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Caribbean Celebrations, Ups and Downs

June 1, 2005 Commentary Archives

This year I decides to take a trip of the beaten path  of parade notables such as New York to revisit the town of Elizabeth, New Jersey where I worked back in the very late seventies. Right away I was reminded of the rise and fall of these annual celebration of Caribbean pride.

I arrived for the start of this parade at Elizabeth City Hall and discovered there was only going to be one float and about two dozen kids leading the parade
But they were having a fun time, despite the rain. I was told that the previous year saw a bigger and better parade.

You should be aware that the success of these celebrations has quite a bit to do  with friendly governments (political clout)  That's where a nice chunk of the funding for these events come from. And of course, sponsors are another important source. Just the same, it's all about presences. An example that comes to mind  is the Wilmington, Delaware Caribbean cultural organization effort.

Back in the year 2001 the Wilmington, Delaware Caribbean cultural Organization had a  nice four-float parade ending at beautiful River front park where there was a festival with an impressive lineup of professional, community and local talent. The celebration saw it's fortunes fall the following year to a a little area called Rodney Square, and hardly any talent. It was quite disappointing.

The education I got from sources in the know, was that the fortunes of the parade had seen a set back as a result of a change of government in city hall. The implication being that the Caribbean peoples had no clout with the new government.

People it's all about political presence. It starts at the ballot box. Heaven forbid that you should take from this that carnival rank that high in importance. The point is, that once the Caribbean community is respected at the ballot box, all things Caribbean gets attention. That's the way the  politics work. It is  the presence at the ballot box that make all things political, possible.

Critical Mass

Canada's Toronto international carnival, known as Caribana, in contrast has paid it's dues and has reach critical mass. Now it's political fortunes probably has less to do with political presence nowadays, and more to do with the tourist value.

The tourist dollars that this 19-day festival brings to Toronto cannot be ignored. Yet every year the organizers faces the challenge of funding.

On the matter of what I suppose you might call community linking. Baltimore, Maryland which has two celebrations a year, practically in the same general area. Gets much support from some bands who participated in the  Washington celebration some weeks before.

Meanwhile as we strive to celebrate our heritage in areas notable or not. There's one very important factor among many, that contributes to the momentum. Our presence at the ballot box.

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