Public meeting to demand return of Caribana

Dear Editor:

In 2006, the City of Toronto took control of the CARIBANATM Festival in order to allow the creators and owners to complete its restructuring process. The City’s control was supposed to be for ONE year but the City is still holding on to our festival after four years.

Our community must have it back.

The CARIBANA Festival was created in 1967 as a one-time event by Black and Caribbean people to celebrate Canada’s 100th anniversary as an independent sovereign nation.

Forty-three years later, we have made it into North America’s largest and most profitable summer festival. Its financial benefits to the City of Toronto, the province of Ontario and Canada as a whole far exceed the combined benefits of the CNE, the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) and the Gay Pride parade. With a cash infusion of more than $400M ($400,000,000.00) into the Canadian economy, according to a 2009 Ipsos Reid survey, our CARIBANA Festival has become a virtual “cash cow” to all but the Caribbean community. The transportation industry, the hospitality industry, the retail industry and their ancillary industries are all financial beneficiaries of our annual efforts. It is estimated that in its 43 years, CARIBANA has generated over $25B (25 billion dollars) for Canada.

This is the valuable intellectual property that the City of Toronto hijacked and unilaterally took over from the CARIBANATM ARTS GROUP (CAG), formerly the Caribbean Cultural Committee (CCC). The City’s act of theft of our unique culture is unprecedented and cannot be allowed to stand. If we accept the status quo, it would be a throw back to the bygone days when our labour sustained those who “owned” us. CARIBANA is ours and must continue to be just that – ours. The only way we can make sure of this is to rally as a unified and cohesive community to reclaim what is rightfully ours.

Although our CARIBANA Festival has become an integral part of Toronto, it is still a celebration of the Carnival Arts of the Caribbean. It is not a multicultural event any more than the Chinese “Dragon Boat” race or the “Taste of the Danforth” is. These are events that highlight, showcase and focus on the cultures of specific segments of our diverse community. If we allow others to label CARIBANA a “multicultural” event, we are in effect allowing them to diminish our ownership and make it easier for them to take permanent control of CARIBANA.

While some naysayers have conceded defeat by saying that the City of Toronto and Scotiabank own CARIBANA, there are those of us who say this cannot be so unless our community allows it. We have the power to stand up to those who want to steal the fruits of our efforts. We do not have to eat humble pie or go cap-in-hand to beg for pittance handouts from anyone.

Among the things we can do through CARIBANA is to create a more positive image for our Black and Caribbean youth. Through this great festival we can have a community centre of our own to implement after-school programs for our disadvantaged, marginalized, disenfranchised and disproportionately incarcerated youth. With a place of our own we can operate as a viable and responsible business entity, we can hone our cultural skills and display permanently the magnificence and beauty of our creativity. We can also provide recreational activities for the young and senior members of our community.

The CARIBANATM ARTS GROUP is therefore inviting members of the community, their organizations, family members and friends to a special meeting to discuss the business of regaining control of CARIBANA and the ramifications of so doing. We need a large turnout to this meeting to demonstrate to the City of Toronto that Caribbean people are committed to regaining full control of our festival and regaining our lost respect.

The meeting will be held on Saturday September 18, 2010 at Metro Hall, 55 John Street (John & King St. West), Toronto in Room 308 and it will commence at 1:00 PM sharp.

Raphael Francis                                                                                                   Treasurer                                                                                                                                                         CARIBANATM ARTS GROUP

Note: The name CARIBANATM and associated marks are Trade Marks owned and registered by CARIBANATM ARTS GROUP.

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