Thursday, August 26, 2010


AUGUST 28, 1963 - 2010

We march today for jobs and freedom, but we have nothing to be proud of, for hundreds and thousands of our brothers are not here. They have no money for their transportation, for they are receiving starvation wages, or no wages at all. In good conscience, we cannot support wholeheartedly the administration's civil rights bill. There's not one thing in the bill that will protect our people from police brutality. This bill will not protect young children and old women from police dogs and fire hoses, for engaging in peaceful demonstrations: This bill will not protect the citizens in Danville, Virginia, who must live in constant fear in a police state.
Excerpt from speech by John Lewis, August 28, 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom

U.S. Congressman John Lewis was a 23 year old Civil Rights activist (born February 21, 1940) and Chairman of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) when he spoke at the August 28, 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom. Lewis served as Chairperson of SNCC (1963-1966) an organization of African American youth that challenged U.S. imperialism and identified the connection between economic power and racial oppression. Lewis’ speech on that fateful day is not as well known as Dr., Martin Luther King’s I Have A Dream speech which was made on the same day and location but it is just as powerful and passionate.

Considered the largest political gathering of the time with approximately 250,000 attendees, the gathering on August 28, 1963 was a defining moment in the American Civil Rights Movement. The image of Dr. King delivering his famous speech from the steps of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington D.C. is a powerful symbol and recognizable internationally. Dr. King’s words: “I have a dream” have been used by oppressed groups around the world. Those famous words have even been misappropriated by some including the California Republican Party and the supporters of its anti-affirmative action proposal, proposition 209 which sought to roll back the gains made by the Civil Rights movement. The famous March on Washington gave rise to other marches including the Million Man March of October 16, 1995.

Forty seven years after Dr., King gave his speech the dream has not been fulfilled. For a few hours on January 20, 2009 we thought that King’s dream had been fulfilled. However, as early as January 19, 2009, the day before the historic inauguration of the USA’s first African American president a group of mostly white Americans began a thinly disguised racist crusade against the Obama administration. Calling themselves the Tea Party Movement, members of this group have been accused of indulging in racist name calling and even spitting on elected African American officials.

On August 28, 1963 when King gave his speech he referred to the fact that Africans in America had only been freed from chattel slavery 100 years before (1863.) He reminded the world that Africans in America 100 years after their Emancipation were still second class citizens: But one hundred years later, we must face the tragic fact that the Negro is still not free. One hundred years later, the life of the Negro is still sadly crippled by the manacles of segregation and the chains of discrimination. One hundred years later, the Negro lives on a lonely island of poverty in the midst of a vast ocean of material prosperity. One hundred years later, the Negro is still languishing in the corners of American society and finds himself an exile in his own land. So we have come here today to dramatize an appalling condition.

The speeches made at the March on Washington encouraged African Americans to realise that as Americans, the descendants of enslaved Africans whose blood, sweat, tears and unpaid coerced labour contributed tremendously to the wealth of the country, they had a right to benefit in all areas. In the southern states where African Americans were especially oppressed there was an upsurge of activism that has benefited generations right up to the present. Generations of African Americans (and others) have been inspired by Dr. King’s speeches, his dedication and determination. Although African Americans were not the main beneficiaries of Dr. King’s life work and tremendous sacrifices (Dr. Sumi Cho, professor at DePaul University has found that white women were the main beneficiaries of affirmative action) African Americans were inspired to become politically active. In April, 1964 Fannie Lou Hamer and other African American activists founded the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party (MFDP). The MDFP challenged the all-white Mississippi delegation to the Democratic National Convention (August 24 – 27, 1964) where Hamer spoke before the Credentials Committee of the Convention. She explained the position of the party and why they (MDFP delegation) refused to accept two seats at large, with no power to vote on any issue being discussed at the Convention. Although the members of the MFDP failed in their quest for official recognition at the 1964 Convention, they exposed the violence and injustice of white Mississippi which disenfranchised African American citizens The MFDP and its Convention challenge eventually helped pass the Voting Rights Act of 1965 and even President Obama is a beneficiary of Hamer’s 1964 action.

Although there was not a similar struggle in Canada as late as the 1960s, African Canadians are woefully absent in elected positions at the municipal, provincial and federal levels of government. As the beneficiaries of those enslaved African Canadians who toiled in this country from 1628 to 1834 we owe it to ourselves as a community to seek elected political office to become members of bodies that make decisions that affect every area of our lives.

