So, during my regular mid-morning musings with my mother on Monday, May 8, the first thing she blurted out, weighted with a ton of disappointment, was, “Did you hear about Carifiesta?”
Unbeknownst to her, that was the first article I read for the day. The headlines caught my eye in the AM as I wiped the sleep out and adjusted my glasses to ensure I read correctly. And indeed, I did. The annual parade I attended religiously as a kid did not receive funding from the City of Montreal, leaving the event in jeopardy. That statement alone sounds ludicrous. A parade that has been a staple, a celebration of Caribbean culture in Canada almost annually since 1974, would not be taking place this year because of application issues. And from what I’ve been told, the community is up in arms.
On Wednesday, May 11, the news was confirmed. The $30 000 in funding usually allotted to assist Carifiesta wasn’t aligned for 2023. People were confused, left trying to make sense of what transpired. With all of the back and forth, I’m still trying to decipher everything myself. But from the gist of it, it comes down to the city not granting Carifiesta public funding because they didn’t feel the organization’s proposal was viable, and that it didn’t resolve issues stemming from the 2022 event. Additionally, the city was concerned about the organization’s governing body (a discussion that has taken place in many spaces over the years).
How did this happen?
On May 17th at 8:30 pm, a live meeting took place on Carifiesta’s Facebook page. CCFA President Everiste Blaize sat down on Facebook Live to address questions and clear the narrative that the CCFA didn’t do its job.
The meeting was a mix of confusion, culpability, and fact-checking. Unfortunately, things went left once Blaize started digging into the past to ‘check’ people and the community. He stated that he wanted to clear his name from the slander he was receiving. Nonetheless, his message didn’t sit right with many. People logged on to the meeting expecting updates as to what occurred with the city and how to move forward. Blaize did eventually get to that, but it didn’t get as much air time as needed.
Blaize showed up with emails and a copy of the application form to counter the city’s reasonings for not funding Carifiesta.
As per the letter from the city:
“Given the quality of the applications received, the evaluation committee had to make choices and select projects that most closely align with program objectives. Unfortunately, your project was not selected by the committee,” says the letter from the city, shared by Carifiesta. And it ends by saying that the decision “does not constitute a negative judgment of your organization.”
Here are the issues the City of Montreal has with Carifiesta 2023 and the explanations given by Blaize:
- The online form was not filled in properly: to be specific, the city had stated that the event date was missing. As shown last night, each space is marked as a required space on the form. It must be filled in to move on to the next question. We all know how these forms work. So technically, I can’t see how the form could be submitted if there wasn’t an apparent date in the space. Blaize did mention that he is not the ‘techiest’ of people, but he did have help to review and make sure the form was filled in accordingly and sent in on time.
- The CCFA didn’t ask for help when the city approached: Blaize adamantly stated that there were times the City of Montreal did approach. A meeting with the city took place in December 2022 with other event leaders sending in applications to discuss the differences in applying this year compared to previous years. Blaize stated he spoke with their liaison at the city to verify the process, and they all agreed and proceeded with the application (as reflected in an email shown). Unlike previous years, if there was an error, not once was Carifiesta contacted regarding anything remotely incorrect on the form.
- Carifiesta 2023 will require more security: The city has requested more security for this year’s parade. Unlike in previous years, they are now requesting that security be available for every vehicle on the road. The CCFA feels the request is not warranted since they haven’t had any issues regarding truck safety over the years.
- The parade route wasn’t complete: According to the city, the parade route listed in the application was not complete. However, as per Blaize and his co-worker Natasha, that’s incorrect. The route was planned out, but with typical Montreal construction and closures acting as obstacles and roadblocks, it can pose difficulties in clear mapping.
- The board wasn’t as stated, reflecting discord among the ranks: Again, the CFFA claims this to be false. Apparently, there were people listed as board members who no longer serve on the board. A list of board members had already resigned before the 2023 year. While it doesn’t show any discord per se, it does leave only 2 people on the CFFA board. Two—that’s it.
Blaize said CCFA did everything as requested–sent in their application by the stipulated deadline and provided all the required information. But they relayed that notifications from the city were not received from January 10, when the application was sent in, to May 3, when the formal letter of cancellation was obtained.
Something is missing, or someone missed a step, which could have come from either side. But, of course, no one will admit where the error may have occurred. Nonetheless, presently, the big issue at hand is how do we fix the problem. Blaize’s alternatives were 1) a Go Fund Me for Carifiesta and 2) to become a CCFA member. But there has to be more to the equation.
It’s evident that the community wants to assist, but everyone has to simply do better—show up, assist, bring ideas to the table and show support. Find your way to CCFA meetings to become a part of the board and have your voice heard. On the other end, the CCFA has to come up with other ideas on how to raise funds and continue providing funding without having to depend on the majority of city funding for everything or having to dig into personal accounts to make things happen. How can the community contribute without being a member? It is about community, after all. Work together to find solutions and move forward instead of repeating history and feeding into the interpretive narrative that hovers over the CCFA.
I say this repeatedly and never tire of it: representation matters. Canada is forever touting how it's a melting pot for all. Montreal is one of the country's most diverse cities. As someone who used to work for the Ville de Montréal back in the day, I'll be the first and not the last to tell you that programming for the Black community is essential to the city's vitality. And that trickles right down to Carifiesta.
Also, it's not just the Black community that attends this event. Whether to catch the beautiful mas costumes or to catch some vibes, Carifiesta has been a staple on the Montreal arts scene since 1974. The cultural arts of the Caribbean diaspora must continue to be celebrated—for younger and older generations alike.