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Sarah’s journal: September 11, 2018

My family and I are now living in Barbados. We are getting used to the heat, and after a few weeks we’ve started to settle in, waking every morning at 5:30 with the sun. The whistling frogs that start calling at dusk fade out as the sun comes up and the birds start to sing. Our house is high up on a ridge that looks over the west coast. We have a fantastic view of the Caribbean and the sunsets are spectacular. In the early mornings you can hear the roosters crow and the monkeys out in the garden playing. There is life all around us and, as my son says, it’s hard to sleep through all the noise.

I’m discovering that the ocean and sky are a lot bigger here than in Toronto. The sea is constantly changing, this morning it is still, looking like glass reflecting the blue sky above. A goat bleats from the farm below and a rooster calls from a tree in the park down in Speightstown. We’re expecting Hurricane Isaac to pass by Barbados in a few days, but you wouldn’t know it, like the sea today the people are calm. The cars on the main road below give a double beep that is more a cheerful salutation than the angry horn blasts that seem to fill the streets in Toronto.

The first couple of weeks here have been a whirlwind of activity. From mistakenly not realizing our kids needed student visas (yes even if it is a private secondary school) and being detained when we landed — to finding the local (less expensive) hardware and grocery stores. The price of food seems staggering because it’s easy to forget that the Barbadian (Bajan) dollar is worth 2/3rds of a Canadian dollar. After paying $28 Bajan for some scoop nacho chips, I’ve inspired my family to eat more local foods, with the caveat that I’ll bake fresh bread at least once a week. So far my home-made bagels are a success.

In the past two weeks I’ve driven all over the island. I’ve learned to give a happy toot when going around a tight blind corner (the sugar cane grows too high to see over). Yesterday I discovered a shortcut that took me north along the western ridge of the island. I could see the coastline with fields of sugar cane rolling down to the sea. I turned west taking a road that suddenly dipped into a gully and found myself in a cool dense jungle that seemed almost magical. At this time of year, the flamboyant trees are all in bloom and the island seems painted with colourful orange and red blossoms.

There is a natural beauty here that I’m just beginning to understand. The people are gentle but also passionate — like the island itself.

I began thinking about moving to the Caribbean a few years ago when I realized that my actions could actually have a positive impact on the world. Keeping active and finding a way to contribute by building something drives me forward every day.

A few years ago, I started researching tourism in the Caribbean. While it has brought positive economic growth, it has also had some negative side effects. Local agriculture and manufacturing have dwindled to the point where most of the islands import most of their food and supplies. This makes living on the islands extremely expensive and feeds into the cycle of poverty that tourism was supposed to eliminate. I began thinking about ways to inspire local communities to become more self-sufficient and found that the self-sufficiency of a community relies on creativity, innovation, and entrepreneurship. I studied ways to inspire entrepreneurs. Government and community support play a large role, but so too do the level of arts and culture available in the society. Coming from a family of artists, this opportunity intrigued me, and as I did more research, I found that most of the islands lack what communities in Canada all seem to have — arts and cultural centres. Instead, the islands have theatres and art galleries designed to cater to tourists, but nothing geared at educating local communities.

This discovery shocked me and sparked the idea of creating arts and cultural centres across the Caribbean. But then the real challenge arose — how do we sustain them?

As I did more research, I discovered a unique anomaly in the hospitality industry. Affluent travellers were changing their habits, looking for more ‘experiential’ type of vacations rather than the all-inclusive gated resorts that once attracted them. Although the all-inclusive type of resort still attracts tourists looking for great deals, affluent millennials and baby boomers want to experience the local culture more intimately, and they support environmental initiatives.

Combine this discovery with the goal of building arts and cultural centres across the Caribbean and our business model for Canvas and Cave was born. I’m living in Barbados now to steer the development of our first unique arts and culture centre fused with an environmental resort. It will cater to affluent travellers, offer a gorgeous view of the Caribbean, with an organic garden to supply our restaurant, and an arts centre where local communities and affluent travellers can connect, create, and share ideas.