On March 16, 2010 I registered as a candidate for public school trustee (Ward 14 Toronto Centre) in this year’s municipal election. This is my third attempt at running for political office and there have been some interesting twists and turns, some alarming and some hilarious moments which I plan to write about after the October 25 election. It is at times like this you know who your real friends are. I have found that I am blessed to have in my life wonderfully supportive friends and colleagues who have endorsed my campaign, posted my campaign literature on facebook and in their buildings, distributed my campaign literature and generally spread the word.

On August 28, 1963 Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., spoke passionately about his dream. We all have dreams and if possible should pursue making those dreams reality or take the risk of what may happen to our deferred dreams as African American poet Langston Hughes writes:

What happens to a dream deferred?
Does it dry up
Like a raisin in the sun?
Or fester like a sore--
And then run?
Does it stink like rotten meat?
Or crust and sugar over--
like a syrupy sweet?
Maybe it just sags
like a heavy load.
Or does it explode?


Wednesday, August 18, 2010


The month of August is a special time of remembering and commemorating for many Africans. Whether on the African continent or in the Diaspora we remember and commemorate August 1 (Emancipation Day) when enslaved Africans in the former British Empire which included Canada, the Caribbean and South Africa were freed from chattel slavery. Africans in the United States of America who lived in free states (including Massachusetts, Michigan, New Jersey, New York and Pennsylvania) also commemorated August 1st. British historian J. R. Kerr-Ritchie in his 2007 published book Rites of August First: Emancipation Day in the Black Atlantic World: Antislavery, Abolition, and the Atlantic World lists more than 30 annual August First commemorations in African American churches in northern states, including Delaware, New Hampshire and Ohio, that took place between 1834 and 1842. Not all the August Firsts were commemorated in African American churches, some were public celebrations. Kerr-Ritchie lists several of these celebrations that happened as late as 1861 (start of the American Civil War) noting that:
The public August First usually consisted of “picnics, parades, public meetings and abundant speeches.”
In her recent book Emancipation Day: Celebrating Freedom in Canada published in 2010, Natasha Henry writes:
The creators of August First celebrations were African Americans who had migrated to Canada during the first part of the nineteenth century in their quest for a free life.
Henry also documents instances of African Americans crossing the border to attend Emancipation Day celebrations well into the 20th century. She writes about some famous African Americans who attended August First celebrations:
World famous boxer Joe Louis fought in a friendly match. Jesse Owens, a 1936 Gold medallist demonstrated his track and filed abilities. A young Diana Ross competed in a talent contest. Musical acts like the Temptations, the Supremes, Stevie Wonder, Sammy Davis Jr., and numerous gospel choirs performed over the years.
Apart from August 1st celebrations to commemorate Emancipation Day, Africans celebrate the birthday of the Honourable Marcus Mosiah Garvey. Garvey who was born on August 17, 1887 in St Ann’s Jamaica is that country’s first National Hero. Garvey’s philosophy of Africa for Africans at home and abroad is immortalized in Bob Marley’s Africa Unite which was released in 1979 on the Survival album Garvey’s philosophies spurred the modern Pan-African movement which inspired Africans to fight for their independence from European colonizers. Garvey inspired many African leaders including Martin Luther King Jr., El Hajj Malik El Shabazz (Malcolm X), Kwame Ture (Stokely Carmichael), Jomo Kenyatta, Julius Kambarage Nyerere and Kwame Nkrumah.

August 20, 2010 Africans internationally will recognize a World Day of Reconciliation & Healing From the Legacy of Enslavement. With locations in Richmond, Virginia, Liverpool, England and Benin, West Africa, Reconciliation statues will serve as gathering places to pray for reconciliation and healing from the legacy of enslavement throughout the world. The Reconciliation statues were part of the Reconciliation Triangle project, linking Europe, America and Africa. August 20 was chosen because on that date in 1619, the first group of kidnapped Africans was taken to the colony of Jamestown in Virginia. Historians have determined that the Africans were taken to Virginia on two British pirate ships, the Treasurer and the White Lion (which was flying a Dutch flag.) The kidnapped Africans were part of the cargo on a Portuguese slave ship the San Juan Bautista which was en route to Veracruz, on the east coast of modern-day Mexico, when the ship was robbed of its human cargo by two pirate ships, just off the coast of Mexico. The group of approximately 60 Africans (of the estimated 350 held on the San Juan Bautista) who the British pirates traded for food in Virginia, had been taken from the kingdoms of Ndongo and Kongo, modern-day Angola and coastal regions of Congo.

