Going down the Jab Jab Road

Although very little seems to matter to us when it comes to our continuous quest for leisure and entertainment, at some point the Black and Caribbean community have to take stock of our place in this society.
A good enough point might be the recent Carifiesta celebrations staged on the streets of downtown Montreal on Saturday, July 2.
It has been 43 years or so that we have been at it. These days it’s just a shadow of its once spectacular self: the magnificent costumes are few and far between and the once glorious street festival is now not more than a drive-by mish-mash of an event.
Truth is, it has been in this depleted state for quite a number of years, but because it has also become irrelevant to many in the community, no one really cares.
But as we have been seeing, over the past two years things have been going from bad to worse.
Not only has it deteriorated in color, spectacle and grandness now the entire thing is becoming somewhat of a problem, and if it continues along that path, it’s not inconceivable that the powers-that-be at City Hall will put a stop to it.
The problem became obvious last year. There I was jamming in the rhythm section of the steelband and smelling what seems to be gasoline. Thinking that the scent was coming from the generators on the truck, I paid it little attention.
Only later, my friend Gully called angry too bad talking about the Jab Jab masqueraders using water guns to shoot kerosene in the air.
“Kerosene?” I asked.
“Man, I tell you kerosene.” He assured, “I’ve never seen anything like that in all my life. Someone has to deal with that.”
Sadly, no one did.
So this year the Jab Jabs were back at it with their oils and mud and kerosene and counter-culture attitude.
In fact, it was a Carifiesta dominated by Jab Jab, who numbered in the hundreds in two or three of the bands. There they were, energetic and plentiful, marauding the downtown streets, delighted for the opportunity to play “a dirty mas” and making a spectacle of themselves.
All good. Because in the carnival culture that’s what Jab Jab represents: defiance and rebelliousness.
That concept has traction at home, wherever that may be: St. Vincent, Grenada or Trinidad and Tobago, but not Montreal.
Thing is, Jab Jabs see St. Catherine Street as ‘the road’ and ‘the road make to walk on carnival day’, but in reality St. Catherine Street is the hub of commercial activities in one of the major metropolitan centres of the world.
It’s sometimes hard for us in what is quickly becoming a jab jab community to understand that. So we think it’s OK to ‘oil up’ the place. And because we’re drinking a lot of liquor (alcohol) and need to pee often, we can use the bathrooms of downtown stores, messing them up with grease, tar and mud.
I’ve seen the look on the face of one high-ranking police officer as he tried to wipe the Black grease off his arms following an interaction with some of the Jab Jabs. I know how testy those managers at those high-end downtown stores can be when they see Blacks, imagine how they are when they see Black people covered with grease and mud. Also, I know how difficult it is to remove the oil from the pavement after all the reveling is done.
I don’t know who are the people at the Caribbean Cultural Festivities Association (CCFA), the organizing committee of Carifiesta, but I know that what you are doing with the festival is a bad representation of our community.
Somebody there has to know better. Somebody has to have it in him or her and start working to wrestle the thing away from these dysfunctional wanna-be leaders.
Either that, or the pappy-show continues until the white guy says he has had enough.

Egbert Gaye