By LENNOX FARRELL
The Russian novelist, Tolstoy, in ‘How much land does a man need?’ wrote about a farmer named Pahom. Born very poor, Pahom developed an obsession with owning land. Eventually, the more he got, by fair means or foul, the less able was he to enjoy it, or to satisfy an insatiable greed driven by his former need.
Eventually, Pahom made a deal with some ‘stupid peasants’, the Bashkaris. For their best farmland, and paying them one thousand rubles, he’d obtain title to whatever land he could traverse that day. However, he had to return before nightfall to the spot where they awaited him, or lose his money.
At sun-up, Pahom began to walk. And walk. And walk. All morning. And all through the midday sun, no stopping, no eating, no drinking, no poopsing. Only walking, into the afternoon and evening, despite his feet bleeding, his heart pounding like a blacksmith’s hammer. And desperate, the sun pole-vaulting the horizon, he stumbled back to the spot where he’d left the Bashkaris.
Pahom got land, all right. The six feet in which the ‘stupid peasants’ laughingly buried his corpse.
While one can see some justification for Pahom’s fate, one still understands the need to escape the poverty that had driven him. Unfortunately, his obsession with himself, even to the detriment of others, ultimately drove him to disaster.
Is it possible that these two motivations, greed and need, are the heart-attack of chaos affecting all in our community associated with Queen Caribana? Her challenges, in my opinion, also form a matrix. Its lines are greed and need, its columns ownership and control. To the extent that the latter strengthen or weaken each other is also the extent to which there is clarity or chaos.
This matrix, a dance of blessings and demons, will be explored at another time. And especially with the recent shooting of the young man, will these issues clarify themselves in a court of law if his family launches a civil lawsuit.
To return to the issue of unmet needs and underfunding, one can also understand the unfairness of this to those who assist in producing these billion dollar festivities and have to settle for scraps. It is, however, even more unfair and destabilizing and disrespectful to force the Black community to subsidize this lack, again.
Are there wholesome options?
In considering the probability of moving the Jane Finch Children’s carnival out of the community, how much more useful and creative would it be if, instead of gutting it to make more money for a few, the Carnival Arts were brought more intimately into the community?
In other words, instead of cutting the Carnival Arts out of Jane Finch, bring Jane Finch even deeper into them; into tuning and playing more steel pan; into learning how to bend wire and turn papier mache into masquerade, etc? Who knows if it is from here that the next George Bailey will come, ensuring fewer ‘made in China’ and ‘imported from Trinidad’ costumes.
In fact, the Jane Finch community has previously been blessed with many of the leading pannists in Toronto providing services for free as teachers and community builders. And Jane Finch has given back galore, providing young pannists, male and female, for many, if not all of the steel orchestras in Toronto.
Russell Charter, a former mas’ bandleader and CCC board member spent endless late night hours assisting mas’ bands in Jane Finch. It is left now, only for the hosting of its first kaiso-jam!
Is this not what the Caribana founders in 1967 had in mind? That the carnival would be of service, first to community? Not that individuals who contribute would be impoverished by their efforts, oh, no. The founders expected, after they saw the carnival’s inherent possibilities, that the carnival would bless both individuals and organizations in our community.
An example of what is suggested and the way it could bless the community occurred recently. Share newspaper carried an article of a mas’ bandleader cited as doing something akin to this. When a former section leader told him she was going to create her own band, what did he do? Unselfishly turn around and give her the encouragement and support she needed … even to eventually compete against him.
It is in this spirit that the earliest expectations of the Caribana founders were intended. After 44 years, these expectations are still, as the poet, Langston Hughes, would put it, “a dream deferred”.
How did the 1994 CCC board try to assist in making these expectations become reality by creating these children’s carnivals, strengthening and building the Carnival Arts in communities like Jane-Finch? And what’s so ‘dangerous’ about that?
More than merely hoping, here’s working diligently towards returning the carnival to its rightful ownership, and beginning preparation for the 50th anniversary in 2017, thereby ensuring that our Caribana and its Carnival Arts do not also end up six feet under.
Farrell is a retired educator and a former board member and chair of the Caribbean Cultural Committee, the owners of Caribana.