Greg and I have developed the habit of sitting out on the deck to watch the sun set and the stars come out. We’ve found the planets, and this time of year Venus sits bright in the western sky. A sliver of a moon is just setting and the whistling frogs at dusk signal that the end of the day. I find that I can hardly wait for what the next day will bring.

The impact of action

It’s one of those overly warm spring evenings at the cottage. An afternoon storm passed through Muskoka and the air is still heavy. The lake is calm, like glass, and the large puffy clouds in the distance are lit bright orange by the setting sun. Spiders are busy in the corners of the boathouse windows, I’ve just turned on a lamp and their webs will catch the bugs attracted to its light. It is so quiet I can hear the clock ticking away the minutes. A bird calls to its mate, or maybe he is just letting his friends know where he’ll be for the night.  I am feeling thoughtful  thinking about the new journey my family and I are setting out on.

Our goal is to have a positive impact on the world through the work that we do. We’re heading to Barbados to start a project working with local communities to build a culture-entrepreneurial centre that will be sustained by a unique “experiential” resort.

Tourism has become the biggest economic driver on most of the islands, but it has also had some negative impacts on local communities – like the loss of local food production and manufacturing. Even local arts and craft markets are becoming dominated by cheap Chinese imports. The cost of importing food and products has risen as local production has slowly disappeared; and many of the islands have become far too dependent on imports. Our goal is to reignite the entrepreneurial flame by providing space, encouragement and resources.  We hope to inspire local entrepreneurs, artists and manufacturers.

Barbados will be our first “proof of concept” location and we are moving there to launch the project. It’s a big life change but one both my husband and I are looking forward to.  We have some terrific local partners and just recently the island elected their first woman Prime Minister – Mia Motley.  She is a strong, smart, and dynamic woman with an excellent record. Prime Minister Motley sat in opposition to the local government as leader of the Barbados Labour Party for over a decade. She was elected in a landslide victory winning all 30 seats in Parliament and over 70% of the popular vote.  With no opposition she’ll be able to bring about significant changes to a government that was plagued by inaction.   There is a new sense of vibrancy on the island, and it fits well with our own determination to contribute to the community.

The sun is low in the sky and long shadows stretch out over the lake – a stillness has settled over things and all the possibilities that a new day will bring are just beginning to form.

Naked sex resort? No thanks

I’m definitely one lucky woman. I have traveled to a few continents over the years and my adventures are always memorable for one reason or another, but nothing will ever compare to the twilight-zone of an experience I had when I spent 4 days in Jamaica this past January.

I was sent on assignment, intending to learn about a new culture, enjoy some sun and sand, and perhaps gain a window into the world of nudists and swingers, at a well-known clothing optional resort in Negril.

I walked into Hedonism II wanting to love the experience and feeling that I would be somewhat sheltered from the exhibitionist lifestyle this destination was known for. Little did I know that I was in the world of the swinger and I, as a media member, was the outsider.  The resort made this clear by setting rules including the one that said I, as a “prude” staying on the Prude side, could not venture to the Naked side of the resort unless I disrobed.

I was completely fine with staying put. What was left out of the description to me from the beginning was that the same rule was not in place for the Naked side guests. They were given free reign of the entire resort and were welcome to carry on as they pleased on every square acre of the land. Oh! Did they ever.

During those 4 days, I saw things I cannot erase from my mind. Despite trying, images of all-aged naked men advancing towards fully-clothed me, attempting to ignite some “connection,” could not be unseen and the attempts kept on over the entire stay- lucky me.

To each their own, but  I spent my days at the resort flanking myself with the more youthful media members, who were also feeling like bait in a tank of hungry sharks.

We managed to enjoy spa treatments that were heavenly and this was actually the only time I disrobed. Our group also had a fantastic time on the party catamaran and amazing nights at the various themed parties. Luaus on the beach, leather and lace soirees as well as toga shindigs made us feel like we were a little more included, because at these events the majority of attendees were actually somewhat clothed.

