by Ajamu Nangwaya

Why everyting weh gwaan a foreign, a di Yardie (Jamaicans) get di blame

As yuh quint di Yankee (Americans) dem call nuff Yardie name

If a bank get lik (robbed), dem say di Yardie do it

Woman get raped, Yardie life at stake

If dem find a man dead, a Yardie buss him head

Dem seh, Yardman deh a foreign a run di place red

"Yardie" – Buju Banton

Buju Banton's lamentation about the "Yardie" getting the blame for all sorts of crime is something that Caribana (now the Scotiabank Caribbean Carnival) can identify with at the gut level. This street festival has been wrongly associated with criminality. It has much to do with the fact that Afrikan bodies are linked to this event.

According to Stephen Weir, an organizer of the festival:

"Two years ago there was a young boy at a church party in Pickering and he was (killed) on Sunday night, and police called it a pre-Caribana party. Two years before that, a man was killed at Dundas Square a day after our parade. (Local media) called it a Caribana killing... This heightened awareness or concern about our event is based on a racist linking of events involving Black people."

This fear of Afrikans by the political authority and its armed guardians when this group is in the street playing mas is not of recent vintage. According to University of the West Indies expert on carnival culture Dr. Keith Nurse, carnival in Notting Hill (London), Brooklyn (New York) and Toronto (Canada) were seen as exotic affairs up to the mid-1970s.

However, as these festivals grew into massive gatherings of Afrikans, the status quo thought they had become "more menacing and policing escalated, resulting in a backlash from the immigrant Caribbean community".

The spectre of the "Black horde" invading the White-controlled territory of Toronto to unleash its destructive inclination became an exaggerated fear among an "innocent" White citizenry. In the mind of the White imagination, carnival would only let loose the primal and uncontrolled sexual urges of Afrikans, and their inherent criminality and dangerous tendencies.

Given the above perceived reality, the forces of law and order would be the way to control "these people". However, the police in Toronto were already regulating the behaviour of Afrikans outside of the Caribana parade.

In 1971, the Black Student Union at the University of Toronto wrote in Contrast newspaper that Caribana ignored social issues such as "Canadian racism in all forms of discrimination in housing, lack of jobs, racism in education and police harassment" and the Black petite bourgeoisie were only interested in putting "on their show for White people".

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