This group of Africans speaking Kimbundu and Kikongo were able to communicate with each other and were able to negotiate their freedom after working as indentured labourers. The records show that it was not until 1640 after three indentured labourers (2 Europeans, 1 African John Punch) ran away from their master that when they were caught the African was sentenced to slavery for life while the 2 Europeans had their indentureship extended four more years. Punch’s sentence ensured that he would:
"serve his said master or his assigns for the time of his natural Life here or elsewhere."
Following the John Punch case various laws were enacted to ensure that Africans would be enslaved for their entire lives. By the turn of the following century the enactment of the Slave Codes of 1705 had sealed the fate of every African in what would eventually become the United States of America.

Many historians date the beginning of the Haitian Revolution with the uprising of enslaved Africans on the night of August 21, 1791. In every territory where Africans were enslaved there was resistance but the enslaved Africans of Haiti were the only group who successfully overthrew their enslavers. With the success of the Africans of Haiti in seizing their freedom in spite of Napoleon’s mighty army which made many European nations tremble, fear of similar uprisings struck terror in the hearts of other European nations whose livelihood depended on the coerced, unpaid labour of the Africans they held in slavery.

On January 1, 1804, Haitians declared their independence from European domination making Haiti the first independent nation in this part of the world led by Africans and the only nation whose independence was gained as part of a successful revolution of enslaved people.

Three years later in 1807 Britain became the first European nation to abolish the slave trade although they did not abolish slavery until August 1, 1834 in Antigua, Canada and South Africa and elsewhere on August 1, 1838 after a four year apprenticeship period. Forty years after Boukman officiated at the Bois Cayman ceremony which began the Haitian Revolution, and just three years before the British abolished chattel slavery, on August 21, 1831, an enslaved African named Nat Turner led a group of enslaved Africans in an attempt to free themselves from slavery.

This revolt ironically took place in Virginia, the same state where the first group of kidnapped Africans had been traded for food by British pirates in Jamestown on August 20, 1619. Nat Turner and his followers were not successful in gaining their freedom but his name will never be forgotten. We have much to commemorate and remember during this month which could very well be counted African Heritage Month of the summer.

Komagata Maru 1914 MV Sun Sea 2010

Has anyone else noticed the eerie similarity of the treatment meted out to the group of Tamil arrivals in 2010 with that of the more than 300 (mostly Sikh) South Asian arrivals in 1914? I am of course referring to the Canadian government’s shameful treatment of the passengers of the Komagata Maru.

In 1982 at a yard sale in Durham county, I bought a book written by Ted Ferguson with a very interesting title: A white man's country: An exercise in Canadian prejudice published (1975.) I could not remember that I had heard of the Komagata Maru before reading Ferguson’s book.

There are some differences in that the passengers of the Komagata Maru had not been labelled terrorists and the Canadian government was very open about their white supremacist culture. Interestingly enough the passengers of the Komagata Maru were British citizens since India like Canada at the time (1914) was part of the British Empire.

Since Freguson’s book was published in 1975 other books have been written about the Komagata Maru incident, including:

Tragedy of the Komagata Maru (1975) by Sohan Singh Josh

The Voyage of the Komagata Maru: the Sikh Challenge to Canada's Colour Bar (1979) by Hugh J. M. Johnston.

White Canada Forever: Popular Attitudes and Public Policy toward Orientals in British Columbia (1990) by W. Peter Ward.

I encourage people who do not know about this bit of Canadian history to check out the similarities and see that the more things supposedly change, the more they remain the same.

It would be interesting to read what white Canadian journalists wrote about the passengers of the Komagata Maru and what they are writing about the passengers of the MV Sun Sea.

There is this well crafted myth about Canada being a multicultural. Welcoming country to all and sundry when in reality if you are a racialized person the welcome mat is either not put out for you or it is whipped out from under your feet. Another well crafted myth is the one about the unbiased reporting of white journalists who write for the major Canadian newspapers. The 2002 published book Discourses of Domination: Racial Bias in the Canadian English-Language Press by Frances Henry and Carol Tator exposes that myth for the myth that it is. Reading various articles written by white journalists about the Tamil refuge seekers could leave you in no doubt about the bias of the writers. There have been ridiculous, unsubstantiated claims about the group of refuge seekers who have risked life and limb fleeing from what none of the writers of those articles have experienced except maybe in their nightmares.

