By ARNOLD A. AUGUSTE, Publisher/Senior Editor
The Scotiabank Toronto Caribbean Carnival is NOT 46 years old.
During the past few weeks, most media outlets (including, unfortunately, some in our community) referred to the carnival under its new leadership and new name as the 46th Scotiabank Toronto Caribbean Carnival.
This is not so.
For one thing, the name Scotiabank Toronto Caribbean Carnival was adopted by the Festival Management Committee (FMC), the folks now running the festival, about three years ago after the founders and owners of Caribana, the Caribbean Cultural Committee (now known as the Caribana Arts Group) won a court injunction against the use of the name Caribana by the FMC.
However, while the name is three years old, the involvement of Scotiabank as a sponsor began about seven years ago when the City of Toronto, through its liaison to the festival, Councillor Joe Mihevc, pulled the CCC funding and set up the FMC to run the carnival.
So, to say that the carnival, under the name associated with Scotiabank is 46 years old is, to put it mildly, not true.
What made it worse, though, are quotes in two community publications in which the CEO of the FMC, Denise Herrera-Jackson, expresses her thanks to the festival’s “title sponsor, Scotiabank, whose sponsorship of the festival began with its genesis in 1967 and continues almost 50 years later”.
I wish that were true. If it was, a lot of people in our community would not have had to put so much of their own money into this festival to keep it going for so long. I know for a fact that there were people who took out second mortgages on their homes to help keep the festival afloat. I have seen the credit card receipts of people who ran up their credit to help out. We here at Share have helped out from time to time, including helping to pay salaries, as have so many others.
Had the bank been involved all this time, things would have been so much easier for so many folks.
What’s so hard about giving credit where it is due, to the people who founded this festival and kept it alive for so long? If it weren’t for them, there would not have been this very successful carnival injecting hundreds of millions of dollars into the local economy each year. Why take that little credit away from them? Were it not for them, there would be no carnival for the city to take over, no carnival for Scotiabank to now sponsor and gain millions of dollars in free publicity and no festival jobs for these folks who now want to dismiss the past.
I spoke to Herrera-Jackson and she seemed genuinely puzzled by this. Either she was given incorrect information or she mis-heard the information she was given, but this incorrect information is now on the public record. How sad!
I also have to wonder how it is that the two publications which ran the information from her didn’t pick up on the inaccuracy and question it.
By the way, I don’t blame Scotiabank for any of this. I am sure they are not the ones misrepresenting their involvement in the carnival. In fact, they must themselves be embarrassed about it. People of integrity would not want their names attached to a falsehood.
One of the problems here is that the folks now running the carnival don’t have the knowledge and the history of this festival. They were hired to run the carnival as a business. That is why we see all these changes being made to enclose it and take it away from the streets.
Carnival was never meant to be a business. It is a celebration. It is a street dance, commemorating the emancipation from slavery when the freed slaves poured out into the streets to celebrate their freedom. You change that and you change the nature of the festival. You change the historic reality of the carnival.
It is not that those running the festival shouldn’t care about its financial aspect. That is how we lost it in the first place. That is why the city was able to just take it away.
But we need to be honest in our remembering and humble in our honouring of those who made this festival a reality.
Give credit where it is due!