The CAG under the leadership of Henry ‘King Cosmos’ Gomez took a huge gamble staging this weekend past, the annual Kiddies Carnival in Jane Finch.
With so much in prestige and governance undermined by the city and its cohorts, the support CAG needed to retain any credible cultural traction was the community’s: the ultimate arbiter of political and cultural integrity. The CAG prevailed, mightily!
What occurred is that the neighbourhoods, community organizations and Elders of Jane Finch, in fulsome participation, regained communal ownership, emancipated the title sponsorship, thus unmasking the vast difference between masparade and masquerade; between authentic mas, and its counterfeit. ‘Mama, dis is mas!’
The authentic is local, communal, unfenced. The best seats were in the balconies of the residents. From their perch above and, as well, pedestrians on pavements alongside, or others in vehicles, waved encouragement, videotaped, beamed at the children costumed, and palanced to the heart throb of drums, steelpan and dudup under the joyous patronage of the ultimate pan man … Pat.
Getting into the joie de vivre were some of the biker police, wearing short pants—like Morvant constables, year-round. One did a balancing act, stationary on a back wheel. ‘Jus’ so!’
And bringing up the rear of masqueraders that stretched from traffic light to traffic light were the cleaners. In lime-green, reflective vests, banded from neck to waist with gray strips, in stark contrast to sky blue shirts and pants. All that was missing was some ole mas, diable molassie and moko jumbie. They’ll feature in 2013! ‘Hot, hot, hot!’
A children’s steelpan orchestra later played during the formal proceedings. Other performers on stage reflected artistry in dance forms from Africa and India. A small reggae singer, stage-named Fire, stood not much taller than the mike he clutched in both hands to belt out a piece.
With the great Marvin (Ishmael) as MC—now a post-graduate in Drama—flag-waving greetings were given by Dr. Vidya Tota-Maharaj, Consul-General of TnT. On stage, too, was Supt. David McLeod, 31 Division. And gracing the stage was one of the 1967 founders of Caribana, the unflappable Dr. Maurice Bygrave, flanked by politicians from all levels, and by community, Seneca and Yorkgate Mall’s reps.
Even snowcones—shave-ice or press as Courtney mused—were splendiferous, sporting the tri-coloured black, green and gold of Jamaica; baptized in Nestles condensed milk. ‘Ice in yuh ice!’
The local merchants had a field day. They made corn soup, big bucks an’ plenty merrie! Scholarships for community youth were announced. And the Africentric Secondary School, its September opening the first in Ontario, sought admissions. ‘Dan is de man in de van.’
Authenticity, for me, was most marked by the fact that the costumes were ‘Made in Jane Finch’. Not in Trinidad! And best of all, they were designed by parents and their children—most of whom were first-time playing mas—under the eagle-eyes of stalwarts like Amah Harris. Using material … from Dollarama! Approx. $20.00!
The real FMC, too, was on hand: the Female Mas Camp. The overwhelming presence of women—clad not in porno sequins, beads and skins—organized, stitched, comforted the youngsters and ordered the men in line.
They are the surest guarantee that Jane Finch will thrive. Parents, community organizations, schools and other service providers in other Black communities: Malvern, Regent Park etc., can also further enrich their youth in the carnival arts. It is, as my grandma would say, ‘a high day in Zion’.
Our communities, timed on succeeding weekends in July, must emancipate mas and its carnival arts to primarily serve the interests, not of corporate elites banking on cultural portfolios, but instead interests which are communal, creative and empowering.