It is indeed heart-rending to know that there are approximately 500 human beings, men, women and children who right now are not sure if they will be sent back to a situation that sent them fleeing from their country of birth. No one leaves their country, uproots their life and flees with whatever they can carry in their hands unless they are desperate. People do not uproot their children from contented, settled lives and take them across oceans thousands of miles from home unless there is a crisis.

The similarity of the treatment of the Tamils who arrived in Canada in August 2010 with the Sikhs who arrived in Canada in 1914 is shocking because Canada can no longer claim to be a “white man’s country” as it did in 1914.

The passengers from India who arrived on the Komagata Maru in August 1914 were refused entry into Canada. They were forced to return to India where some of them were killed by the British authorities who occupied India.

The Canadian government’s first attempt to restrict immigration from India was to pass an order-in-council on January 8, 1908, that prohibited immigration of persons who "in the opinion of the Minister of the Interior" did not "come from the country of their birth or citizenship by a continuous journey and or through tickets purchased before leaving their country of their birth or nationality." In practice this applied only to ships that began their voyage in India, as the distance from Canada usually necessitated a stopover in Japan or Hawaii. This was a deliberate attempt to exclude from Canada, South Asians who were British subjects from the Indian subcontinent. These regulations came at a time when Canada was accepting massive numbers of immigrants (over 400,000 in 1913,) mostly from Europe.

If these 500 refuge seekers were fleeing a home in Europe would they receive the same treatment? Many of the people who seem to be foaming at the mouth (from many of the comments readers have posted in some daily newspapers) would not be here if the First Nations community had refused their ancestors entry on this land.

Thursday, August 12, 2010


A people without the knowledge of their past history, origin and culture is like a tree without roots.

The Honourable Marcus Mosiah Garvey August 17, 1887 – June 10, 1940

Marcus Mosiah Garvey was born on August 17, 1887 at St. Ann's Bay, Jamaica. Garvey is considered the father of the modern Pan-African movement. He encouraged Africans from the continent and from the Diaspora to know their history and to be proud of their skin colour and physical features. He did this at a time when Africans on the continent and in the Diaspora were living in countries that were colonized by Europeans (Ethiopia was the exception.) Wholesale colonization of the African continent began after 14 white men from Europe and the United States of America (USA) met in 1884 at the Congress of Berlin where they allotted themselves portions of the continent. Over a three month period from November 15, 1884 to February 26, 1885 this group of white men from Austria-Hungary, Belgium, Britain, Denmark, France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Portugal, Russia, Spain, Sweden-Norway (unified from 1814-1905), Turkey and the USA decided to carve up the African continent for their benefit. At the time Britain, France, Germany and Portugal had colonies on the African continent so the others wanted the opportunity to exploit Africans and Africa. Chattel slavery, the European four hundred year plunder and brutalization of Africans was almost at an end (at least on paper) so these parasites were seeking another method of leeching the human and other resources of Africa. With no regard for African culture or history, no consultation with any African, this group of white men drew borders that separated families and forced together groups that traditionally lived separately with a delicate balance of keeping peaceful relations by living separately.

This obscene scramble for Africa happened three years before Garvey’s birth and there was a response from Africans in the Diaspora. In 1886 George Charles, president of the African Emigration Association, advised the US Congress that his organization planned to establish a United States of Africa. Pan-Africanists convened the Congress on Africa in Chicago (August 14 – 21) 1893 where they denounced the carving up of the continent by Europeans. From the 1893 Pan-African Congress on Africa in Chicago the African Association was founded in 1897 by Trinidad born lawyer Henry Sylvester Williams (February 15, 1869 - March 26, 1911) who is considered the grandfather of Pan-Africanism. Three years later while studying for his law degree in London, England, Williams convened the first Pan-African Conference (July 23 – 25) in 1900.

When Williams and others were attending that first Pan-African Conference in 1900 Garvey was a 12 year old, just approaching his teenage years. Twelve years later, in 1912 Garvey arrived in London, England where he lived for two years until his return to Jamaica in 1914. While living in London, Garvey met Duse Mohammed Ali, an Egyptian scholar and editor of the African Times and Orient Review. Garvey honed his public speaking skills at London’s Hyde Park Speaker’s Corner and he wrote several articles that were published in the African Times and Orient Review. This experience contributed to Garvey’s ability to eventually guide the United Negro Improvement Association and African Communities League (UNIA-ACL) which he founded in 1914 when he returned to Jamaica. After Garvey moved to Harlem, New York, on March 16, 1916 the UNIA-ACL became an international organization. By 1919, the UNIA-ACL had a membership of over three million with more than 300 branches in African communities across the globe.

