Reflections On Carifiesta 2014


By N Oji Mzilikazi

Originally published in the Montreal Community Contact Volume 24, Number 14 July 10, 2014

The 39th staging of the Carifiesta Parade on July 5th was one of the best in years.

While my heart welled with pride for the thousands of community members that were participants — revellers as well as on-lookers — I couldn’t help but weigh the power of their presence, the financial and voting power they collectively constitute in their hands against community laissez faire attitudes, divisiveness, paralysis, and other shortcomings.

I couldn’t but weigh the potential power in our numbers against the continuous underfunding of Carifiesta by City Hall, the absence of funding from the Quebec government and the Montreal Tourist Board, and that Carifiesta is without a corporate sponsor.

Though the current board have brought Carifiesta back from the brink of disintegration, for Carifiesta to grow, to be much better and crazily successful, CCFA has to find ways to leverage the strength of community that was on display last Saturday, and attract serious funding. Even if that means partnering with or hiring a top notch firm that specialize in securing sponsors/getting solid funding.

Better funding is a must for this carnival thing that we love to grow. Something is fundamentally wrong when Carifiesta remains relegated to being like yesteryear’s bastard child that was legally denied rights of inheritance.

Worldwide, carnivals are a multi-million dollar industry and revenue generator to the tune of hundreds of millions of dollars. Governments and business gladly invest in them, save for Montreal’s Carifiesta, and a lot of that has to do with us — our failure to demonstrate organizational maturity, financial accountability, and equally our inability to sell Carifiesta from a financial perspective to them.

Would you trust a disorganized or scampish person to handle your finances? Obviously not! The bank would never approve a business loan without a thorough examination of the business plan to ascertain if it is sound and profitable. Yet we want or expect funding when dysfunctional.

Our inability and unwillingness to move away from dictatorial leadership, build a strong organizational structure, put the right people in place, and attract persons who are not afraid of heavy lifting contribute to our failure to soar, and the disintegration of organizations.

Organizations are paralysed by members who run from heavy lifting or doing any lifting whatsoever, and who contribute nothing, not even a suggestion towards its betterment or achieving a goal. Ironically, when it comes to the organization high days, they are the ones that step up to strut, to be on show.

While we can never get away from those types, organizations must foster a corporate culture/core value system that includes respect for one another, and that “This, is we thing.”

Internalization of belonging, ownership, and appreciation would have members willing to give of themselves, rather than undermine an organization, backbite, or leave everything up to its executives.

A clinical examination as to Carifiesta’s nosedive would reveal that previous leadership were lacking in leadership skills and training. And that in spite of some with connections to carnivals elsewhere or knowing about mas culture, they had no rootedness in business ideology and how to market Carifiesta, no vision of what they want for Carifiesta beyond people jumping, and no vision of where they want Carifiesta to go.

As a result, Carifiesta was just a hustle (even for bandleaders) rather than a self-sustaining business with the power to mobilize and economically empower community.

Thus, envisioning the big picture, having long and short term goals, being detailed in planning, anticipating problems and having counter-measures or solutions, and being able to maximise resources including human capital, as well as able to inspire confidence, display integrity and trustworthiness, and band leaders launching their bands at least six months in advance were out of the question.

Thus, we have members who would play mas in Toronto, and play mas in Miami, but wouldn’t play mas here in Montreal. They feel our carnival has gone down the drain, lament its lack, and not see their refusal to participate contributed to its diminish status.

The upwards trajectory of Carifiesta is worth celebrating. We all have a stake in Carifiesta being successful.

A substandard product reflects not just badly on CCFA, but on the entire community. But since we have not been taught to look at things that way, we mistaken feel that failure by others, as well as bad behaviour and bad acts by those that share our pigmentation does not inform attitudes towards us, does not affect the community.

Community participation in numbers increases Carifiesta’s viability and worth. More masquerade bands would nice up the carnival parade even better. Hopefully, bands would return to having king and queen costumes, as well as Montreal would reclaim its former status as an important part of the West Indian carnival circuit.

I strongly believed that Carifiesta could’ve been one hundred times brighter and better if Joel Anthony who plays with the Boston Celtics, and who won two NBA rings with the Miami Heat, was exposed to liberation education and had some financial love for community. Then, he would think nothing of donated a small sum, say $25,000.00 to CCFA.

Charity is supposed to begin at home before it spreads aboard. But since enslavement inflicted psychological traumas on people of African descent, successful Blacks are not beyond seeking validation from whites, pandering to white gaze, enriching others at the expense of their own, or neglecting their own.

On May 29, 2014, at a restaurant on Sherbrooke Street West, Joel Anthony and his mother Erene Anthony gifted one million dollars to Selwyn House School. They set up the “Erene & Joel Anthony Bursary Fund” in a lily-white private English language school for boys — a school that Joel was kicked out of.

A 2007 article on the Selwyn House website quotes Colin Boyle, itsMidget Basketball Coach saying: “Actually Joel’s basketball skills were pretty rudimentary when he was at Selwyn House.” Ergo, Selwyn House didn’t develop or shape his basketball prowess.

In a June 2013, National Post interview with Erene Anthony, Ms. Anthony stated about Joel: “From Emmanuel [Christian High School], he went to Dawson [College] and continued there. He really wanted, at that point, to play basketball.” Selwyn House was never mentioned in the article.

Interestingly, on Joel Anthony’s Wikipedia page, Emmanuel Christian High School is not mentioned, just Selwyn House and Dawson. I guess Emmanuel is too unknown a brand.

Since Selwyn House is private, and located in Westmount, a municipality long equated to class/upward mobility; the Anthony’s could get more mileage giving so much to Selwyn House as opposed to the Negro Community Centre in light of its recent woes.

Or the Union Church that for the longest while has been soliciting funds to rebuild, and is an organization in which Ms. Anthony is quite active, the Chair of the Official Board of Union United Church.

Or contributing to the building fund of the Côte-des-Neiges Black Community Association that currently stands at $250, 000.00.

Or paying to erect a plaque memorializing the 12 children from the NCC that drowned on July 13, 1954, whose cause Bob White has been championing for years.

Their generosity to Selwyn House resulted in Ms. Erene Anthony getting airtime on CJAD, and the radio station declaring her its hero for the month of June.

While CCFA’s Constitution calls for elected officers to come through the ranks, be a member in good standing for at least two years, Quebec Liberal Party had no qualms about recruiting Jean Charest from the Conservative Party and installing him as its president.

With no disrespect to its current stewards, I believe that CCFA would be best served by recruiting persons with business acumen (not a hustler’s certificate) who understands finance and the corporate game, and persons with intellectual depth that are skilled in interpersonal relationships. One of them should be installed directly on the board, and the rest asked to serve in an advisory capacity. I believe doing so would allow the organization to make some serious power moves and get Carifiesta where it ought to be.