The Case for Carifiesta on Saturday June 29, 2013

The Case for Carifiesta on Saturday June 29, 2013

By N Oji Mzilikazi

Originally published in the Montreal Community Contact Volume 22, Number 24

December 20, 2012

For anyone tempted to think “It’s Christmas, so why the concern and/or why draw attention to Carifiesta,” the answer is simple. Success is predicated on vision, planning, preparation, paying attention to details, the willingness to engage in critical analysis, being open to criticism and advice, the intelligent directing of thoughts and actions, and unfailing commitment.

Canada Day is a public holiday. July 1, 2013 falls on a Monday. Since business, entrepreneurs, and people always seek to capitalise on long weekends in one form or another, it makes sense for CCFA to stage Carifiesta 2013, on Saturday June 29, 2013.

Any other day undermines community empowerment, betrays, and exposes weak leadership, and overall community weakness.

CCFA, you carry the full weight and expectations of the Caribbean community, the progeny of said community, and the supporters and friends of the community. As such, the unspoken mandate from the community to you is, “Do Us Proud.”

Having Carifiesta 2013 on Saturday June 29, 2013, will make us proud. The date is worth fighting for, as the next long weekend wouldn’t be for another five years.

A long weekend facilitates return visits by people, friends and family who went down the 401 for economic reasons. Carifiesta on the long weekend – June 29, 2013, sets the stage for their return, as well as tourists – devotees of carnival who reside in the Unites States and Ontario.

Don’t allow the disrespect our community received from the previous administration to continue.

Carnival in any part of the world is a huge revenue generator. There was a time when Carifiesta drew upwards of 100,000 visitors.

By City Hall treating Carifiesta as the uncouth relative one hide in the basement when “good” company comes over (Especially when it was possible to have Carifiesta on a long weekend.), it has been able to cite attendance, and state that Carifiesta isn’t profitable, worth the expenditure. And as seen this year, shorten route and parade time.

City Hall is NOT doing the Caribbean community a favour with Carifiesta. We are citizens. We pay taxes, taxes that go into the City’s coffers, and pay its administrators salaries. Their investment in Carifiesta is simply reciprocity. Since they cannot see it, we must point it out.

We vote. Voting allows the populace to reward stewards or punish them. CCFA, I am confident our community can be politicised in regards to Carifiesta and our vote.

Over to you, CCFA.

Paranging All Day All Night

Paranging All Day All Night

By N Oji Mzilikazi

Originally published in the Montreal Community Contact Volume 22, Number 24

December 20, 2012

The creeping assault on Christmas in the very nations that once professed to be Christian, and which have several Christian holidays as public/national holidays, is changing the spirit of what was once christened, “The most wonderful time of the year.”

In affirming the separation of the church and state, a pluralistic democracy, and in pandering to religious diversity, fear of offending members of other religions, as well as the militancy of adherents to other religious beliefs and atheists, Christmas expressions in public spaces are being curtailed, and Christ is increasingly being taken out of Christmas.

“Cause when dey come here
looking for rum, wine and whiskey
All dey getting from me is some bitter mauby
And when dey come here for ting to eat
make no mistake
all dey getting is a hard piece of dry bake
cause it have no Christmas this year by me
it eh have no parang, no lime,  sorry”
- The Grinch
- Myron B

Commercialisation has long taken the original religiousness of Christ, and Christian devotion out of Christmas, much to the chagrin of true-believers, die-hard Christians. (I can vividly remember my father commenting that Christmas has two “S” and they both stand for $ signs, and that was when I was yea high, and donkey years ago.) Still, there is perceived offence in the capitalism driven merriment of Christmas because it contains “Christ.”

Political correctness has resulted in the “Christmas Tree” relabelled “Holiday Tree,” employers refraining from having Christmas decorations displayed in offices and/or disallowing it. Department stores and businesses that serve the public expressly forbidding their employees to greet, wish, or say “Merry Christmas” to customers.

Employees must use the non-offensive, the generic “Happy Holidays.”

“Happy Holidays” and “Season Greetings” are being pushed, elevated, enthroned, to trump the traditional, and specificity of “Merry Christmas.”

Even companies that make Christmas Cards have reduced their output of religious themes, religious messages, Christian iconography, and those that say “Merry Christmas.”