Garvey’s philosophies influenced Africans from all walks of life from across the globe. Certain members of my family took the knowing of your history to heart in a very special way. Whenever I spent time at the home of my mother’s older sister in Mora Street, Mackenzie, her husband would tell the story of the Herero at least once a week. The Herero were the victims of the first genocide of the 20th century at the hands of the Germans who during the European 1884–85 Berlin Conference theft of African land had laid claim to Herero territory.

During the European scramble for Africa after the Berlin Conference of 1884-1885 the Germans laid claim to German Kamerun, now Cameroon and part of Nigeria, German East Africa, now Rwanda, Burundi and most of Tanzania, German South-West Africa, now Namibia and German Togoland, now Togo and eastern part of Ghana. Africans across the continent resisted the occupation of their homes by these European interlopers. Some of the better known leaders of the resistance fighters are Nana Yaa Asantewa of Ghana, Mbuya Nehanda of Zimbabwe, Cetewayo and Shaka of South Africa, Emperor Menelik of Ethiopia, Kinjikitile Ngwale of Tanganyika and Samori Ture of Guinea. In each case except Ethiopia after decades of fighting the Europeans, the territories were colonized for at least 50 years before the Africans regained their political freedom. The barbarism and brutality of the Europeans in subduing the Africans is probably unmatched in the case of the Herero people of Namibia who were victims of the unparalleled savagery of the Germans. The German genocide of the Herero people is now well documented. It is fascinating to read the sequence of events, the trickery used by the Germans to gain access and then “own” the African land. August 11, 1904 began the German slaughter of the Herero people and by 1907 approximately 85% of the Herero had been massacred by the Germans. Apart from the wholesale slaughter, German doctors performed horrific experiments on Herero men, women and children who they tortured and mutilated in the concentration camps the Germans established. The children born of the rape of Herero women by German men also warehoused in the concentration camps were included in the “scientific” experiments. German geneticist Herr Doktor Eugen Fischer went to the concentration camps in Namibia to conduct medical experiments on race. Photographs of the horribly emaciated bodies of some of the German victims from the concentration camps are not for the squeamish.

The Germans lost their African colonies to other greedy and brutal European nations after their WWI defeat (1914-1918) On March 21, 1990, Namibia became an independent nation and in September 2001, the Herero filed a lawsuit in the U.S. Court of the District of Columbia demanding reparations of $4 billion from the German government and several German companies including Deutsche Bank, mining company Terex Corporation, formerly Orenstein-Koppel Co., and the shipping company Deutsche Afrika Linie, formerly Woermann Linie, all of which allegedly profited from the German occupation of Namibia. The District Court of Columbia has a 215-year-old law on its books, the Alien Tort Claims Act of 1789, which allows for civil action from foreign countries.

The Germans continue to resist compensating the Herero for the genocide of 1904 - 1908. Manfred Hinz, a German law professor suggested:
"We should think of a reconciliation commission with leaders of the Herero people and Germany to work out an appropriate form of apology and possible reparation and hopefully an out of court settlement."
German Ambassador Wolfgang Massing urged the Herero to drop the law suit and try and find other ways to deal with the "wounds of the past".

With "knowledge of their past history, origin and culture" the Herero are very rooted and will continue the pursuit of reparations for the atrocities visited upon their people by the Germans. The Honourable Marcus Mosiah Garvey who was born 123 years ago would be proud of the Herero people for keeping their history alive and pursuing reparations. Garvey said:

Look for me in the whirlwind or the storm, look for me all around you, for, with God's grace, I shall come and bring with me countless millions of black slaves who have died in America and the West Indies and the millions in Africa to aid you in the fight for Liberty, Freedom and Life.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010


Caribana 2010 has come and gone leaving mostly wonderful memories captured on video recorders and cameras. The weather co-operated spectacularly to ensure that the fabulous costumes were showcased at their best. There were no showers or thunder storms to ruin meticulously applied make-up and beautifully crafted costumes. The more than 1 million visitors who came to Toronto to experience the largest Caribbean festival in North America were treated to a show which involves months of hard work of thousands of mostly Caribbean people and their Canadian born children. A recent study and report verified what we have always known: the dedication of the transplanted Caribbean community to preserving and showcasing our heritage through the Caribana festival brings millions of tourist dollars to the Canadian economy. The Ipsos Reid study released in April 2010 verified that in 2009, Caribana brought approximately 1.2 million people to Ontario and contributed $483 million to the economy. In spite of its “cash cow” status Caribana continues to be treated as the unwanted relative or stranger.

