The uproar that followed the recent announcement by the City of Montreal to pull the funding of the 2023 edition of Carifiesta is an interesting one.
Cries of racism and discrimination against our beleaguered community by City managers resounded across the internet, some of it coming from individuals who professed that they haven’t been to the annual summertime parade for years but insist on voicing their concern for our right to showcase our so-called culture.
Who can blame them. In a city and province where systemic racism has been integral to the marginalization of our community, we’re forced into a constant state of defence in all of our dealings with institutions, public or private.
So, in the estimation of many, if the City decides to pull Carifiesta’s stipend of $35,000 for 2023, racism must figure in that decision. Especially when we looked at the rejection letter that didn’t say anything to soothe our suspicion.
Well, here is an uncomfortable truth: the real manifestation of racism would be if the City continued to hand out that pittance to the Caribbean Cultural Festivities Association (CCFA) the dysfunctional outfit that has the responsibility to stage the annual street parade.
In their hands the once-proud Carifiesta, which is supposed to be a spectacular showcase of the artistry of our masquerade, the captivating scintillations of our music and our penchant for dance and display has become a ‘pappy show.’
The parade, has its roots in the Trinidad and Tobago carnival and is still driven by the music and trends that come out of that festival, known to some as “the greatest show on earth.”
In Montreal it has taken on the flavor of all the other Caribbean islands, English, French and Spanish and should have morphed into an extravaganza of street theatre and bring a different flavor to the many festivals in this town.
But it has not been happening .
Not in the hands of individuals whose motivations are as questionable as their capacity to build or lead a cultural institution that is vitally important to our community and city, if only for its potential to bring together tens of thousands of Black and Caribbean people and their neighbours.
So year come, year go, the degrading of the parade continued: the masquerade bands that brought color and spectacle disappeared; no attempt to mobilize and involve the various island associations and groups, no volunteers, no participants….no nothing, just this motley group of organizers making our community shame.
Sadly, the Carifiesta parade has become unique for being the only potentially grand festival in North America unable to attract a major sponsor.
These days sponsors and marketers are ready to pelt money at any event where they can find thousands of young people gathering and celebrating. However, they scamper in the next direction when they see Carifiesta coming. How the CCFA achieved that feat is one for the annals of history.
For those who have been witnessing the stain (literally and figuratively), that Carifiesta has become on the downtown sector of the city, the question has always been why did the City continue to facilitate it.
It could be diminished expectations, or in other words, reverse racism. Or it could be that the city knows the potential of the parade (after all it was once one of the grandest outdoor festivals in Montreal and maybe across Canada) and expects our community to get its act together.
And we can.
Because even in the face of the exodus of many of our youth to the 416 and other cities across North America, we still have an army of smart, dynamic and creative young people capable of building institutions in our community.
Now more than ever, we need their daring.
They have to step up and free the community of the stain that the CCFA has become.