Kuumba dead in the frozen water, but some acts coming this spring

By Stephen Weir

Esie Mensah

No official announcement has been issued by Harbourfront yet about the possible cancellation of their Kuumba Festival but the word on the street is that the annual event is on life support. Kuumba, Toronto’s keynote festival marking Black Futures Month (Black History Month), was scheduled to run from February 1-28.  Because of Covid, it has already postponed and cancelled all the advertised keynote live events.

In December the Caribbean Camera interviewed Kuumba organizers about the return of comedy, theatre, authors and dance. Before we could publish the story about the coming of live Black entertainment to Kuumba (in 2021 it was an on-line festival) the Province stepped in with Covid restrictions that have made it almost impossible for Kuumba to pull it off by next week!

 Just after New Years the government ordered the closure of all festivals, indoor concerts and live performances in Ontario. The lockdown was to slow down the highly contagious Omicron surge of Covid cases.

The clamp down came just as Harbourfront was completing plans for the KUUMBA. Scheduled to run from February 1-28, its start date is less than a week after the lifting of the “new” health rules.

KUUMBA is the largest and longest running Black Futures Month Festival. “Through music, dance, theatre, educational workshops and literary events, the festival aims to support and help strengthen Toronto’s Black community by connecting the future to its past,” reads a Harbourfront press release issued in December.

So what has been postponed or cancelled?

A Black Girl In Love (With Herself): Let your breakdown be your breakthrough. Caribbean Canadian Trey Anthony, an award-winning writer (‘da Kink In Her Hair), author, motivational speaker, and

Trixx

relationship/life coach, was booked to put on her Black Queen Comedy showcase for two nights (February 5–6). Anthony promised she would have audiences gasping and ts ts-ing in the aisles. Black Queen Comedy has been postponed until July 31 – August 1 at the Harbourfront Centre Theatre.  She has also had to postpone a reading and the Canadian launch of her new book Black Girl In Love (With Herself) during Kuumba.

Kuumba Comedy Night with Trixx & Friends Trixx, Correy Bell and Mike Paramore
 North America’s top black comedians were to hit the stage February 11th and 12th, for an evening of stand-up comedy performances. The event will now take place July 29–30.

Trey Anthony

Contemporary Dance Double Bill: Still…HERE…STAND + A Seat at the Table. Famed Canadian dancers Kevin A. Ormsby and Esie Mensah
 were to perform one night only (February 12) at the Fleck Theatre. Ormsby celebrates his 35th year in dance this year. At the core of his Still…HERE…STAND is an essential message: resilience exists in being Black. Mensah’s solo A Seat at the Table is an ode to the complexities and realities of the Black experience. 

There will be no do over for the two-dance performance evening. However, Esie Mensah is attempting to present her solo show later this year.  “If anything changes I will be posting it,” she told the Caribbean Camera.  She wants to do it in “conjunction with a community discussion. “The community needs the discussion.  We will see.”

There is still one skate left to drop.  There could be skating at Harbourfront during Black History Month. The rink beside Toronto Harbour has been expanded and updated its sound system.  The plan is to have evening skating with Reggae Soca DJs playing the tune.  The Camera awaits word on if the huge outdoor rinkathon will happen, so, as they say, Stay Tuned.