By RAPHAEL FRANCIS
A few weeks ago the headline in a local newspaper heralded the fact that the Festival Management Committee (FMC) received the paltry sum of $400,000 as a government grant to stage the 2011 CARIBANATM. Well “la di da” I thought but after yawning at the idea it occurred to me that the Caribbean community once again had been insulted and we somehow failed to realize the insult.
Regardless of who manages or sponsors it, CARIBANATM, North America’s largest annual summer extravaganza, is responsible for the infusion of more than $400,000,000 ($400-million) into the local economy each year. A grant of $400,000 is a mere 1/1000th or 0.1% of what the festival generates. Who but a mental invalid would think this is a good deal for the untold thousands of costume designers, artisans, fabricators, seamstresses, musicians, volunteers and revelers responsible for this event?
On the other hand, by contrast, the Ontario government has made a grant of $12-million (i.e. $12,000,000) to the Indian Film Awards (IFA) for bringing to North America for the first time their award ceremony which will be held in Toronto on June 25, 2011. In case you did not get the full impact, IFA which is coming to Toronto for the very, very, very first time has received 30 times more than CARIBANATM which has been here since 1967 during which time it has brought into the coffers of Toronto and Ontario a sum that exceeds $25,000,000,000 ($25-billion) Canadian dollars. What in hell is wrong with this picture?
It is my profound conviction that this glaring disparity in funding is due solely and entirely to a gross lack of respect and disdain for the Black Community. Why are we as Black people so willing and content to settle for so little? Is this the lingering result of the “legacy of colonialization” or is it mere “habitualization”? Have we not long gone past the stage when it was considered a treat to be given the scraps of food left on the master’s plate? I would like to think that we are more intelligent and are sophisticated enough to know when we have been given the shaft.
Granted, the South-East Asian population in the GTA over the last two or three decades has grown by leaps and bounds and therefore constitutes fertile ground for potential votes in the Fall 2011 provincial elections. But must it be made so obvious and at our expense?
We (the Caribbean Community) started CARIBANATM to celebrate and commemorate Canada’s 100th anniversary as an independent sovereign nation and some 44 years later we still go “cap in hand”, “tail between our legs” begging for money to stage an event that benefits everyone but us. Where is our Caribbean Canadian Cultural Centre (C4) or our Caribbean Exhibition Centre where we can display our incredibly intricate, imaginative, creative, complex and beautiful expressions of art or our music? And how about our Performing Arts Centre where we can showcase the many talented artistes from Africa and the Caribbean as well as our local musicians, dancers, singers and other artisans? How about a place of our own where our young, talented and educated descendants can go to hone their artistic and cultural skills?
We ought to stop being so damn complacent and become more assertive and aggressive. I don’t mean aggressive in the sense of shutting down University Ave. or the Gardner Expressway as others have successfully done. What we can shut down however, is CARIBANATM. And we don’t need a permit or a government grant to do it. All we need is a little cooperation between the ‘Mas Bandleaders, the Steelband players, the Calypsonians and members of the Black and Caribbean community. We can do it. Let us try it for one year and be assured that the first time those whose normal bank deposits after the long weekend in August see a drastic decline from what it used to be, they will certainly realize how much we are needed. That’s when they will come with “wheel barrows ” filled with cash begging, beseeching, cajoling and imploring us to keep the fête going. And wouldn’t it be nice to be in the driver’s seat for once? (This will also mean lots more money for the stakeholders such as the Bandleaders, for example.)
Ruminate on this one. Crazy as the idea might seem, it can work. We must realize that we have been taken for granted much too long and that has been aided and abetted by those amongst us who are suffering from a terminal case of “the delusion of inclusion”.
In the past, the masters used “promotion” from “field slave” to “house slave” in order to get us to conspire against each other. Today, however, they employ techniques of “token appointments”, limited memberships in exclusive clubs and meaningless job titles. Nuff said.