“Christmas Bells are ringing, everybody singing
church bells are dangling, young couples romancing
my lover from Trinidad sent me a little post card
I open it and read
and this is what the little post card said
have a Merry Christmas my dear
and have a Happy New Year
prosperous in everything you do
Happy Holiday to you”
- Post Card (1958)
- Unknown artiste

Some schools have banned Nativity plays and/or change lyrics in certain Christmas songs for their Christmas Holiday pageant.

A few years ago, a Jewish girl attending a Catholic School in the USA made a stink about having to sing Christmas Carols. I guess transferring to a Jewish school was out of the question. And, ironically, some of the best known/popular Christmas songs were written by Jews.

“Ah only sing one verse, de crowd start to bawl
sing Ally sing, doh stop at all
Caribbean parandero, we joyful, we glad
when you singing parang, we must behave bad
the parang on fire - in Lopinot
the parang on fire - come leh we go”
- Parang On Fire
- Alison Hinds & De’ Illist

Crèches with Mary, Joseph, and baby Jesus in a manger have been removed from state property and/or prohibited. And where there was compromise, traditional statues of Mary and Joseph are replaced by Santa Claus and Mrs. Claus.

Santa want calaloo, with flying fish and cou cou
pelau with pig tail so tasty
but what he want is Sumintra roti”
Santa looking for a wife
from the Caribbean”
- Santa looking for a wife
- Brindley B

There was a time during the Christmas season, going downtown to window shop, to check out the Christmas displays in different stores was a big thing, romantic for couples, and for the guys – to check out the ladies, even when covered from head to toe in winter garb. Competing mega-stores would spare no expense to have a beautiful electronic display. Today…

“So when they come fuh me
ah want yuh go with we
then yuh go see
how de parang does have me
now yuh go know
why ah love meh parang so
just come along
you doh bong to learn the song”
- Come Go
- Baron

Regardless if Jesus the Christ was or wasn’t born on December 25, and/or Christmas is rooted in a pagan celebration, and irrespective to one’s religious identity, you couldn’t grow up in the West Indies and not love Christmas. And it had nothing to do with the pre-eminence of Christianity.

The Christmas season brought forth unqualified joy, friendliness, tolerance, sentiments of goodwill to others, and the display of compassion and acts of charity. Things that reaffirm the brotherhood of man, and which by nature are contagious.

Christmas celebrations also strengthened the bonds of closeness and friendship in respect to family and friends. Can anyone say those aren’t good things?

“Oh, there’s no place like home for the holidays
cause no matter how far away you roam
when you pine for the sunshine of a friendly gaze
for the holidays you can’t beat home, sweet home”
- There’s No Place Like Home
- The Mighty Sparrow

West Indian multiculturalism, religious tolerance, and the spirit of not having to wash one’s feet to jump in the dance allowed Hindus, Muslims and others to enjoy the manifestations of Christmas without engaging in Christian worship. Likewise, for Christians to partake in Eid, Divali and other non-Christian celebrations, and not compromise their beliefs.

“Last year we went by Baliram
he played smart and hide de ham
bring one bottle ah babash
de ting finish with one lash”
- Is Christmas
- Baron

Though I take issues with a number of Christian religious beliefs and doctrine, I am a fan of Christmas – the religious aspect, the feasting, going from house to house, the bacchanal, the music, and parang.

“A heading for Paramin, for Christmas,
Paramin this Christmas,
to hear a string bass and a mandolin
Paramin is parang, Paramin, real parang
the kind that Daisy Voisin used to sing”
- Paramin
- Singin’ Sandra

Many think of parang in terms of parang soca’s ode to rum/spiritual liquors, wild meat and pork, sexual innuendoes and overall rowdiness, but parang roots is far from.

Parang lies in Spanish/Venezuelan Christmas tradition of musicians known as paranderos, celebrating the birth of Jesus, bringing Christmas cheer.

Armed with cuatros, guitars, chac chac, scratchers and so on, paranderos go house to house partying, singing folk songs, sacred Spanish songs and aguinaldos (songs on the life of Jesus), and of course imbibing. Theirs was good clean fun, not riotous.