Eventually the shock of all aged naked people wore off, but the sheer discomfort instilled with the advances, propositions and exhibitionist acts all around us did not. Couples would subtly leave their hotel room doors open and carry on having sex so anyone walking by could see. We all became used to being asked to join in.  “No thanks! I’m good!” I tried not to look in these doors, but it was always like road kill . I couldn’t avoid looking.

It was as if no rules applied on this plot of land. People were having sex anywhere they pleased, except at the buffet because that was unsanitary, but it was apparently sanitary for couples and strangers to get their rocks off in a pool I wished I could have gone swimming in. I didn’t even dare to dip in my big toe.

I guess I am a bit of a prude, and have no problem admitting that. I’m certainly not sitting in judgement over those guests who admitted to me they return to Hedo II again and again because of the freedom they feel to be themselves there. Clearly this resort is meant for a specific type of person:  exhibitionists, swingers and nudists. Everyone who fell under these categories, that I spoke to, raved about their experience at Hedonism II. I have complete respect for those who enjoy that lifestyle. It’s just not for me. I guess I’ll stick to the family-friendly resorts. They are more my speed.

Woman of the week: Nneka Elliott

Sometimes if we’re lucky enough, we have that one person in life whom we aspire to be like. For Nneka Elliott, it was her grandfather. He was the Chief Magistrate to Anguilla, a published author, and a violinist. He inspired her to pursue music, the arts, and to be the next Prime Minister of Canada. While Elliott didn’t really follow that path, she did pursue the Arts.  You may have seen her doing the weather on CTV news or reporting and anchoring at CP24. Today she is a lifestyle entrepreneur who creates digital content.

Elliott grew up as a little girl with ambition, always in front of her camera recording her own shows, taking part in drama classes, piano, acting and of course, the violin. Growing up in the tiny island of St Vincent and the Grenadines, Elliott said having an active imagination was necessary, as there was not a whole lot to do.

However,  her time in St Vincent was also shared with her second home and original birthplace of Canada. Born in Montreal, Elliott moved to the islands when her parents split, but would regularly return to Toronto for vacations.

“I was at a crossroads in terms of my identity as a young kid growing up in the Caribbean, but also had these western influences,” she said.

Elliott enrolled in the radio and television program at Ryerson University and, being one of three black people in her year, felt at times it was important to work that much harder. “It was a very competitive program to get into and a lot of people had prior experience,” she said. “I worked at a radio and television station in St Vincent and I had some experience, but not like working at Rogers, like a lot of these kids were doing.”

She started volunteering for the now defunct Toronto One, where she was an audience coordinator, CBC Sports Awards, and was even the training assistant director on Da’ Kink in my Hair, which aired on Global Television network in 2007.

While in her third year of university, Elliott began her summer internship at CFRB Radio. Her persistence and dedication turned that internship into a part-time job. Elliott knew her goal was to make it on-air so she relentlessly bothered her boss to listen to her demos and sought advice from other anchors at that time.

“It was just an obsession. You have to be obsessed. Just put on blinders. I knew it was something I wanted to do and eventually he was like, ‘ok let’s try you’ and I started doing weekend anchoring at CFRB.”

Elliott worked there three days a week, while being an RA on residence, a student ambassador, and any other thing she had going on. Looking back she didn’t know quite how she did it all.

After graduation in 2006, Elliott got a job at the Weather Network as early as January 2007.  In a short span of time, Elliott moved from an on-call broadcaster to full contract. She always kept in mind that is key is to not be complacent.  It was a similar story for Elliott when she decided to pursue a job at CTV News.

“I called up the head of CTV News at the time and said, ‘it’s Nneka here from the Weather Network,’ he didn’t know who the hell I was, but I just said can you just take 10 minutes out of your day to tell me what you’re looking for in someone at CTV? A lot of what we spoke about was my extra curricular activities, because it’s important to have a life outside of work. He said, ‘we’re not looking for anyone right now but CP24 is hiring a weather person’ and the rest is kind of history.”

Elliott started off at CP24, Canada’s 24-hour breaking news network in 2008.  For the next three years, Elliott was the familiar face coving breaking news around the city and sometimes reporting in studio. In 2011, Elliott took a break to start a few side projects. She founded a venture called Media Huddle to mentor upcoming media personalities that wanted to make it on air.

