By LENNOX FARRELL
Control has revenues. Ownership has expenses. However, does ownership guarantee control? Not in Caribana, it doesn’t. From its inception, when the CCC, now the CAG, created Caribana – in the same way the CCC later created the Jane Finch Children’s carnival – they have been arm-wrestled by some mas’ producers who, in order to be remunerated properly, believe that they must have control.
Fair is fair. There are years when winners had hell, real hell collecting prize monies. And owing people. There are also years when some took money to bring mas and brought boycott. And who frowns today on the questionable practice of bringing mas’ either ‘made in China’ or ‘imported from Trinidad’? Fair is fair.
Do mas’ bandleaders, or their spokesmen, also want ownership? And the expenses, legal and otherwise, of ownership? Because, almost every year someone or other sues Caribana. Interestingly, it has always been the CCC, and its board of directors who have had to face the courts, lawyers’ fees, and garnisheeing of incomes and possible threats against their homes … according to Ontario’s Act as it affects not-for-profit corporations.
And the TMBA, guided astutely by the City in 2006, is now a not for profit corporation, not a private for profit one as some incorrectly imply.
On one occasion, a truck rolled over someone’s foot and the CCC was the entity sued. Even though the truck had been contracted by a mas’ producer. Had the CCC intervened a priori, it would have been accused of interference. However, as they say in T&T, ‘when the mark bus’ it was the CCC on the hook. Not the mas’ bandleader.
This year, a young man was shot and killed. How and by whom is still officially unstated if not unclear. Were his family to launch a civil suit, against whom might ‘the mark bus’? The City who, after justifiably deciding against funding the CCC for qualified audits two years in a row, unjustifiably decided to act as if it is the City which owns the festival. In fact, the City went so far as to give the TMBA the authority to hire employees for the FMC. An arrangement that was later changed.
But the very idea that the City arbitrarily took it upon itself to take such action, says much of how they see ownership of the festival, and the City’s relationship with our community. In short, and put in crass sexist terms, the Community got the ring but the City got the man … or woman as the case might be.
So, if not the City, since by re-forming the TMBA they did a clever thing, ostensibly passing ‘ownership’ on, could it be the TMBA that would be sued? Or will it be they, plus all the other ‘stakeholders’ with whom the City now sits and deals for, after all, it would be too, too brazen for the City to have simply seized the festival without collaborators. But ownership there is somewhere and with someone. But with whom?
And let’s be clear why the City will not let Caribana’s festival die. The City, according to its 2011 budget, for every dollar received as taxes will pay out 90 cents. In recent years, to balance its books, it sold to Enbridge gas all the lamp posts in the city. Including those on your street. For $400-million dollars. The City that year had to have the equivalent of two Caribana incomes to balance its books.
So, who now owns the festival, the carnival, and to be sued if push comes to shove? Now, let me be clear. The death of this young man is tragic, very tragic. My spouse, Joan, and I know what it is to lose a son in his prime to illness. It is a pain no parent ever wants to have to bear. And our community’s condolences go out to the young man’s parents, his family and all others dear to him. If the accusations are true that he was carrying a weapon it is irresponsible and criminal and not to be condoned. If he is innocent it is hoped that his and his family’s name will be fully exonerated.
Also, the reality of possible lawsuits against the festival, some frivolous, some not, is no easy matter. As a former board member and Chair, I, as have many other directors, spent unpaid days in courts ensuring that the interests of the corporation, and of board members’ families and possessions, were protected.
However, arbitrarily seizing a peoples’ carnival and deciding who will be your dancing partners willy nilly is a damnable act. No other community will be – nor can be – so demeaned and be expected to accept this as if this is the way the world turns. Therefore, if the City and others want to play mas’ they can’t ‘fraid powder’. Yuh big enough to snatch it, yuh big enough to tote it!
This question of ‘ownership versus control’ is also at the heart of the probability of moving the Jane Finch Children’s carnival to the enclosure of Downsview Park. After all, if they can control the mas’ downtown, who is to stop them also controlling it up town? And to make more ‘caccahdah’.
Again, mas’ bandleaders, in addition to the other contributors of the Carnival Arts, for example the pannists, the calypsonians and others, have felt their contributions to be under-paid. They are correct. This is blatantly true. Everyone else, the hotels, fast food industries, the City, the Province, tow-trucks, everyone who can, makes money hand over fist from Caribana’s festival.
However, it is downright abusive and ungrateful to try, once again, to make the community subsidize this short-fall. Have a conscience! And at least a modicum of respect for Black people who, from Jane Finch to Chicago to New York and beyond, have been the most faithful supporters of this festival, and the only reason why it has not already been shut to hell down.
Does anyone think that this City, apart from some progressives, really wants Caribana here for any other reason than the money she brings? Consider the way every media protected the Scotiabank name and implicated Caribana’s after the shooting. On Caribana day, if a bike get a flat tire in Thunder Bay, bet yuh las’ buck it is a Caribana flat tire! But are these not the chances the powers that be can easily take with Black people and our contributions? And expect us to smile in appreciation?
If Queen Caribana was appreciated for her magnificent self, Gracious Majesty as she is, why have these authorities so far not honoured this billion dollar spectacle with even a one cent commemorative postage stamp? Even the Ontario Lottery Corporation went further, honouring Caribana in 1994 by naming a special lottery after her.
Will the city and the province recommend to the feds that even this be done for her fiftieth anniversary in 2017? Do those ‘jump up, jump up’ folk in the FMC have the guts, nuts and vision, incisive and broad gauged to make this a minimum demand?
Between now and then, if those who are likely planning to move this Children’s carnival from its open community roots to a paid enclosure succeed, not only should they be rewarded for having kicked the community full in the face, but the community should also be charged with the costs of providing them new boots.
Farrell is a retired educator and a former board member and chair of the Caribbean Cultural Committee, the owners of Caribana.