Time for all to rally in support of Caribana

By Admin Thursday August 27 2015 in Opinion
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By Dr. MAURICE BYGRAVE

As one of the original founders of Caribana, my thoughts easily flow to what it was like then, what it is now, what will it look like in the future and finally how great a legacy will remain for future generations. To use a quote from Marcus Garvey: “A people without knowledge of their past history, origin and culture is like a tree without roots.”

Some people tell me they disagree with Mr. Arnold Auguste, publisher of Share newspaper, who for many years reported on several issues affecting Caribana. In my opinion he has been frank, critical about who is at fault and has offered constructive suggestions.

He is passionately concerned about the growth and development of our community and is always ready to speak up on issues such as education, policing, housing, employment, etc.

It’s about time that we stop skirting the issues and face reality, and accept responsibility for what’s happening to our community.

Some people say we wash our dirty linen in public too much. If only we could learn to bring issues to the table with respect for each other, resolve them, conclude with a common accord to go forward, there would be no dirty linen to be washed publicly. We cannot suppress or muzzle issues and expect them not to fester, coalesce and later erupt like a boil or abscess.

It’s common knowledge that the Caribbean Cultural Committee (CCC), since its inception in 1967, has been plagued with problems, both external and internal, which retarded its progress. However, it attracted international attention and contributed significantly to the economy of the city, province and country.

By 2006, the Festival Management Committee (FMC) was formed to continue the operation of the festival – with the support of the Toronto Mas Bands Association (TMBA), Ontario Steelpan Association (OSA), Organization of Calypso Performing Artists (OCPA) and some members of the CCC. According to an editorial in Share back then: “Things seem to be working out, there is an appearance of peace – not like it was with CCC.”

Masscapan, a coming together of the Mas bands, Calypsonians and Steel Pan groups was a good idea however it appears to not be working out. At present the relation between TMBA and FMC is strained. I suspect the relations among the other stakeholders are also strained but time will tell.

As good and optimistic as the goals of the founders of Caribana were, there can be nothing but failure it we continue on the same path we are on now (see article “Caribana Move Forward Together”, Toronto Star, May 26, 2006).

While it was the goal of the founders and early supporters to enhance the strength, vibrancy and value of our community and the Canadian mosaic, it is up to the community to demand a better performance from those responsible for presenting the best portrayal of our culture, be it the festival parade, art, music, poetry, dance, theatre, etc. This is not an easy task given limited and restricted resources or ambivalent attitudes from government sources towards the festival. I know some members of the community doubt the sincerity or ability of those in charge to work in the best interest of the community.

A friend who I respect told me years ago she has no confidence in Caribana, the CCC or FMC. She would rather invest in Luminato. Why? “It is better managed, the principals involved are more professional.” In anger I told her to compare Luminato to Caribana is grossly, painfully unfair. In 2006, it was ironically reported in the Star during the inauguration of Luminato that they were granted $3 million from the province and the city combined to support the start-up while Caribana got significantly less, approximately $800,000. By 2008 the province delivered as promised $15 million to Luminato to promote future growth adding to Toronto’s reputation as a world class cultural centre (see Ministry of Tourism, Major Festivals and Events, Attractions). How significant have been the contributions of Caribana over the past 40 years, soon to become 50 years?

One can believe, and I do believe, the findings of Ryerson University researchers, Gervan Fearon and Carlyle Farrell, on their analysis of Caribana’s impact on the economy and potential for the future, completed in 2009. The researchers state among their findings: “The Project (Caribana) provided good opportunity to give back to the community. Intuitively we knew the festival was big, but we didn’t realize just how big it actually is in terms of its contribution to the economy.”

According to Wikipedia’s List of Festivals in Canada, the Caribbean Carnival (formerly Caribana) is among the top nine festivals in attendance, however it is number one in economic impact ($470 million) followed by the Calgary Stampede as a distant second ($174.2 million).

As it did with Luminato, what could have been the fate of Caribana if the province in its wisdom and fairness gave it – after 2, 10, 20, or even 30 years – similar contributions to “promote future growth”.

Of course, with such a budget the city, province, or even the feds would be interested partners to provide the best management for success. Just imagine with the CCC as minor stakeholders enough revenues would be realized to provide for a community centre, add jobs, enhance education for our young people and the community at large.

Many of my friends call me a dreamer. Enough of our dreams, back to reality.

It is now August 2015 and I recently read Martin Knelman’s report in the Toronto Star on John Weisbrodt’s long goodbye from Luminato. It marks the fifth tweak of 2015 to the arts festival’s senior management team. Does Luminato’s survival strategy require changes? From reading between the lines “all is not well in Denmark”. It would appear that Luminato’s challenges may not be that much different than those of Caribana.

According to Knelman, “time will tell if Luminato can weather the climate of constant change”.

The year, 2017, will be 10 years for Luminato and 50 years for Caribana.

Caribana is deeply rooted in our subconscious mind. It was unselfishly created for the benefit of everybody. It deserves a better fate. It is about time for everyone to rally and support its continuation.

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