“People want to be in news because they want to tell stories, but things are changing so much as the money is spread thin in television. The models are changing and it’s harder and harder for journalists to specialize in any one thing,” she said.

“You don’t really become known for anything and I just wanted to be known for something. I’ve been telling people’s stories for so long and I forgot my own. I had this obsession with how I thought my career was supposed to be and I never came up for air.”

Elliott made the decision to leave CP24 in 2016 to rebrand. She got opportunities based on the way people thought she was, as seen on TV, and it was time for her to become her own person. Elliott decided to launch her own blog. She also began to focus a lot on her Caribbean roots.

“I love Carnival. I love food and I love fashion inspired by the Caribbean, so that is why the bulk of my content is about the Caribbean.”

Elliott even launched an online talk show that is specifically aimed at the Caribbean diaspora.

Speed Round: Q&A

Q: What’s your favourite fashion piece?

A: A good pair of jeans, my go to is a jeans and a top.

Your favourite Caribbean dish?

I’m a pescatarian, so I only eat fish but I love fried fish and roasted breadfruit. I also love Buljol, it’s a pickled salt-fish dish.

What do you do for fun?

My husband and I watch an obsessive amount of TV and I’d probably say walk my dog— see I don’t know if people find that fun?

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How to stay thankful when the world hits back

With all the stress, disaster, and hurt happening in the world, it may be hard to realize that each day is an opportunity to start fresh. As many people in the Caribbean are dealing with the catastrophic effects of natural disasters, there are many things that people around the owrld should be thankful and grateful for in this life. It’s a difficult feeling to know that you can only do so much for those in need. It also doesn’t need to be Thanksgiving for you to remember what it means to be thankful. Little steps and tips daily can help you to become a more grateful person despite the chaos around you.

Keep it classic

Remember when people would actually speak to each other face to face and over the phone and not just over instant message or email? Sometimes the smallest things can make the world of difference to someone’s day. Maybe it’s a quick phone call to a distant friend or a written and mailed thank you note or letter. These little gems have become so unexpected that they are now moments to cherish. When you take the time to do these things, you are expressing more gratitude than just a “thx” in an email.

Remember to speak

Sometimes people get frustrated and that is understandable; however, it is unacceptable to take it out on complete strangers. Just yesterday, I was in line at Subway and there was one man serving approximately four customers. The man in front of me was visibly upset for having to wait an extra four minutes to get his sandwich. When his order was finally complete, he threw the money at the server and left the restaurant without a ‘thank you.’ The man behind the counter was visibly upset and he told me that sometimes people get the treatment they deserve in life. As a new immigrant to Toronto, from the UK, the employee told me that despite being a multicultural city, Toronto still feels cold to him in part to people like that. Nobody deserves to have money thrown at them, no matter the day you’re having. The best thing you can do is always remember to say ‘Thank you.’

Keep it on record

Many people get into the habit of expressing their emotions thorough journals and this is a good way to show emotional control and to keep track of your thoughts. Even if you are not into the routine of journaling, there are small exercises you can do daily to keep gratitude in perspective. Every morning or every evening, list five things that you are grateful for. Try not to stick to the broad and basic stuff like ‘my family’ and ‘my home,’ but instead think about your day to day experiences and the people you cross paths with in life. Be thankful for the stranger that held the door open for you this morning or be thankful for the feeling of sunshine in a balmy September.

Be Positive

Telling someone to be positive when everything is going wrong around them can sometimes feel like a slap to the face. Instead, make it your duty to reflect the best version of yourself to those around you. You have to be the one to make the decisions that will impact your life. Practice more self awareness and don’t bury your face in a phone while communicating with someone. Or even practice breathing and mediation in order to calm yourself and improve your mood.

