I am so pleased to see the response from members of our community with respect to the latest travesties that have been perpetrated by those who would try to steal what I refer to as the “Crown Jewel of the Black and Caribbean Community”, CARIBANA. I would like to commend Mr. Arnold Auguste, Publisher & Editor of Share Newspaper for keeping the dialogue going, which has inspired other community members to jump in and voice their concerns. It is time that we come together as a community to preserve what is ours and demand respect and recognition for the sacrifices that our people have made over the past 43 years to bring this festival to where it is generating over $400 million each and every year.
We must come together in a show of solidarity to send a clear message to Councillor Joe Mihevc, the City, the province and the federal government that we will no longer be putting on a show so that they can reap the financial benefits. We must lobby the support of hotels, motels, restaurants, nightclubs, beverage companies, airlines, bus companies, train operators, cell phone operators, car and truck rental companies, taxi operators and all the other businesses that benefit from Caribana year after year.
Most of these businesses take it for granted that Caribana will always be there as the revenue generator that will help them to achieve their desired bottom line no matter what kind of year they are having. They look to Caribana to put them in the black even in a recession. Well, we must no longer hand this to them on a silver platter. They must be made to understand that unless they partner with us, they may look around one year and find that their “Cash Cow”, their “Goose that laid the golden egg” is no more.
Let’s not forget that even during the year of SARS when the World Health Organization warned people not to visit Toronto for fear of contracting SARS, Caribana was able to go on and attracted the same number of revelers as it had always done.
Nothing can stop Caribana, except the Black Community, and we must if that’s what it takes to let our voices be heard. If the Sri Lankans can shut down the Gardiner Expressway, then the Black Community can stop Caribana.
But that’s not what we want to do. We want Caribana to benefit our community. There is no other culture that has anything that is even remotely close to Caribana, yet the Chinese, the Jews, the Italians, the Greeks and others are all able to make generous contributions to their communities both here and back home and yet we cannot. I say enough is enough! Things must change! Better must Come!
We have heard commendations going out to Mr. Joe Halstead for “saving Caribana”, but for whom did he save Caribana? Certainly not the Black Community. We must realize that Mr. Halstead was hired by the government to head up the Festival Management Committee (FMC), an organization created by the government to protect their interests because, you see, the government could not afford not to have Caribana for even one year, and when they decided not to provide funds to the Caribbean Cultural Committee (CCC) now the Caribana Arts Group (CAG), they had to find a way to make it happen.
But, once those who now head up the FMC realized that the intention of the government was to “Thief Caribana” (to borrow a phrase used by Mr. Auguste in his piece in Share September 2 issue titled “Who Thief Caribana? People want to Know!”), then they should have backed away and come to the CAG and the community and warn them of what was going on and joined forces to take back the rightful ownership of Caribana. This is called loyalty.
We yet have to find out what the ulterior motives are behind those that continue to manage and work with the FMC but, whatever it is, it must be stopped. I say four years is more than enough time. The FMC must now join forces with the CAG and the Black community or be “kicked to the curb”.
There is just one last thing that I must say, and it’s probably the most important thing I have said in this letter. I haven’t heard much mention of the bandleaders in all of this. But yet we know that Caribana cannot go on without the bandleaders, along with the steel bands, the calypsonians and the loyal volunteers.
No CCC, CAG, FMC, government, Scotia Bank or any other sponsors can produce the festival. These are the people who have poured their blood, sweat and tears into this thing year after year. We must now show them the respect and recognition that they deserve. We must get their opinion and input. They must have a strong voice in all of this. So when we get together for this town hall meeting on Saturday, September 18 at Metro Hall (which by the way is long overdue), let us listen to what they have to say. I encourage you all to contact everyone in your email, Facebook, Twitter and your telephone lists (if that still exists) and let them know that they must attend this meeting. It is important for our youth and the next generation of Blacks in this great country.
Solidarity is power, and we need power now more than ever. We have a Black president in the United States and yet we still act as if we are powerless. Let us wake up and realize that we are “THE SALT OF THE EARTH”.