Side-eye of the week: Toronto Police Service

Why am I side-eyeing the police? You know that Black people ALWAYS side-eye the police.

I’m playing! I’m playing!

Well, if you read my blog, you will know that I really, really, really love Caribana. It’s part of my West Indian culture and it’s something that, as I get older, means more to me than just a couple of good parties. So, I love the fact that the Caribana committee has been doing a lot of non-traditional things that showcase carnival like the art exhibit and the gala I attended last week. These events make Caribana more accessible to people of all backgrounds and ages who aren’t down for carrying on bad on the road.

Yesterday, I was excited to check out the Toronto Police Services Caribana kickoff at police headquarters. I got there just in time to catch a seat next to one of the girls that I volunteer with and enjoyed the sounds of the steel pan.  I even tried to lick two shots in the atmosphere… but you can’t really do that in police headquarters. They would throw me in a jail cell.

The event started and everything was good until they welcomed the Hawaiian dancers. Hawaiian dancers? At a Caribana event?

The Toronto Police Service said that Caribana is a cultural fusion… Umm, no. Caribana is not a cultural fusion. Caribana is a celebration of Caribbean culture. All people are welcome to take part, but I don’t think that we should be including Hawaiian dancers in a Caribbean festival. If the dancers want to dance to some soca, cool. But to traditional Hawaiian music? How does that relate to traditional Caribbean carnival?

Now, some people may say, R&B and hip hop don’t belong at Caribana and I would agree, but I can see the connection. It seems like an event focused on Black culture is not good enough as is. It feels like the Toronto Police Service wanted to include other cultures to make Caribana more palatable to the mainstream. I say that because when it’s time for the St. Patrick’s Day Parade, I don’t see a soca band playing and drinking Banks beer.

Right?

Right.

Mind you, this was the Toronto Police Service – not the Caribana committee – that was talking about this cultural fusion. I love seeing all types of people enjoying Caribana and the different events that are put on – from the Eastern European receptionist at my dentist’s office who is planning to take part in some of the events and the Asian-Canadian kids who come out to party with everyone on the road to the bankers and finance people who attended the art exhibit and gala. They are all welcomed and I think they all enjoy Caribana for what it really is: a celebration of my culture as a Canadian with West Indian roots. Once we start adding all types of different flavours — Hawaiian dancing, Chinese dragons, Native Canadian ceremonies, Irish dancing – we are diluting what Caribana is.

If I want to enjoy some good Mount Gay rum, am I going to kill it with water?

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2 Comments Add yours

  1. jdid says:

    actually alot of folks not just the police see Caribana as a cultural fusion for whatever reason. someone asked me into looking into getting some caribbean performers for a caribana corporate event a few months ago and then got back to me and said they got overruled and the company was going with Flamenco dancers or some other latin thing so not surprised about Hawaiian dancers at Caribana themed events. Its a shame and they do deserve the side eye and a big dutty chupse but um is wha um is.

    1. urbansista says:

      I know a lot of people do, but this was the second time it was so blatantly put in my face. I remember Caribana a few years back when they had Brazilian dancers and all kind of foolishness and the parade was so bad. At least, at the two official Caribana events that I’ve attended so far, I haven’t seen anything except for Caribbean culture. It was only this police kick-off that made me give them a big side eye and a chupse. But I didn’t want to carry on too bad — they have guns.

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