Only one version of you

The most powerful thing you have over someone else is that you are unique. There is nobody else like you in this world. Some may have similar characteristics and traits, but you are in control of your life and the best thing you can do is be thankful to your body. Eat, sleep, exercise, and have fun. The moments may pass us by quickly and you don’t want to leave your life with regrets. The best thing you can do is make yourself happy because sometime happiness can be the most difficult thing to achieve

Earthquake hit Mexico and Hurricane Maria passes through Caribbean

In an eerie order of events, many residents of Mexico City were practicing an earthquake drill just a mere two hours before a powerful 7.1 magnitude quake hit the city and surrounding areas. The drill is done every year as an effort of preparedness after a magnitude 8.0 earthquake struck the south-west coast of Mexico on Sept. 19, 1985. Thirty-two years to the day, Mexico is dealing with devastation again as death tolls continue to rise in the city. Over 220 people have died since the quake, with the toll expected to rise in the coming days as many residents help search the rubble of collapsed buildings in the city.

The powerful earthquake struck the southern state of Puebla, 123km from Mexico City. So far, 86 deaths have been reported in Mexico City itself. Over 40 buildings have collapsed, including elementary schools. This is the largest earthquake to strike so close to the country’s capital since the 1985 quake which claimed over 5000 lives. Many volunteers, members of the Navy, and designated rescue workers were working overnight to rescue missing children from the collapsed Enrique Rebsamen school. Many children died when the A Wing of the three-storey building fell down.

Just two weeks ago, another fatal earthquake hit the south of Mexico, where it claimed the lives of 70 people. That earthquake registered at a magnitude of 8.2 near rural communities in Oaxaca state. With only two weeks apart, these devastating earthquakes have already claimed too many lives. Geophysicists from the US Geology Survey have determined that both earthquakes were a result of a rupture in the fault lines in North American tectonic plates. Mexico City is one of the most densely populated cities in the world, and according to geologists it is at risk because of that location. Mexico is located in an area known as the Pacific Ring of Fire which contains the most active volcanoes. According to Hongfeng Yang, a seismologist from the University of Hong Kong, almost 80 per cent of the world’s earthquakes strike in the Ring of Fire.

The tremors in the city were said to last up to seven minutes and so far there have been 11 aftershocks reported 11, with the strongest one carrying a magnitude of 4.0

Hurricane Update:

Hurricane Maria is still causing destruction in the Caribbean, with 90 per cent of the buildings in Dominica absolutely totalled.

Maria has made landfall in Puerto Rico. With winds of over 150mph, this storm will prove to be even more catastrophic than Hurricane Irma, which damaged parts of the country just last week. Many of these caribbean countries were still recovering from the last two hurricanes to hit and now many in Puerto Rico are dealing with storm surges, intense flash flooding, and power outages. So far, over 900,000 residents have lost power. Maria made landfall near the city of Yabucoa with the strength of a Category 4 storm. The storm has also ruined two National Weather Service radars on the island. Maria is the first hurricane in over 80 years with a category 4 strength to hit the island.

So far Maria has killed nine people in the Caribbean and is expected to make its way past Turks and Caicos before weakening out at sea. Tropical storm Lee, which was following the path of Maria, has died down to a tropical depression and has almost completely disappeared and is causing no threat to the Caribbean.

Our thoughts and prayers are with those being affected during this difficult time.

Update 1:56 PM Wednesday

Officials from the Puerto Rico Office of Emergency Management Agency said that Puerto Rico has lost 100 per cent power on the island and that anyone with electricity is using a generator. So far Hurricane Maria has caused severe damage to infrastructure. Maria is forecasted to approach north of Punta Cana in the Dominican republic overnight and  by Thursday afternoon make its way through Turks and Caicos

Summertime in Toronto: It’s time for Carnival

It’s summertime Toronto! And while there are many festivals being hosted this year, one of the most notable events (and one that shouldn’t be missed) is Toronto’s Caribbean Carnival. This year, the exciting street festival will be celebrating 50 years —50 beautiful years of shared cultures, music, costume, dance, and yummy Caribbean foods.

Formally known as ‘Caribana,’ this Caribbean festival is one of the biggest events in North America with guests from the United States and various Caribbean islands.

