Friday, July 24, 2015

When Carnival Queen Contestants Attack

Lets face it, we've all heard of rivalry in the beauty contestant world. young girls, and sometimes grown women, just can't seem to get along well when so much is at stake under the intense pressure of being n the public spotlight. And it is at times like these, when under intense pressure, that the true character of contestants is revealed for the world to see.

This year just when we thought Saint Lucia Carnival 2015 could not have gotten any worse a bombshell story slowly makes the rounds of a bold  and public attack on one Carnival Queen contestant while at the parade of bands on Carnival Tuesday. 

Apparently, and according to reports, the melee' occurred all because of a feud which existed between two contestants; Khadija Mason and another. The wind down to the parade was the time when a friend of Khadija's adversary took the opportunity to "go-street" and show her [Khadija] what bad girls are made of. Sadly blows were rained down in full public view and when the hissing, snarling, punching, and biting attacker was done Khadija's face had taken a beating..blood out! Ambulance! Polees! And the famous St. Lucian word of choice were all witnessed at the scene.After receiving medical attention she was released from the hospital.

Coming to light is a bombshell Whatsapp group chat between  at least one contestant and some other apparently ready-to-fight, friends. You be the judge.....

The questions which are now being asked is how these contestants are chosen for these beauty pageants. Is it simply good looks which qualifies an individual to compete? Is it family ties, money, status? Is there any background check? And these people are eventually expected to represent St. Lucia on the world stage!!

Just when you thought Carnival in Saint Lucia could not have gotten any worse this most embarrassing and despicable attack adds another black eye to a formerly magnificent cultural event.

Meanwhile police are continuing their investigations.

According to former St. Lucia calypsonian King Caro, "Where do we go from here?"

Kadijha Mason
Kadijha Mason
Kadijha Mason

Thursday, July 23, 2015

It's Time To Clean Up St. Lucia Carnival

It's been said, time and time again, that Carnival is bacchanal. That the shock and disgust many express year after year as a result of the debauchery and drunken sexual behaviour is what Carnival is really all about, and the expressions of concern come from a bunch of prudes who should just stay home or go to the beach.

In essence this approach chooses to excuses all vile, sexual, drunken, and very often unlawful behaviour which would not be tolerated on any other day. From highly intoxicated minors to mature gogehs, astounding wardrobe malfunctions, bodily malfunctions, and everything else in between. Lets face it Carnival shocks the senses!

However we must, as a civilized society, decide when enough is enough and set limits to the seemingly limitless imagination and determination by too many revelers to be more raunchy than the previous year's offerings on the road. We are well aware that alcohol is a major contributor to problems not only at Carnival but at every other event and occasion known to man. It is also against the law to be drunk in public. According to the wording of one of the associated charges, "drunk and disorderly." 

The carnival band organizers, sponsors, and all involved in this cultural event need to up the ante and be significantly more responsible in their civic duty and responsibility. The changes which need to be made must start from the top and trickle down since it is easier to have the responsible parties set the conditions of participation in the bands and events.

What happens during our Carnival portrays St. Lucia to the world. Is much of what we see on the road how we really want the rest of the world to see us? Censorship of the sounds and images is not what I am alluding to but rather the behaviour of revelers in the first place.

We need to start by dealing with the serious problem of alcoholism which exists in Saint Lucia. Many will not like to hear this but alcohol is the root of almost every problem which occurs during Carnival and other events in St. Lucia. The drunkenness and unfettered consumption of alcohol in public and at all Carnival events must addressed by the authorities. Alcohol is being served to minors in the bands from their trucks and at after-fetes with absolutely no restraint. Minors should not be allowed in adult bands and neither should they be at their fetes where alcohol is being served. No sob stories, it is known.

Photo with the permission of Raymond Auguste
There must also be some form of control on how alcohol is dispensed to revelers on the road. Sponsors like LIME, Digicel, the Brewery, St. Lucia Distillers, and others must insist on conditions appropriate for the offering of alcohol during these events. The government MUST set these guidelines as they are responsible for the direction of this cultural event. There cannot be an endless flow of alcohol to already heavily intoxicated individuals. Sponsors and bands should not be allowed unbridled raining of alcohol as part of the sponsorship and advertising conditions. It is high time this situation be dealt with since those currently concerned have done, at best, a very poor job.

