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Saturday, June 04, 2011

Is Boston Carnival dying? Boston Carnival Stakeholders Speaks up Allegations of corruption, shady leadership ensues …

Annually, the city of Boston under the auspices of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts celebrates its commitment to diversity by hosting a Caribbean styled street parade known affectionately as the “Carnival.” The rolling street parade, set ablaze with color, lovely music, custom designed costumes and intricate floats all appear for one spectacular day usually being the last Saturday in August. This is a parade that routinely closes a bustling summer season for the city. This year, the Boston Carnival will commence on Saturday August 27, 2011.

For the past 38 years, the parade has been organized by a governing entity known as the Caribbean American Carnival Association, later changed to the Caribbean American Carnival Association of Boston or CACAB. For over 15 years, the CACAB has been led by President Shirley Shillingford and has enjoyed many fruitful years within the city of Boston and additionally the Carnival parade has been included in the official city calendar and recognized at the state level. Annually, the sitting Governor would “kick-off” the parade as the Grand Marshall.

The carnival has been for some if not most the pinnacle of summer activities. Participants often begin the challenge of selecting a carnival band, months in advance. Often driven by the color combination of costumes, the look or feel of the materials used or even sometimes by the portrayal or theme of the band, the selection process can be a tedious one for the untrained eye. The carnival in its entirety is a combination of many differing Caribbean attributes, carnival bands comprise the majority, but there also exists steeldrum bands (commonly known as steelpan bands), flag wavers, twirlers, national floats from different islands and countries and even a band completely covered in mud. Indeed something for everyone to admire.

The unifying thread that bonds these cultural exhibitionists together to create this parade every year is one of love, cultural respect and tradition.

Recently, there have been accusations of false leadership, questionable business practices and an overall lack of confidence in the direction of the Boston Carnival in years to come. A review of the financial health of the carnival reveals areas of concern for the future preservation of the culture. The bandleaders who represent a governing percentage of the future of the carnival have joined together to voice their concerns on the state of the carnival which was met with unsettling answers, so much so, that thoughts of newer, more sound leadership was suggested.

“One must understand, that if we are to preserve our culture and ensure that we have a financially viable vehicle to sustain both ourselves as well as look for future funding, we must be able to account for past funding that we have received” said Daryl Cox, chief representative for the bandleaders in the 2011 Boston Carnival. Mr. Cox also stated that questions regarding financial practices of the CACAB which were asked in a closed door meeting, were deflected or met with crude and disturbing gestures. He also mentioned that documents that were filed with the Attorney General’s office of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts could potentially be falsified just so that the Carnival in its dilapidated state could appear to be financially stable. “This would not happen, if you have proper leadership that had the Carnival’s interest at heart.”

Currently, according to Mr. Cox, there exists a divide within the governing body of the CACAB. It is because of this divide, allegations of mis-representation of funding, accusations of coerced funding being steered to the Carnival by way of former state Senator Diane Wilkerson in lieu of trips and other personal favors as well as carnival budget allocations being used to fund personal agendas all arose. Currently, former state senator Diane Wilkerson is serving 3 ½ years for corruption.

A task force for the preservation of Boston Carnival is currently being coordinated by Daryl Cox and other leaders of the Boston Carnival Bands. Currently, there exists 8 carnival bands in the Boston area carnival responsible for approximately 1600 costumed masqueraders on the road. This does not deflect from the fact that these 8 bands are also responsible for approximately 80 of the larger floats you see towering over the adoring crowds that come out to see the Carnival each and every year.

“The carnival is important to me, the bandleaders I represent, their families, their children, its important to all of us who contribute our national heritage to a country that has made us “their” own. The least we could do, is ensure that the management of our culture is handled with respect and decency and that all of our logistical information is sound and correct. It is also important to impress among the general public that it is their duty to make sure they are informed and can stand up for their rights. I am here to represent YOU the consumer as well.”

1 comment:

Trini-in-Toronto said...

you can replace the "Boston" with any of the numerous cities who have carnivals and it sounds all too familiar

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