From Thousands of Carnival-goers, We Share Stories of 12

Toronto’s Lakeshore was a sea of cosmic feathers, dazzling sequins and glistening glitter this past weekend as the city celebrated Caribana – now formally known as The Scotiabank Toronto Caribbean Carnival.

The event is one of the city’s major tourism attractions and visitors from all over the world flock to the 6ix to be a part of the jumping, waving, wining and palancing madness.

Besides the name change, several other new rules have been implemented to maintain order during the parade. Though these new and ever-growing implementations put a slight damper on the festivities, spirits remained jubilant. After all, dem cyant stop di vibe.

As such, this year we decided to do snapshot portraits of 12 of the most interesting people we met at Carnival. Photographer Janelle Scott-Johnson captured their portraits, while Writer Sadé Powell listened to their stories.


DAVID COWAN

This year’s masquerade kicked off theatrically as Carnival Nationz emerged first with a magical band of wizards, phantoms, majesties and animal kingdoms. David Cowan waves in the parade with a massive Trinidad and Tobago flag and plays the role of a spirit who bestows evil powers upon the wicked witch of Oz. “To me it was the most spiritual of the Carnival sections and today we celebrate emancipation so we have to remember our spiritual roots.”

ANGIE WHITE

Bold and beautiful, Angie White is a beam of energy in the already vibrant parade. The California gal is participating in Caribana for the ninth time since her very first experience in 1996. The musical vibrations of Machel Montano, Alison Hinds and, her downright favourite artist, Bunji Garlin got her groovin’, wining and singing at the top of her lungs.

Living in Maryland, only an eight-hour drive from Toronto, Ansen was expecting to be hit by a slight culture shock being in Canada for the first time. He set out with his mob of frat brothers to celebrate their 10-year reunion in Toronto to hang out, enjoy the scenery and share in the festivities. His initial impression of us Canuks was shattered and he quickly realized that the city’s diversity was vast and abundant. “We’re a lot more similar than I thought we’d be, we’re (he and his frat brothers) are already making plans for next year.”

Living in Maryland, only an eight-hour drive from Toronto, Ansen was expecting to be hit by a slight culture shock being in Canada for the first time. He set out with his mob of frat brothers to celebrate their 10-year reunion in Toronto to hang out, enjoy the scenery and share in the festivities. His initial impression of us Canuks was shattered and he quickly realized that the city’s diversity was vast and abundant. “We’re a lot more similar than I thought we’d be, we’re (he and his frat brothers) are already making plans for next year.”

Margaret (middle left) and her group of sisters and friends hook up with the Connections band, representing this year’s theme Celebration of Life through the playing of steel pan. Margaret, originally from St. Vincent and the Grenadines, has been playing for 10 years and has passed on her love of the sweet sound to her two kids who are now learning to play in school. These ladies have two sure-fire ways of celebrating life: praise God and party.

Margaret (middle left) and her group of sisters and friends hook up with the Silhouettes band, representing this year’s theme Celebration of Life through the playing of steel pan. Margaret, originally from St. Vincent and the Grenadines, has been playing for 10 years and has passed on her love of the sweet sound to her two kids who are now learning to play in school. These ladies have two sure-fire ways of celebrating life: praise God and party.

Proud grandfather Arthur Augustine crowns his neck with one of his most precious gifts, his first granddaughter six-year-old Janella. She was giddy with excitement for her very first Caribana three years ago and hasn’t failed to return for each parade that followed. With a grandfather that’s been coming to join in the festivities for the last 40 years, Janella hopes she will one day reach that number, continuing to revisit for a very long time.

Proud grandfather Arthur Augustine crowns his neck with one of his most precious gifts, his first granddaughter six-year-old Janella. She was giddy with excitement for her very first Caribana three years ago and hasn’t failed to return for each parade that followed. With a grandfather that’s been coming to join in the festivities for the last 40 years, Janella hopes she will one day reach that number, continuing to revisit for a very long time.

This is the first year Brittany, Tanejaé and June (l to r) are playing mas together along with over a dozen friends and family. Taking the lead of the Seasons of Change band, the ladies were seen grooving in a fiery flock of orange, red, and bronze throughout the Autumn Dance section. For Tanejaé the parade is very important, as it is a time to celebrate her culture and enjoy time with family and friends.

This is the first year Brittany, Tanejaé and June (l to r) are playing mas together along with over a dozen friends and family. Taking the lead of the Seasons of Change band, the ladies were seen grooving in a fiery flock of orange, red, and bronze throughout the Autumn Dance section. For Tanejaé the parade is very important, as it is a time to celebrate her culture and enjoy time with family and friends.

“This is how I feel trying to get in.” Each year it seems festival policies have increased and become stricter. The fences surrounding the parade are bolted together while officials are posted at every possible entrance. Those not playing mas are left on the sidelines for most of the day. “I’m not disagreeing, but people would love to be inside and see what Carnival is about. This is more of a spectator’s event.”

