Caribana always suffered from a lack of funding

By Admin Wednesday November 19 2014 in Opinion
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Dear Editor:

Re: Lennox Farrell on Caribana (November 13, 2014). I was the Deputy Chair of the Executive Committee of the Caribbean Centennial Committee that was formed in December 1966. Sam Cole was the Chairman. We met at what was then Centennial House, 152 Adelaide Street West, to plan the West Indian contribution to the celebration of the centennial of our adopted country. That committee morphed into the Caribbean Cultural Committee-Caribana, on the board of which Cole, myself, and several other people served. My service on the board continued, certainly to the end of the 1970s and likely even beyond. I leave it to the historians of the city to pass judgment on what Caribana contributed to the city, the province, and indeed to the country.


I share Mr. Farrell’s view that Caribana’s problem has always been under-capitalization. I believe the problem could have been substantially solved by a different attitude from all levels of government and the business community, all of whom benefitted substantially over the years from the voluntary contribution of all kinds of labour – some of it moderately-priced, others relatively high-priced – of West Indians.


Ethnicity, like religion and sex, has a strange way of generating irrationality. It was there for all to see that Caribana was bringing in significant sums of money into the city. It was also clear that the biggest of Caribana’s attractions – the Carnival – was a free good, but the governments and business seemed incapable of giving aid commensurate with the business being generated.


I once sent out hundreds of letters to businesses with a major Caribbean presence seeking help. We received one response – a donation of $500 from a major bank. When we approached the metro-chairman’s office because of concern about insolvency, the negative response was prompt.


In about 1969 or 1970 several directors – including myself (foolishly in retrospect) guaranteed a bank loan for interim financing. Even after my term as a director I was asked by businessmen D. Jolly and Dr. Akande, who were willing to help, to attend with them a joint meeting of provincial and city officials to raise money. When a government official suggested that we go to “our community” to find money to deal with the organization’s debt problem, I suggested that it was an appropriate time to leave.


In the circumstances that existed I found the attitude of the governments with respect to financial aid to be bizarre. The situation was not helped by police who were always seeking an excuse to not grant a permit for the parade although for at least a dozen years, inexplicably, there was zero violence associated with the parade. Sometimes I wondered whether the sentiment expressed by Toronto’s most popular jazz disc jockey of the 1970s about the parade, which he did not realize was being aired, was more widely felt than we thought.


The sad fact is that the establishment has always had great difficulty in contributing to the financing of activities controlled by “Black” people.


And as to this talk about “Black on Black”, the notion of “White on White” is just as absurd, but statistically more sustainable.


Romain Pitt


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