If you are unfamiliar with the culture of Carnival itself, traditions date back to the abolition of slavery on August 1 in 1834, in the British Caribbean territories. The first noted display of Carnival in the Caribbean was in the late 18th century, on the twin island Republic of Trinidad and Tobago.

Trinidad’s Carnival is often held right before Lent on the Christian calendar, as the word Carnival itself means “farewell to meat”. To this day, Trinidad remains a focal point of Caribbean festivities, producing the catchiest Soca beats and featuring the most intricately designed costumes. However, most countries have moved away from the traditional Lenten celebration and have chosen to feature the festival during the summer months.

Carnival yellow blue green

These traditions have spread globally and have made a big impression in Toronto, a city already known for being culturally diverse.  The Caribbean diaspora in Toronto also helps to keep the Toronto Caribbean Carnival season alive with locally-based costume designers that organize events for the public to play Mas in the streets. Some local costume designers and bands that will be displaying their work on the streets during this years festival include, Tribal Carnival , Carnival Nationz, Louis Saldenah, Toronto Revellers, and Venom Carnival just to name a few.

Carnival red outfit

In all, the festival stretches four weeks, with activities starting on July 7 and ending with the final event on Aug. 6.

If you want a true, wild, and exciting taste of Carnival, the grand parade on August 5 will be the main highlight, as colourful bands, costumes, and joyful revellers take over the parade route along the Toronto Lakeshore. This may be overwhelming for some, but Women’s Post has five tips to help you enjoy your first Toronto Caribbean Carnival experience.

  1. Get a costume: Carefully plan and organize the Toronto Caribbean Carnival events you would like to participate in. If you want to play Mas in the streets with a registered band, you must buy one of the designated band costumes and follow their procedures. Paying and registering for a band is better than being a street ‘stormer’ crashing the party. Otherwise dance from the sidelines.
  2. Remember to hydrate, hydrate, hydrate ! This August is marked to be one of the hottest summer months in Toronto and partying in the sun for extended hours can be draining and dehydrating.
  3. Wear sunblock: It’s that simple. No matter your ethnicity.
  4. Monitor your belongings: The streets will be busy and if you will be dancing and having fun, keep the minimal and essential things you need close to your body.
  5. Have Fun! : Put your inhibitions aside for one day and party in the streets to lively Caribbean music, dance, move your hips and don’t be too shocked if a fellow party-er will come to give you a wine or two ( not the drink but an actual dance where you gyrate your hips ).

Let us know how you are preparing for this year’s Carnival and leave some comments below. Enjoy the fetes !

Recipe: delicious island trio

What’s the best part of summer? In my opinion, it’s taking advantage of the fresh fruits and veggies that are in season for these precious months. Bringing summer into your kitchen is certainly a way to delight and embrace the sunshine.

When I think of sunshine, I often end up thinking of the tropics, that’s why Women’s Post is going to inspire you with a simple and delicious trio of quick and easy Caribbean recipes.

Island Salad

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups diced ripe mangoes
  • 1 cup diced watermelon (seedless)
  • 2 tbsp lime juice
  • ¼ cup diced red onion
  • 1 tsp thyme leaves
  • ¼ cup passionfruit juice
  • 1 tsp salt

Directions:

  1. Combine the diced mango, watermelon, and red onion in a large bowl
  2. Add passion fruit juice, lime juice and thyme
  3. Sprinkle with salt, toss lightly and serve refrigerated

This island inspired salad is refreshing, crisp, and offers the right amount of zesty sweetness.

 

Island Jerk Wings

Ingredients:

  • 3 lbs chicken wings
  • 1 tbsp minced garlic
  • 1tsp thyme leaves
  • 1tsp salt
  • 1tsp cinnamon powder
  • 1tsp paprika
  • 1tsp black pepper
  • 1tsp all spice
  • 1 tsp jerk sauce (wet mix from supermarket eg: Grace Jerk seasoning)
  • ¼ cup green onion
  • 2 tbsp Worcestershire sauce

Directions:

Preset oven to 425 degrees.

