We were outside doing ‘we ting’

We were OUTSIDE!!!!

By Yolanda Marshall

Yolanda Marshall

Canada’s Caribbean Carnival exemplified a vibe of added freeness for 2022. Something in the air felt welcoming while the sweetest songs blasted loudly down Lakeshore Boulevard. The atmosphere was where masqueraders and on-lookers get easily lost amongst the colourful costumes and smiles. The dancing was wild; the DJs spun the biggest soca tunes, and people jumped, waved their flags, and screamed exuberantly. Sounds of steel pans and African drums sanctified the parade. The sun on our skin was the best vitamin. Water started slashing in the air, and out of nowhere, there was a wheelbarrow with two people dancing in it. Masqueraders wined down to the ground, and some were lifted off the ground into the air. Obviously, something in the air this year was missing in the previous two years.

On March 26th, 2020, I spent most of that day in Scarborough General Hospital after falling sick with Covid. It was a chaotic time for all; sadly, many lives were lost due to this virus. Fortunately for me, I recovered. During the pandemic, I made a list of all the things I will never take for granted again. I also made a list of all the things I now fear. I love Carnival and all that it represents. If you were to ask me in 2020 whether I would play mas again, I would have said no due to fear. For some of us, locking ourselves away was the only way to survive and alleviate the mental stress of the pandemic.

By 2021, many of my fears subsided thanks to the vaccine’s introduction. The parade was no longer on the list of things I now feared; it was shifted onto the list of things I will never take for granted again. I reflected on the history of Carnival, specifically the Canboulay Riot in Trinidad and Tobago, Port of Spain, in 1881. The British issued an attack on masqueraders who celebrated Carnival, causing the deaths of some. Although England attempted to suppress the Carnival celebration, the British did not win. This celebration of emancipation has experienced pauses and more tremendous sacrifices before. This is a carnival my ancestors fought for, and I was determined to revel in the freedom I felt – fully vaccinated.

Machel Montano sang, “baby, I’ve travelled through the stars and many moons to find you.” It was that moment I was found in a band wearing my ‘Mas Parade’ costume, as I dropped the fastest wine in the middle of the road with my friends. My well-fed body was brilliantly embellished with jewels, turquoise, blue and pink feathers – a flag in one hand and a bottle in the other. People were getting on bad; it was bacchanal time in Toronto, and it’s been two years without a Caribbean Carnival. We had no behaviour; we were outside doing ‘we ting‘. The essence of freedom, unity and love filled the Canadian air.