoryn.com for more.
I want to pay homage to an old book. After learning of my “C is for Carnival” Canadian picture book, Nadia L. Hohn shared this one with me. Unfortunately, this book, published in 2000, has been out-of-print. I had to source and buy it for close to $50 from a used bookseller – it was worth it. There are many books about Carnival, but this one is special, and it is written by the Canadian-based, award-winning Trinidadian author Dirk McClean and illustrated by Ras Stone. The illustrations remind me of my carnivals in Caribbean nations, including an extensive glossary of Carnival history.
“Join us to jump up on J’ouvert morning! You are invited to Play Mas’ and enjoy a Caribbean Carnival. Whether taking part in Trinidad or Toronto, Barbados or Brooklyn, Carnival is a joyous chance to sing, dance, and celebrate life.” – Tundra Books, 2000.
May the younger generation of writers and readers continue to seek and create books celebrating our Caribbean Carnival. Free up yourselves and respect the Mas!