New leader, new hopes

Geraldine Stafford with the Caribana logo

For the cynics among Toronto’s mas’ aficionados, the reclaiming of the Caribbean carnival by the Caribana Arts Group (CAG) which has been discussed time and time again, has been dismissed as unrealistic – or just so much “ole talk.”

It will never happen, many mas’ makers say.

As one longtime  carnival bandleader put it, the Caribana organization “had a good thing and they blew it. End of  story.”

Yet a small dedicated group, including some Caribana pioneers, believe that  all is not lost and the CAG still has an important role to play in keeping the carnival alive and even possibly reclaiming it.

Members of that small group met last Saturday in a church basement in Toronto and elected a new chair and other officers.

Although our reporter was not allowed to cover the meeting, we learned from our usually reliable sources the results of the elections  which we have published in this issue of the paper. We have also  spoken to the new leader  of the CAG whom we interviewed  by telephone from her native Carriacou where she was participating in the local carnival.

We  are pleased to note that Geraldine Stafford, the new chair of the  CAG, is not camera shy and is not afraid to speak to the press.

Unfortunately, the former  leader,  seemed not to have understood the role of the community press and ran the CAG as his own secret society.

He did  not seem  to understand that  many people in our community, though not  members of  the CAG, would be interested in what his organization was doing or planned to do.

We wish him well but we cannot say that we are unhappy that he no longer  heads the CAG.

The new year brings new hopes for better relations between this newspaper and the CAG and we were  pleased  to talk  with the new leader about her  vision  of the organization  which she heads.

Clearly, Stafford  has big plans for the  CAG. She  made it quite clear    that  the “foremost mandate” of her organization was to “reclaim ownership of the festival.”

But she  recognizes the challenges ahead.

As she put it,” there are a lot of building  blocks to be put in place for us to get to where we have to be.”

And this will not happen overnight.

Stafford realizes that she has a lot of work to do  and is anxious to ” start the conversation”  to preserve the Caribbean musical art forms, to rejuvenate the carnival culture and  the “bona fide engagement of bandleaders and patrons.”

However, let  us  not  forget how the  Caribana organization lost control or “ownership” of  the carnival.

Financial mismanagement was a major factor.

And  Stafford is certainly be aware of this.

In  the interview  with this newspaper,  she stressed the importance of “accountability and responsibility to both the membership and stakeholders.”

Stafford seems to be on the  right track and under her leadership the GAC may at least begin to re-establish credibilty as a forward-thinking  community organization.