The parang on fire - in Lopinot
the parang on fire - come leh we go
they call fire brigade, they call ambulance
trying to out the fire was real disturbance”
- Parang On Fire
- Alison Hinds & De’ Illist
Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to you and yours

Black Friday, Amazing Grace, Deportations

Black Friday, Amazing Grace, Deportations

By N Oji Mzilikazi

Originally published in the Montreal Community Contact Volume 23, Number 22

November 29, 2012

Every year, and every time I hear “Black Friday” that references the day after America’s Thanksgiving, America’s supposedly busiest shopping day of the year because of its fantastic sales, and which was designed for stores to make money, balance their books, and for consumers spend what they don’t have, profit, I want to barf. I want to riot. I want to start a riot.

Although in martial arts one begins the discipline with a white belt and its highest certification is a black belt, black bodies are ideal thermal radiators, and a black hole is the final stage of evolution for very massive stars following total gravitational collapse, black has never been imbued with positive qualities or attributes.

While the association of black with evil and misfortune had nothing to do with race, the enslavement of Africans along with the legality of racism and ideology of white supremacy, position its relatedness to negativity as also character traits of Blacks.

Blacks were evil, wicked, sinful, unprincipled, depraved, devilish, satanic, degenerate, offensive, repulsive, animals, and the like.

New language construct and new words came into being to oppress, defile, discriminate, smear, tarnish people of African descent, and shape perceptions.

Black was added to words in order to make them negative. Thus, words like blackmail, blacklist, blackball, black market, black mark, blackguard, black-hearted, and black sheep.

In August 2007, election posters for Switzerland’s biggest political party, the rightwing Swiss People’s Party, depicted three white sheep, and one of them kicking a black sheep out of the country. The Black sheep represented Blacks, and foreigners.

The long-standing designation of any kind of disaster, calamity, financial crash, military defeat, and even bad news is labelled a black whatever day of the week. Thus, black Friday, black Tuesday, black Monday and so on.

Furthermore, Friday the 13th of any month is entitled a black Friday, with the full range of negativity implied and expected.

Black is only good when a company is making money, is “in the black.” The expression has its roots in slavery/the Slave Trade and the huge profits made by investors, slavers, and slave owners who traded in slaves, in Blacks – and which wasn’t good, positive or profitable for Blacks.

America’s re-engineering of the Friday after Thanksgiving into Black Friday, and transforming the negativity of a black day to one of economic positivity is conceptually racist.

Amazing Grace

On March 21, 2008, Patrick J. Buchanan published “A Brief for Whitey” demanding gratitude from Blacks.

In it, he stated, “America has been the best country on earth for black folks. It was here that 600,000 black people, brought from Africa in slave ships…were introduced to Christian salvation, and reached the greatest levels of freedom and prosperity blacks have ever known.”

Never mind centuries of free labour, starting August 20, 1619, when a Dutch Man-of-War sold the twenty captured Africans they had onboard to the colonists in Jamestown, Virginia.

Never mind that the transatlantic human-trafficking of Africans and the need to keep them enslaved, in perpetual bondage and poverty, resulted in deliberate strategies to dispossess them of their humanity, culture, languages, and traditions.

Never mind that slavery transformed the enslaved into commodity, two-legged beasts of burden, and the profitability, economics of the institution initiated a culture of economic dependence, a welfare culture, and laid the foundation for racism and inequalities that persist today.

Buchanan proclaimed, “No people anywhere has done more to lift up blacks than white Americans. Untold trillions have been spent since the ’60s on welfare, food stamps, rent supplements, Section 8 housing…”

Enslavement of Africans in no part of the world has ever better their lives or that of their descendents. Left in its wake are racism, discrimination, the entrenchment of numerous obstacles in the path of achievement, numerous scars, and a jeremiad of hurt, pain, and grievances. Yet, there remains an obscene adherence to the belief that it has.

In July 2011, Tea Party darling Michele Bachmann was one of the signatories to pact/pledge that obscenely stated among other things, “African American children were better off during slavery than they are under the Obama administration.”

In spite of African complicity in the selling of slaves/Transatlantic Slave Trade, slavery was a highly organized and lucrative business for Europeans. It enriched and transformed each and every country that was involved in the enslavement of millions of Africans.

It made some economic powerhouses, as well as spurred technological, agrarian, and scientific advances, ushered in modernity, as well as made families wealthy, the source of many whose claim is being from “old money.”

More often than not, those countries have monuments and edifices that honour their greats, direct and indirect participants in the slave business.

“Amazing Grace” is inarguably one of the most powerful, emotional, and uplifting hymn/songs. Written in 1772, its roots lie in slavery.

