Toronto Carnivalists Committed to Keeping the Culture Progressive in Canada

It's often hard to articulate just how wonderful Caribbean carnival is as a cultural occurrence, as a point of legacy, as a hobby, and most importantly as a creative outlet for so many individuals around the world. The neverending calendar of carnivals, fetes, and launches give global carnival enthusiasts a permanent anticipation knowing that in just another few weeks there is another carnival...somewhere.

For those of us residing in Toronto, that somewhere is right here on Lakeshore Boulevard, the CNE grounds, and the streets and parks of downtown that are embraced by the Caribbean festival every summer. The highlight for many, as it takes place during the long weekend preceding our Civic Holiday Monday (the first Monday in August), is that it also tends to mark the "end" of the official fete and boatride season, and the winding down of summer holidays in the weeks leading up to Labour Day and the beginning of a new school year.

Right now, June, it is prime Toronto Carnival season! The sun is finally coming out (kind of), and all of the band launches have been completed. mas camps are open, and car windows are rolled down to vigorously project the latest soca hits of the year, from Ajax through Brampton.

With the exhilaration and anticipation, however, also comes a slight frustration. Like many large organizations, community-based businesses, and complicated configurations of interests, finances, and artists...our annual Carnival is not without its ambiguity.

With all due respect: our Carnival has yet to reach its peak effectiveness, profitability, sustainability, and consistently hold the good graces and confidence of those who are involved.

The Carnival community is distinct, from the administrative reporting side to the community participation side. Caribbean nationals, descendants, cultural celebrators, allies, family, friends, and artists make up the often complicated web that is the Toronto Caribbean Carnival industry.

Last year, in an attempt to operationalize my personal (Kya Publishing is not directly affiliated with any particular Toronto Carnival band, organization, or sponsor) thoughts and hopes for the overall accountability of our community-at-large I created a flowchart of sorts to visualize how and where we as a community could take more responsibility overall for the execution of this annual event. This event that means so much to so many, yet still remains a mystery at times in terms accountability and funding.

My thoughts and ideals were not aimed at any one group in particular, but rather were collated to provide an understanding of how we operate, why we operate, and how the various moving parts of the Carnival machine each have a very important role to play in the long-term function of this celebration.

Using the same framework as last year, I took another glance at the Carnival industry in Toronto in particular, made a few adjustments, and asked myself if anything had changed much since my previous analysis.

I was pleased to discover that as I looked at my perceived system of accountability from 2018 that it is clearer that more brands, organizations, and creative folks are increasing their visibility and intent, and showcasing a unique and progressive side to the Carnival industry this season. We have an increase in travel from local brand ambassadors and I believe we are all growing as we collectively experience the Carnival cultures on different islands and continents. I see more businesses emerging with a Carnival focus and increased demand.

I see groups of individuals with a shared passion taking personal responsibility for the ways in which this Carnival is produced, processed, and enjoyed overall. I see progress and innovation.

A big part of the Toronto Carnival conversation is the generational disconnect, and I imagine that this is a concern with any cultural activity from West Indians and beyond. There is something to be said for keeping traditions pure and in the same spirit in which they originated. There is also something to be said, of course, for innovation and growth especially when it is done responsibly, creatively, and with the best intention and awareness of all participants in mind.

Here is a look at just a few of the Toronto-based organizations that are doing their part to ensure that our tradition continues, and that we can all maintain our Caribbean cultural pride on display in this culturally diverse city/country...without the cloud of chaos and negativity that we somehow became accustomed to experiencing. Here are just ten of Toronto's Carnival-based brands and initiatives who are committed to keeping the culture progressive in Canada:

FETE NET: Soca Events, Music, News, Causes & Culture
THE COLLABO VIBE: Band Launch & Mas Coverage; All Female Media Team
EVERY BODY PLAY AH MAS: Body Positive Movement Showcasing Diversity in Carnival
CARNIVAL DAY CAMP: Entertainment for Children While You Play Mas
CARNIVAL BAE: Experience Carnival Through a Masquerader's Eyes
SOCA IN THE 6IX: Soca Music, Culture & Events
TO CARNIVAL RUN: Canada's First Caribbean Inspired Running/Walking Event
MY TIME 2 LIME: Event Listings
TO CARNIVAL BLING: #PrettyUpYuhMas and Bling Your Kicks

I'd like to give a very special shout out to the emerging platform The MAS.IV, an initiative that "aims to create and curate a space where people connect and contribute their thoughts on the movement of Carnival." This weekend I had the pleasure of connecting with The MAS.IV team, and look forward to reporting back on the results of the afternoon spent at their Meetup.

Kudos to them all! Let's get behind them, encourage them, support them, and do our part as a community to ensure that we all thrive together. Not just for the city of Toronto, but also for our role in the international Carnival arts infrastructure and all related Caribbean diasporic endeavours.

Kya Publishing's Carnival-specific IG platform @CarnivalSpotlight recently came together as a space to celebrate Toronto Carnival, and Caribbean Carnival at large...year-round.

Our novel of the same name, "Carnival Spotlight," is currently available in e-book and paperback format, and can be accessed through our website This book is a fictional account of the Toronto Carnival experience, from the mas camp to the road, and captures the energy and vibes of one of the greatest celebrations of Caribbean culture in Canada.

In our own individual ways, those of us who love Carnival in this city and beyond can't help but continue to create, to endorse, and participate in all of the available methods of honouring this wonderful tradition. For the culture. For the future generations of Caribbean-Canadians.

Written by Stacey Marie Robinson for Kya Publishing's "Urban Toronto Tales" blog.


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