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Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Just who does Caribana belong to?

You might notice I have been a little quiet since the last band launch. I’m finding it hard to sit down and write something. There is lots going on, but I’ve been in a kinda sour mood and I couldn’t put my finger on it, but I think I figured it out. I’m kinda upset that the TMBA, CAG, OCAP and OSA (mostly the first two) can’t come together and work this mess out without involving the courts.... no wonder the city had to mandate a management committee.
The thing that’s really bugging me is that if you google “Caribana news” all you are seeing on the first page is negative press about how the stakeholders in our community can’t work stuff out among themselves and need to get external arbitration to get anything done.
You know, this is back to the early 2000’s again, before the advent of social media and the only news you saw in mainstream media was about violence or some financial scandal. This is embarrassing. The only thing that the majority of Torontonians know about Caribana is what they read in the papers. We have to do better than this.
I think the former CCC has to be given the credit they deserve for administering the festival for almost 40 years. I used the word administer as opposed to build, because I don’t believe the CCC is the only group than needs to be credited with building the festival. The CCC, bandleaders, calypsonians, steel band members, countless volunteers (in mas camps, in administration, in panyards and everywhere else), the food vendors, party promoters, masqueraders, who are often ignored as stakeholders (if you ever wondered which single group kicks in the most money towards the parade, it’s the masqueraders.) Plus anyone who has attended and supported any Caribana event over the years.  These are all the people who built the festival. It is not the sole property of any of these groups. No one group owns this thing, it is owned by all of us.
Although it belongs to us all, we can’t all steer the ship. And the CCC shouldered the responsibility to steer the ship for 38 years and they must be respected for that.
The new CAG has to continue to embrace change and realize that other groups who built the festival now have a seat at the management table, and they must all pull in one direction to help the festival grow.  It’s time to build bridges, not burn them. 
Men throwing out rhetoric like the city has taken over the festival, but,  It’s the same foot soldiers who do the heavy lifting who are actually running the show and they have been around often for 20 or 30 years. These people have been working hard all these years and are still there working hard, so what’s the problem?  It’s not like the FMC is some foreign group that has swept in and taken over, its the same faces who been here from ever since. Who is it that you don’t recognize?
Another set of you all complain about Scotiabank’s relationship with the festival. They think that we have sold Caribana to them. They are the title sponsor... they put up more money than any other private company, so they get the rights to splash their name all over everything.  Sure, they get lots of publicity and goodwill from the deal, but I would say that the festival has gotten a great deal more out of the arrangement.
Scotiabank came forward as a sponsor at a time when companies weren’t exactly beating a path to Caribana’s door.  They came in at a time when the only press we were getting was negative, usually focusing on funding, lack of accountability and violence. Did Scotia get a bargain on their first contract? ...probably so. But, what did they bring to the table?
They brought credibility. Other companies realize that if Scotia is willing to associate their name with the festival, then they can’t be that bad. Has anyone noticed the new list of corporate sponsors on the festival website now?  It wasn’t always like that.
They also brought in accountability. There is a big difference between applying for yearly government funding and making a call with a corporate sponsor to discuss next year’s advertising budget.
 And the TMBA can’t get off so easy from my rant. The next thing that is bugging me is that
they won’t announce the order of the bands. I know why they are doing this and I bitch about the crowd control issues in every other post, but I don’t care.  I know that if the city would give us more police, that it would be a lot better, or if the city would let us spread the parade out in the downtown core so the crowd would be more dispersed, it would be a lot better, and none of these things are within the control of the TMBA. But I am a masquerader and there are somewhere around 8 or 9 thousand of us and we kick in about $200 each, so being really conservative, we bring at least $2 million to the table for the privilege of being the showcase of the festival. I don’t think that this decision makes me feel respected as a contributor.
Who exactly benefits from delaying this announcement for another month? The two biggest bands have their core supporters and will hit their 2,000 members regardless where they are in the order of bands. They approached these numbers within 2 weeks of their launches. Our third biggest band will easily surpass 1,000. And the medium sized bands also have their loyal supporters that they count on every year. I think there is a pretty small group of undecided masqueraders who base their decision on band position... it’s not a very popular viewpoint.
 Whoever was pushing for this new policy, are you seeing the ranks of your band swell past previous years? Is the distribution now spread evenly among all bands?  I might be in the minority, but why are you pissing me off? Picture this, if I am a masquerader who wants to go down the road in one of the top 3 positions, and I feel strong enough that I’m willing to wait until mid July to hear the announcement, then they aren't a mas fanatic. If you make them wait until mid July to try and find a costume, there is a strong chance that they won’t find something they really like and they will just skip playing altogether.
I don’t fall into that category, we already picked a band to play with, but I know people who usually play and who haven’t registered yet and believe me, they are on the fence about playing, and once you lose them, they might be gone for good.
I have no fear everything is going to work out, and we planning to make the trek down to DC for their carnival so I'll be in a better mood soon.


Lisa said...

I wholeheartedly agree with your rant Trini. It's so sad to see our community air our dirty laundry in public. No one is disputing that the CCC helped build the festival and make it a world-wide name. But there needs to accountability. You can't take sponsorship money and have no way of showing where it was spent. It's like me using my company credit card to buy a bunch of stuff and not having receipts to show the Accounting department...that's grounds for quick termination.
And I get fed-up of people grousing about how Scotiabank "take over de ting." Guess what? Scotiabank brought credibility to the festival at a time when potential sponsors were watching the festival with squinted eyes because they didn't think it was of any value. And once Scotiabank took over, events actually started on time instead of West Indian time...how refreshing!
Yes, CCC started Caribana, and they handled it to the best of their ability. But they almost drove it into the ground. It was time for a change. No one entity "owns" Caribana. It's RUN by Scotiabank and sponsors, but we the masqueraders also have a stake in the festival so give us our due respect...like proper flippin' security on de road! So sick of stormers it's not even funny...sorry, I digress.
No matter what it's renamed, it will forever be known as Caribana...just like Scarborough is still Scarborough although it's actually part of the City of Toronto. Let's just have a wonderful summer and enjoy OUR Caribana..Toronto Caribbean Festival...Scotiabank Caribbean Carnival Toronto...whatever...

Partyanimal said...

Interesting... I agree with most points, some things i was totally unaware of. What band/section did you guys decide to play in?

Trini-in-Toronto said...

Party animal, its tradition, the section post comes after costume pickup

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