John Newton, its composer was a participant in the Transatlantic Slave Trade. In 1748, a violent storm battered his vessel so severely that he called out to God for mercy, and to save him and the ship. Though that incident was the beginning of his conversion, Newton continued to be a participant in the slave trade until 1755.

Ironically, the progeny of the same people Newport transported into slavery turned around, embraced “Amazing Grace” as a song of deliverance, and used it as galvanizing force against segregation, Jim Crow, and as an African American Civil Rights Anthem.

Deportations

Most likely, by the time you read this, 23-year-old Saeed Jama would’ve been deported to Somalia, a country he has never seen. Born in Saudi Arabia, Jama is the child of Somali refugees. And though his family obtained Canadian residency in 2001, Jama never became a Canadian citizen.

Canadian law allows the federal government to strip landed-immigrant status from a permanent resident convicted of a serious crime, and their deportation. Jama has four criminal convictions.

There are many in our community, who came here as children. Schooled, socialized, and acclimatized to Canadian living, their parents/guardians never saw fit to take out Canadian citizenship for them. Neither did them upon reaching adulthood.

Thus, subjecting them to deportation should they fall afoul of the law, and, like Jama, possibly to countries where they have no relatives, and so on. Failure to take care of business can have serious repercussions.

If you have been a permanent resident of Canada for at least four years, or have children who are, you should seriously consider taking out Canadian citizenship for both you and them. If you are an adult who came here as a child, verify your status.

John Michael Dauphin was 2-years old when he arrived in Montreal from Haiti. Sentenced to 33- months in jail for assaulting and robbing a Quebec Court of Appeal judge in 2005, the 22-years old Dauphin was deported to Haiti in October 2009. He never became a Canadian citizen.

In 1999, O’Neil Grant was cleared of all charges in the 1994 shooting death of Georgina Leimonis at the Just Desserts café in Toronto. In a case of “Let’s teach that Black bxxxxxd a lesson,” Immigration and Refugee Board adjudicator Daniele D’Ignazio ruled that Grant should be deported for non-criminal misconduct.

Grant was eleven when he came to Canada from Jamaica, and lived here for 18-years. When Grant was deported in 2002, he left behind his common-law wife, three children, his mother, and other siblings. When Ottawa later passed the law making it easier to deport landed immigrants convicted of serious crimes, it was unofficially referred to as the “O’Neil Grant Bill.”

Recently, the federal government proposed a new Bill with automatic deportation for any non-Canadian sentenced to more than six months in jail, and which strips landed-immigrant status for minor convictions, shoplifting, and traffic offences – and deportation.

As draconian as it is for a country that once prided itself as warmer, better and kinder than its neighbour to the south, the federal government isn’t playing.

In March 2010, the federal government launched a new citizenship test and raised the passing mark from 60 per cent to 75 per cent. Security threats necessitate thorough background checks. It now takes about 20 months to process a citizenship application. Drunk or sober, take care of your business!

Forget what you heard, Canada has never been truly welcoming to Blacks.

In 1911, Canadian Prime Minister Sir Wilfrid Laurier made it known that the Negro is deemed unsuitable to the climate and requirements of Canada.

On May 1, 1947, Canadian Prime Minister Mackenzie King reinforced the persona non grata status of Blacks.

Up until 1962, Canada immigration policies were centered on keeping Canada white and culturally British. Racial discrimination was policy, thus Black immigration was negligible.

Harper is moving the nation back to that template. Hence, hardline immigration policies, the restoration of “Royal” to the Canadian Navy and Canadian Air Force, and the removal of two historic Quebec paintings by Alfred Pellan from their decades-old spot in the Foreign Affairs building in Ottawa, for a photo portrait of the Queen.

The criminalization of people of African descent already has each one of us in the cross-hairs of law enforcement and security guards. But, if you are a landed immigrant, you have to walk a little more gingerly, talk softly, or just keep quiet in this new democracy.

Palestinians: P.M. Harper, Canada On The wrong Side of History

Palestinians: P.M. Harper, Canada On The wrong Side of History

By N Oji Mzilikazi

December 1, 2012

Congratulations to the United Nations General Assembly for doing the right thing. They unanimously voted to recognize, grant Palestinians “Non-member observer state.”

Congratulations to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian Authority and the people of Palestine