  1. In one large bowl, toss the chicken wings in the garlic, thyme, salt, cinnamon, paprika, black pepper, and all spice.
  2. Add tsp of jerk sauce (more can be added depending on your spice preference)
  3. Sprinkle Worcestershire sauce
  4. Line a baking tray with foil and place chicken wings, lightly drizzle with olive oil (optional)
  5. Place on the top rack of your oven and bake for 45 minutes, rotate wings halfway through.
  6. Wings should be crispy and ready to serve.

This recipe is fun and easy to prepare. It adds a burst of flavour and summer heat to your palette.

 

Frozen Island Tea Pops

*Can be prepared the night before to enjoy the next day.

Ingredients :

  • 2 cups Iced Tea (black tea)
  • 2 cups canned pineapple juice
  • ¼ cup lime juice

Directions:

  1. In a large pitcher mix the iced tea with pineapple juice
  2. Add lime juice and stir well
  3. Pour mixture into popsicle moulds of your choice
  4. Freeze for 6 hours

Hopefully this collection of Caribbean inspired treats adds a little bit of sunshine to your home! Enjoy and feel free to let us know how your recipes turned out. Leave a comment below.

Summertime in Toronto: It’s time for Carnival

It’s summertime Toronto! And while there are many festivals being hosted this year, one of the most notable events (and one that shouldn’t be missed) is Toronto’s Caribbean Carnival. This year, the exciting street festival will be celebrating 50 years —50 beautiful years of shared cultures, music, costume, dance, and yummy Caribbean foods.

Formally known as ‘Caribana,’ this Caribbean festival is one of the biggest events in North America with guests from the United States and various Caribbean islands.

If you are unfamiliar with the culture of Carnival itself, traditions date back to the abolition of slavery on August 1 in 1834, in the British Caribbean territories. The first noted display of Carnival in the Caribbean was in the late 18th century, on the twin island Republic of Trinidad and Tobago.

Trinidad’s Carnival is often held right before Lent on the Christian calendar, as the word Carnival itself means “farewell to meat”. To this day, Trinidad remains a focal point of Caribbean festivities, producing the catchiest Soca beats and featuring the most intricately designed costumes. However, most countries have moved away from the traditional Lenten celebration and have chosen to feature the festival during the summer months.

These traditions have spread globally and have made a big impression in Toronto, a city already known for being culturally diverse.  The Caribbean diaspora in Toronto also helps to keep the Toronto Caribbean Carnival season alive with locally-based costume designers that organize events for the public to play Mas in the streets. Some local costume designers and bands that will be displaying their work on the streets during this years festival include, Tribal Carnival , Carnival Nationz, Louis Saldenah, Toronto Revellers, and Venom Carnival just to name a few.

In all, the festival stretches four weeks, with activities starting on July 7 and ending with the final event on Aug. 6.

If you want a true, wild, and exciting taste of Carnival, the grand parade on August 5 will be the main highlight, as colourful bands, costumes, and joyful revellers take over the parade route along the Toronto Lakeshore. This may be overwhelming for some, but Women’s Post has five tips to help you enjoy your first Toronto Caribbean Carnival experience.

  1. Get a costume: Carefully plan and organize the Toronto Caribbean Carnival events you would like to participate in. If you want to play Mas in the streets with a registered band, you must buy one of the designated band costumes and follow their procedures. Paying and registering for a band is better than being a street ‘stormer’ crashing the party. Otherwise dance from the sidelines.
  2. Remember to hydrate, hydrate, hydrate ! This August is marked to be one of the hottest summer months in Toronto and partying in the sun for extended hours can be draining and dehydrating.
  3. Wear sunblock: It’s that simple. No matter your ethnicity.
  4. Monitor your belongings: The streets will be busy and if you will be dancing and having fun, keep the minimal and essential things you need close to your body.
  5. Have Fun! : Put your inhibitions aside for one day and party in the streets to lively Caribbean music, dance, move your hips and don’t be too shocked if a fellow party-er will come to give you a wine or two ( not the drink but an actual dance where you gyrate your hips ).

Let us know how you are preparing for this year’s Carnival and leave some comments below. Enjoy the fetes !