Photo with the permission of Audie Alexander Photography
The image we project must be cleaned up to a more family oriented display. There comes a time when we have to decide what is acceptable and what needs to be tossed out. That time has come. The idea of Carnival is definitely not one of a church choir but downright nastiness and perverse behaviour in the name of fun can no longer be tolerated.

Carnival is supposed to be fun. Lets make it so for all Saint Lucians. The financial side of this cultural event is as important as in any other and continues to bring handsome dividends to band leaders and many others involved. Never the less we cannot focus solely on the moneymaking aspect of Carnival and allow the quality and image do go down in the dumps until it all comes crashing around our heads. Lets be responsible and encourage a Carnival which can do much more for Saint Lucia than allow us a few days of wining in the streets.

Enough is ENOUGH!!

Wednesday, July 22, 2015


They say that the burial of "Vaval" signifies the end of a period of excess during Carnival and prepares the recovering devilish populace for the Lenten season. All that is and was unholy and of the flesh would go down in the hole amid much ceremony, never again to see the light of day because of our shame at being enticed and influenced by the flesh. If only that was the case!

Sadly it seems that instead of moving forward year by year and learning from the previous year's Carnival mistakes we return to the cemetery and raise Vaval from the dead! Jumping in the same old costumes, same old ways, and same old mal mes. 

It is too often lamented how the St. Lucia carnivals of today fall far from those of yesterday in culture, quality of costumes, and just all out fun. Nowadays there seems to be little to no culture involved, the seemingly almost same costumes from year to year, and just all out vieux neg behaviour which has caused the street jump-up to be called to a halt no later than 6 PM.

There is absolutely no doubt that Carnival has become a lucrative business for band leaders and others who have capitalized on the party aspect of the event; kudos to them. But at the end of the day we have to examine Carnival in its entirety and the overall benefit to Saint Lucia. After all it is supposed to be a cultural event, and as such should reflect who and what we are as a people. A cultural event suggests deep roots in our history and identity. It should showcase to all those who observe its depiction as a billboard and attraction to our lovely island.

In this modern age, particularly since our economy depends on tourism for at least 80% of our GDP, we should use every asset we have in bag of tricks to lure every tourist dollar we can. St. Lucians travel the world and see how every possible option is exploited to draw visitors to cities, towns, or countries. New York, Miami, London, Toronto, among a multitude of others are prime examples. Yet for some reason Carnival has been, and continues to remain, a red headed stepchild on our calendar of events.

Please don't be fooled into believing that I am suggesting it is all a disaster as I am sure you will agree that the revelers have a darned good time; throw two stones together, mix in some alcohol, toss up some feathers from China or Trinidad, and almost any St. Lucian will have a damn good time. Hell, even Friday night in Gros Islet is a blast! (no pun intended).

Many moons ago, if you all remember, Carnival was moved from its traditional time in February to July. This was done, so they said, to avoid the competition with the Trinidad and Brazil carnivals. Although there were cries about the effect on students sitting CXC exams Carnival landed on July like nobody's business. It would have been expected that now we were free and clear of our main competitors for visitors to our shores, that we would attack our time for wining as a golden opportunity. But nooooo! Instead, Carnival descended into a virtual free for all. 

If I remember correctly much of the soul and essence of Carnival began to evaporate once steel band began disappearing from the road. And you know who was responsible for that? Burning Flames! At least that is my perception of it. Not saying that they were a bad thing, I love them, but Somehow I believe they are the ones who really introduced the big truck syndrome to Carnival. How many of you remember Diamond Steel and the other steel bands being pushed down the road in their galvanized pipe structures. Legions of Saint Lucians would lend their muscles, for free, pushing these steel drum contraptions around the city. You could feel the rhythm in your heart. You never felt tired. And for many it was a free pass into the Mindoo Phillip Park on Carnival Monday. Sadly those days are no more.