Ajamu Nangwaya, a doctoral student at the University of Toronto put this in perspective when he wrote:
“It is very unsettling, yet not unexpected, that Caribana is being treated like a cultural outsider and a barbarian at the gate by the different levels of government. Why is it that the largest festival in this country with the greatest economic impact is being treated as the cultural Cinderella within the family of Canadian festivals? The Calgary Stampede is normally regarded as the largest “Canadian” festival, but its economic impact is merely $173 million versus the $438 million generated by Caribana over a two-week period. It is difficult for a reasonable person to not see race and culture mediating how government funding is distributing grants to certain cultural projects. While the federal government’s Marquee Tourism Events Program gave the Calgary Stampede, Carnaval de Quebec, and Stratford Shakespeare Festival $1,001,625, $1,449,435 and $3 million in grant funding, respectively, Caribana didn’t get a penny in 2010.”

Practically on the eve of this year’s Caribana it was announced by Joe Halstead (outgoing Caribana chair who has served since 2006) that the federal government’s Marquee Tourism Events Program and Ontario’s Celebrate Ontario were not contributing funds to Caribana this year. Even the annual Heritage Canada fund that has contributed $100,000 to Caribana gave a mere $40,000 this year leaving Caribana organizers in the unfortunate position of cutting back their budget from $2.6 million to $1.8 million to organize this festival that brought 438 million to Canada in 2009.

It is possible that we are being treated so shabbily by the people who make money off of our labour and talent because we try to please a society that does not value our culture and history but are very willing to exploit us. Observing the majority of costumes during the Caribana parade any visitor could be excused for thinking as the headline of an article written by a white male blared: Caribana Delivers Feathers, Floats, and Flesh. That is what visitors observe when they attend the Caribana parade. There are hardly any costumes which illustrate for our younger generation, journalists, visitors and those of us who do not know our history that Caribana patterned after Trinidad and Tobago’s Carnival has a history which includes more than feathers, floats and flesh. The Honourable Marcus Mosiah Garvey said: A people without the knowledge of their past history, origin and culture is like a tree without roots.

Jeff Henry former senior Professor and past Chair of York University’s Faculty of Fine Arts shares some of that history in his book Under The Mas - Resistance and Rebellion in the Trinidad Masquerade. According to Professor Emeritus Henry Trinidad’s Carnival was:
“Originally structured and developed during the years of enslavement and immediately thereafter, to deal with the social, political and economic circumstances of daily life.”

In his 2001 published book Rituals of Power and Rebellion: the Carnival Tradition in Trinidad and Tobago, 1763-1962 Professor Hollis “Chalkdust” Liverpool also writes about the history of Trinidad’s Carnival.
“The most intense activity of the Africans on Carnival days was the Cannes Bruleés (French for Burnt Canes), comprising songs, dances and stick fights. Cannes Bruleés had its genesis during slavery. Whenever a fire broke out in the cane fields, the slaves on the surrounding properties were rounded up and marched to the spot, to the accompaniment of horns and shells. The gangs were followed by the drivers cracking their whips and urging them, with cries and blows, to harvest the cane before it was burnt. This event became known as the Cannes Bruleés – Later called Canboulay. After emancipation the slaves commemorated this event on 1st August, as a symbol of the change in their status. Later the date was changed to midnight carnival Sunday. This was, in essence the beginning of the Africans’ Kalenda or Carnival.”

The connection of Caribana to Emancipation Day is carefully omitted even though the Caribana parade is usually within the same week as Emancipation Day (August 1). The National Library and Information System Authority (NALIS) of Trinidad and Tobago contains detailed information about the history of Carnival, its connection to the emancipation of enslaved Africans and the meaning of the costumes and themes of Carnival.

The organizers of Caribana should include in their media packages the history of Caribana and its connection to Carnival and the Emancipation of enslaved Africans. Journalists who cover Caribana need to read that history so that they, the politicians who regularly pop up at the parade and parade attendees will understand that Caribana is more than Feathers, Floats, and Flesh. That might even encourage the band leaders and costume designers to go beyond the usual fare of bikinis, feathers and beads. Maybe when all and sundry understand that with the masking, dancing, drumming etc., there is a connection to ancient African civilizations we may get a bit more respect.