“This is how I feel trying to get in,” says Jay Jackson. Each year it seems festival policies have increased and become stricter. The fences surrounding the parade are bolted together while officials are posted at every possible entrance. Those not playing mas are left on the sidelines for most of the day. “I’m not disagreeing,” Jackson adds, “but people would love to be inside and see what Carnival is about. This is more of a spectator’s event.”

Toronto-born international supermodel Winnie Harlow graces the bow of the “LIKE AH BOSS” truck, named after soca singer Machel Montano’s latest single. Harlow is known for possessing a prominent skin condition called vitiligo, which she’s had since she was four. Despite this she went on to become a contestant on the 21st season of “America’s Next Top Model” and to model for brands like Diesel. Harlow stunts a magnificently bejeweled two-piece and can’t see the haters in her aviator shades. Harlow celebrates not only her Jamaican ancestry, but also her 21st birthday that passed on July 27.

Toronto-born international supermodel Winnie Harlow graces the bow of the “LIKE AH BOSS” truck, named after soca singer Machel Montano’s latest single. Harlow is known for possessing a prominent skin condition called vitiligo, which she’s had since she was four. Despite this she went on to become a contestant on the 21st season of “America’s Next Top Model” and to model for brands like Diesel. Harlow stunts a magnificently bejeweled two-piece and can’t see the haters in her aviator shades. Harlow celebrates not only her Jamaican ancestry, but also her 21st birthday that passed on July 27.

As far a big trips go Toronto’s Carnival was high up on the bucket list for this South Carolina crew. What better way to celebrate a bachelor party? The scene is right up their alley and for them, compared to some other Caribbean festivals, Toronto’s is kind of a big deal. Rich (middle in white shirt), the husband to be, swears he’ll still come out with the boys once he’s tied the knot, but knows wifey will always come first.

As far a big trips go Toronto’s Carnival was high up on the bucket list for this South Carolina crew. What better way to celebrate a bachelor party? The scene is right up their alley and for them, compared to some other Caribbean festivals, Toronto’s is kind of a big deal. Rich (middle in white shirt), the husband to be, swears he’ll still come out with the boys once he’s tied the knot, but knows wifey will always come first.

Apart of the Carnival Nationz’s On Broadway theme, Reeyana Singh took on the mighty role of sporting a colossal float that showcased the different characters of Disney’s “The Lion King”. Walking past it and not stopping to stare or snap a few shots is simply out of the question – it is a sight to be seen. Masquerading as Simba’s boo, Nala, Singh is quite literally marching with her pride on her back, and she does so with a smile.

Apart of the Carnival Nationz’s On Broadway theme, Reeyana Singh took on the mighty role of sporting a colossal float that showcased the different characters of Disney’s “The Lion King”. Walking past it and not stopping to stare or snap a few shots is simply out of the question – it is a sight to be seen. Masquerading as Simba’s boo, Nala, Singh is quite literally marching with her pride on her back, and she does so with a smile.

Billy Govia has attended both to Toronto’s Caribana and Trinidad’s Carnival each year since arriving in Canada and has been playing in mas since he was 12 years old. Being originally from the Caribbean, the Trinidad Carnival reins a few notches above Caribana in his experience. One reason for this being that since the rules here have changed so many times he feels the people are at a standstill. Despite the tensions though, Govia says he’ll continue to play mas as long as he’s alive.

Billy Govia has attended both to Toronto’s Caribana and Trinidad’s Carnival each year since arriving in Canada and has been playing in mas since he was 12 years old. Being originally from the Caribbean, the Trinidad Carnival reins a few notches above Caribana in his experience. One reason for this being that since the rules here have changed so many times he feels the people are at a standstill. Despite the tensions though, Govia says he’ll continue to play mas as long as he’s alive.

Goodlife Fitness worker Frances Dean puts her zumba moves to work for her second year playing mas – leaving the nerves of last year in dust. Dean’s co-worker and friend, acclaimed fitness and wellness consultant Assata Mckenzie, first showed Dean the moves in her Zumba class and now she’s making the parade her stage. Rocking a pair of wings as wide as the length of her arms, Dean has not a single complaint about the size. “Go big or go home!”

Goodlife Fitness worker Frances Dean puts her zumba moves to work for her second year playing mas – leaving the nerves of last year in dust. Dean’s co-worker and friend, acclaimed fitness and wellness consultant Assata Mckenzie, first showed Dean the moves in her Zumba class and now she’s making the parade her stage. Rocking a pair of wings as wide as the length of her arms, Dean has not a single complaint about the size: “Go big or go home!”

Editor’s Note (August 12, 2015): This story has been updated to reflect an inaccuracy in the name of the Silhouettes band.