Toronto group to urge Black community to boycott Caribbean festival
Date: Tuesday, May 16 @ 13:36:38 UTC
Topic: Black Habits Articles
TORONTO, May 10: The March announcement by Toronto City Hall that they will be denying funding to the Caribbean Cultural Committee (CCC) – organizers of the Caribana festival for the past 38 years - has generated a great deal of controversy within Toronto’s Black community.
TORONTO, May 10: The March announcement by Toronto City Hall that they will be denying funding to the Caribbean Cultural Committee (CCC) – organizers of the Caribana festival for the past 38 years - has generated a great deal of controversy within Toronto’s Black community. While many concede that the city is within their right to deny funding this year (due to the CCC’s failure to produce a clean audit for 2005) members of the Black community are convinced that officials are using the situation as an opportunity to take over a festival that has become extremely lucrative for the local economy.
A major point of contention is the Festival Management Committee (FMC) that a recent press release states has been selected by the Toronto Mas Band Association (TMBA) “with help from the City” to manage the festival this year. While the TMBA was the group asked by City Hall to put in a bid to receive the grants to operate this year’s festival, they will only have 2 representatives on the Committee and will not be directly in control of the money.
Members of the Black community are outraged by the selection of other committee members, mainly Rod Seiling (President, Greater Toronto Hotel Association) and Glenn Grunwald (President & CEO, Toronto Board of Trade). Previous reports have indicated that the committee will also include representatives from the municipal and provincial government as well as the Toronto Police.
“These people represent the same business interests that reap a windfall of profits every summer, yet they have consistently refused to give the CCC a dime in sponsorship; not to mention the fact that they triple their prices during Caribana weekend to exploit our Brothers and Sisters that visit from abroad.” claims Nkem Anizor, President of the New BYTA (Black Youth Taking Action) – a watchdog group focussed on organizing a block of 10 000 young, Black voters.
“Caribana attracts well over 1 million visitors to Toronto every summer, generating over 1/2 billion dollars for the local economy. It’s a simple case of divide and conquer driven by greed and arrogance. The city and province provide $274 000 in funding (of which $193 000 is paid right back for city-based expenses), leaving the CCC with $81000 to run a ½ billion-dollar festival! That’s not funding; that’s modern-day slavery. So at the end of the day, you have two Black organizations fighting over crumbs in funding while everybody else makes millions.”
The New BYTA intends to launch a public awareness campaign focussed on galvanizing Black youth around the issue in the context of the upcoming Toronto municipal elections.
“Black youth have been under attack in this city. Poverty and self-hatred are driving them to murder one another in record numbers; yet the only response of government has been to award record police budgets and push for increased mandatory minimum sentencing.” charges Keisha-Monique Simpson, a local community activist. “The drop out/push out rate for Black youth is above 40%; four attempts have been made to cancel Black History Month; racial profiling by the Toronto Police is the order of the day and $81 million dollars has been allocated to build a super jail to lock them up.”
The group intends to rally the local and international Black community around the possibility of a boycott of any city-controlled festival that does not benefit the Black community.
“We’re not interested in another BET – Black faces out front, White control in the back.” explains Paul James, youth worker and owner of AKIESH Apparel Company. “We definitely intend to make sure that the international community is aware of what’s happening to Black youth in this city. Toronto’s reputation as a ‘multicultural’ defender of human rights is definitely on the line.”
The New BYTA also contends that the city has overstepped their bounds by denying the CCC the permits that they have received for years. They also argue that while changing the name of the festival to The Toronto Caribbean Carnival may shield the TMBA from trademark infringement, the CCC may still have grounds for a “passing off” claim (that could be used to seek an injunction to prevent the staging of a festival in place of Caribana).
They aim to use the possibility of having no festival (or a massive boycott) to pressure the City and business sector to compensate the Black community (for what they claim have been decades of exploitation) by contributing to an Economic Development Fund that will provide educational scholarships, program funding and business grants specifically for Black youth.
According to Anizor, “The Black community created this festival, yet everyone benefits from it but us. This is a golden opportunity for the CCC to stop selling out and fulfill its mission statement: ‘…to achieve Social Development, Economic Empowerment and Unity within the Black and Caribbean Canadian Communities through the Industrialization of the Caribbean Carnival Culture.’ The time is long overdue for the festival’s success to be translated into tangible political and economic benefits for the Black community. No justice! No jump up!”