Today Carnival is a pale reflection of what it once was and too much of de-same-ole-ting. Yet there is hope if our elected officials can see the value of incorporating Carnival into our tourism product. Why is so much money pumped into Jazz when Carnival has been around for so much longer? And all this money continues to flow Jazz-side when it has been said to be operating at a loss since its inception! Why have Trinidad and Brazil been able to make their carnivals world renowned events, and we have not? 

Since so much money is already being directed to the coffers of Jazz why can't we dual launch Jazz and Carnival to minimize advertising dollars spent and offer visitors an option? Yes, hijack their minds and wallets. And damnit, lets target Saint Lucians in the diaspora with more gusto because although we are Lucians we are tourists too. Ohhhh you never thought of that huh?

'The Diaspora', as they like to refer to St. Lucians abroad, has money too. The same money the lighter complected tourists have! It has been well established that those in the diaspora contribute significantly to the economy of Saint Lucia with remittances (Western Union, MoneyGram), barrels during the holiday season and throughout the year, and supporting many of those left behind on a monthly basis. So we are not a broke bunch.

Recently the Tourist Board launched their Se Sannou initiative which encourages those of us in the diaspora to market the island to our friends and others with whom we come into contact. Somehow it is expected that St. Lucians will inevitably travel home on vacation. Unfortunately someone has missed the memo that we are also targeted by other countries and cities for the very same dollar! 

Anyway, enough about the diaspora aspect and get back to the dual launching. It is an established marketing practice to dual or triple advertise products in order to save significantly on marketing and other associated costs. Don't believe me? Just ask McDonalds, Burger King, Sony Studios, etc.

So getting back to the dismal state of our Carnival. 

Regardless of how much revelers enjoy themselves there seems to be a consensus among a wide cross section of St. Lucians that our Carnival needs a serious shot in the arm. Things cannot continue the same with our bands being feathers, feathers, feathers, panty, panty, panty, bra, bra, bra, rum, rum, rum, bweh wom, weemeh, ek weemeh encore, year after year after year.

Thank God for the French. Vive le Francaise! Since the French contingents from Martinique, Guadeloupe, and this year Cayenne, have been participating it has been like a breath of fresh air has blown over the parade. Not as skimpily clad as their local counterparts they have been a joy to the crowds. Costumes like what we had back in the day, and basic music instruments which did no less than any big truck. They had a good time just as well, didn't spend as much money to come from all the way over yonder, yet looked better than those Lucians who paid upwards of  $1200 for a VIP, or wait for it, $1800 for a VVIP membership in a Carnival band! Are you serious!!! Yes papa.

The big question is how Carnival benefits the nation past the few days of events. The costumes are just the culmination of a bigger NATIONAL event. We should not forget that calypso, Queen Show, and all the other events are a part of our Carnival. It is time that or GOVERNMENT does something sensible, relevant, and meaningful with it! I say so emphatically, seriously, and deliberately! Why in the blazes do we have a Ministry of Culture, or as they call it now, Creative Industries.

If Carnival is meant to showcase our country, then what is presented at the shows, and on the road shows who we are and what we are made of. Telling the truth what is presented as our Carnival is a downright dirty shame. When we strip all the rum, wining, and carnal behaviour we are not left with anything much.

The real kicker for me yesterday, Carnival Tuesday, was when a Bajan man who was interviewed live on Choice TV said that he came for to experience St Lucian culture and most of what he heard was  Trini music being played on the trucks. He didn't lie because I heard the same too. We need a serious reconstruct of this Carnival event. Just because people have a nice time doesn't mean it is to their ultimate benefit.

Panty and bra covered with feathers year after year is just not cutting it. We all know and say it. Toss photos from a few years of Carnival and mix the up, then try to figure out what year they were taken. I'll wait until next year for your answers. Now do the same with the French bands and I am certain it would be quite easy. Why? You answer.

Carnival has descended as far as possible into the gutters when can excuse highly immoral and straight up unlawful behaviour as our culture. These same actionsat any other time of the year would be considered drunk and disorderly behaviour and subject to arrest. It is just another excuse to get drunk in a country which has a serious alcoholism problem. It is an excuse to grope, oggle, and misbehave expecting there to be some tolerance and acceptance because it's our KOLCHA! 

Well if this is our culture crapaud smoke our pipe.