Today we write with a heavy heart about what has come to be known as the Toronto Carnival. As mas’ aficionados look forward with great anticipation to the 50th anniversary of the festival next summer, the scenario now being played out by some aspirants for leadership in the running of the extravaganza is not a pretty one.
Confusion reigns within what might be described as the carnival fraternity as emails and petitions fly through cyberspace to land among interested parties who are now not sure who will run the festival. – or indeed. who should run it.
Will the Festival Management Committee (FMC) continue to run the Carnival as it has been doing for the last ten years? And what about the Caribana Arts Group (CAG) whose leadership has remained mum so far about its plans for the 50th anniversary celebrations? Will the CAG join with the FMC, as some has suggested ?
With less than a year before Toronto Carnival 2017 hits the road, there continues to be a great deal of uncertainty about which way the festival is heading. This does not augur well for a cultural event which appeared to have had a great future and which was described as the largest festival of its kind in North America.
Clearly, the current management of the festival leaves much to be desired. The festival was modelled after the Trinidad carnival but has lost its way and the spirit of mas’ as a people’s event which existed in the days of Caribana is fast disappearing. What is clearly needed is someone skilled in the carnival arts with management ability who can revive the wilting spirit of the festival and return it to its pristine glory.
There is, of course, the cynical view that the Toronto carnival is nothing more than an annual “jump up” that puts money in the pockets of various businesses in the city. As for the costumed revellers themselves, many of them have no interest whatsoever in who’s running the festival. Just put on the mas’ and they will jump.
It is clear that over the many years that the Toronto carnival has been in existence, the band leaders, without whom there would be no carnival, has shown no ability or serious interest in running the festival. Bending wire? Yes. Running the festival? Nah.
So what we are now noticing are some “carnival politicians” who, like crabs in a barrel, see an opportunity to promote themselves as community leaders and eventually take over from an elected body whose legitimate aims are to reclaim community ownership of the festival. Some of these aspirants to ” carnival power” to which we are referring, have no qualms about ” playing the race card” to try and achieve their objectives. In their cyber messages, they claim that the carnival is a Black or African event and make insulting remarks about some of the people who are quietly working towards the goal of community ownership of the festival but are not Black.
Some of these aspirants to “carnival power” express fears of losing their legacy.
What legacy? A legacy of confusion? A legacy of black-on-black battles within the old Caribbean Cultural Committee (CCC) which ran Caribana? A legacy of lack of accountability?
In the early days of the CCC there was talk about Caribana having its own cultural centre and about scholarships which the organization would provide to young people in the community. Wonderful ideas. What happened? No cultural centre and no scholarships under the ” leadership” of the CCC. In fact the organization often had problems paying its bills. Ask the carnival bandleaders about the money problems in the organization.
It comes as no surprise, therefore, that running of the festival is no longer in the hands of what was known as the CCC.
Looking forward, we can only hope that well-intentioned people in the Caribbean community, regardless of skin colour, will work together to rescue the festival and make it an event of which we can all be proud once more.
To achieve this calls for proper management which is lacking at the festival.