As the General Manager/Artistic Director of the Caribana Management Team, which produced this year’s CARIBANA™ Flags and Colours for CARIBANA™ Arts Group, I must commend you and Share for pointing out that the FMC has claimed or implied falsely that our Caribbean festival has had its current name for 46 years.
As you aptly noted, this false information was picked up and disseminated by various media – including two in our community – that quoted the current CEO of the FMC, Denise Herrera Jackson, thanking the bank as the festival’s “title sponsor, Scotiabank, whose sponsorship of the festival began with its genesis in 1967 and continues almost 50 years later”. The information was also put in the mouths of Toronto Police Chief, Bill Blair, several politicians and civic officials. Really???
Where has Ms. Herrera Jackson been for the past 15 to 20 years? And what has been her interest in our festival? Her erroneous statement not only reveals her ignorance and denies other sponsors their place in CARIBANA’s history; it also seems to justify a deeply-held feeling by many that FMC is not really in control of our festival and is only eager to please the City and the bank whose name it bears.
Over the last two to three years, Ms. Jackson also made statements about “weaning” CARIBANA™ off public funds. These are equally troubling, because they reveal a profound lack of understanding or appreciation of the role that public funding plays in the arts. Those statements are also ironic because they come from the “head” of an organization that could least afford to function effectively without adequate public funding. In all the years I have been involved in various aspects of the arts, I have not heard the heads of any of the mainstream arts organizations talk about “weaning” off public funds. If anything, they ask for increased funding. Luminato, the opera, the ballet, Stratford Festival, Shaw Festival, the ROM! Even though they have access to more mainstream sponsors with deep pockets, they corner their share – and possibly ours – of public funding.
One is now left to wonder whether her utterance made it easier for the federal government to “assist” in the weaning process by reducing its portion of the funding formula to less than $15,000.00 this year, an amount so ridiculously low and insulting to a community and festival that generates almost a half billion dollars in revenue over a three week period. Yet, its representative was given prominence and speaking time at this year’s launch!
One is also left to wonder whether the cutback in funding led, in whole or in part, to the scheme to enclose the parade in the CNE and demand that our community pay $20 or $30 to see it. An act of desperation, perhaps? Were the resentment and raised ire among festival goers worth it? Not from what I have gathered so far. It is now left to find out whether FMC has come out on the losing end by having to pay the CNE more than it took in. But given the organization’s lack of transparency and a desire to control the media, we may never find out if there is a deficit.
When I hear statements from representatives of the FMC, including its media arm, about how much better things are with the festival since the City appointed its agents to run it, I think of the above and other statements that have come from Ms. Herrera Jackson, her COO and media reps and wonder which, if any, community they are serving.
What I do agree on is that since they have been at the helm, the FMC, deliberately or not, has created a climate of fear that prevents anyone, except sycophants, from speaking out. Those who were defiant of CCC, the creators and true owners of the festival, and ran to the City with complaints, are now so tamed that they silently suffer indignities because “we getting we money”.
The people who now run the festival not only “do not know the history of the festival”. In their eagerness to show how much “better” they are managing, they have also killed its soul.
Our community may do well to wake up, realize what has happened/is happening, take appropriate action to restore its proper name and return the festival to its rightful owners.
At least, they will have a better grip on the history of the festival.
Henry Gomez B. A., B. Ed., M. F. A. OCT is the General Manager/Artistic Director of the Caribana Management Team.
By HENRY GOMEZ