Fantastic to be there at the torontocaribbeancarnival.com tonight with Joe Mihevc and my wonderful friend Hon. Jean Augustine (sporting our matching Sickle Cell Awareness bracelets….www.sicklecellanemia.ca)
Such an exciting time in Toronto….. especially this year as we also celebrate the 50th Anniversary of Jamaican Independence….
Here’s www.mytowncrier.ca piece for this month
Jump for Jamaica
As the Caribana Festival 2012 kicks off this weekend, it seems even more special embedded in the fabulous 50th birthday celebrations of Jamaica’s independence. Ever since the 1956 release of Harry Beleafonte’s ‘Calypso’ album, Torontonians have been singing along to the lyrics of Jamaica Farewell. Around campfires and in classrooms, that song was our first real taste of that special culture.We’d never tasted ackee rice or salt fish or even rum, but belted out the lyrics none-the-less. We understood why his ‘heart was down’ his ‘head was turning around’, it was clearly not only the girl he had left in Kingston town.
It wasn’t long before Jamaica became much closer to us. Hundreds of women left their beloved Island to raise the children of this new cohort of Canadian families in which both parents worked out side the home. Sometimes they paid a huge price in their own families, separated from their own children for years. In 1987, my husband Peter O’Brian produced ‘Milk and Honey’ to tell that story. Glen Saltzman and Trevor Rhone’s beautiful screenplay was nominated for a Genie Award. It was exciting to have that story celebrated. I remember heading out on Eglinton West to those wonderful stores to buy coconuts and curry and patties for the party.
It was almost 10 years later that I got to know Albert Wiggins from Albert’s Real Jamaica Foods and my family became hooked on the truly delicious roti. In 1999, I was honoured to be there when he received his Harry Jerome Award for the amazing work he was doing not only as a successful entrepreneur, but for his truly important influence of young people in his community – not only as a role-model but taking on the tough stuff like dyslexia and drugs. At the St. Paul’s Canada Day picnic, there was Albert handing out the delicious Jamaica drinks and chatting up the people. He makes our community so much better.
Albert is just one of over 80,000 Canadians of Jamaican descent living in Toronto. They are our doctors and lawyers, poets and musicians, teachers and journalists, entrepreneurs and scientists. Toronto is blessed that they or their parents or grandparents chose to take the big risk in choosing to come to this big cold country. It seems that this hot steamy summer is somehow in recognition of this important birthday for this tropical jewel and all of its people.
One of my favorite events of the year is the King and Queen Festival on the Thursday night of the Caribana weekend. It’s like a reunion of all the fabulous people that come from all the islands. But this year it will be an extra chance to ‘Jump for Jamaica’.