Carnival in Danger

As plans unfold for a remodeled version of  Carnival, evidence is fast emerging that Trinis will do whatever they can to prevent the closure of their beloved national safety-valve festival.

Ticket sales for the “Soka in Moka” virtual fete have increased over the past few days, according to Trinity College Soka in Moka Foundation PRO Dexter Charles. The virtual event, titled Soka in Moka XXII Uploaded, is scheduled for January 17 at 8 pm.

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Some of the featured artists will be Aaron “Voice” St Louis, Olatunji Yearwood, Nadia Batson, and Nailah Blackman.

Charles said while ticket sales had been slow since the announcement of the event, there had been a wave of new sales after promotional videos were posted recently. Giveaways and contests have also raised interest in the event.

“It seems people are still very cautious about attending the event, but we are optimistic that this will turn into curiosity and intrigue as we release more promotional videos and get closer to the event. Unfortunately, the last minute culture of the Trinbagonian applies to ticket purchases as well.”

The Soka In Moka 2021 event, which helps the school with its annual expenses, was described by Charles as being the normal fundraiser, just different.

He said the people can watch the show on their devices, as well as using their mouse to move around to different parts of the virtual venue. He said virtual reality goggles could also be used for a more immersive experience.

Soka in Moka Uploaded can be viewed on the online streaming platform Yellar TV. Tickets cost US$22 as it is the 22nd anniversary of the event.

The trek to Carnival 2021 with COVID 19 looming like a monster in the air has been a tricky and perilous one as the government does a balancing act to keep the figures significantly down while acknowledging the extent to which Trinis need this important safety valve for their survival.

Around the world, Trinidad and Tobago is no exception to reports of increased incidence of domestic violence. On April 9, 2020, the country’s commissioner of police, Captain Gary Griffith, shared data confirming that such crimes have been on the rise.

In February 2019, the Trinidad and Tobago Police Service (TTPS) had received 39 reports of “assaults by beating”. In February 2020, that figure had climbed to 73. Similarly, in March 2019, reports of domestic violence numbered 42. In March 2020, there were 96.

All told, Griffith reported a rise in domestic violence cases from 232 in 2019 to 558 in 2020. He did admit, however, that the increased number of reports may also be partially linked to the January 2020 launch of the TTPS’ Gender-Based Violence Unit (GBVU).ARTICLES

  CARPHA (Caribbean Public Health Agency)  has stated that in the Caribbean and worldwide, mental health disorders are now recognized as the fifth major non-communicable disease and a major threat to health and economic development in the 21st century.

According to the World Health Organization, one in four persons globally will be affected by a mental disorder or neurological disorder in their lifetime and 450 million are affected by these disorders, such as depression, anxiety disorders, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, dementia, and substance (e.g. alcohol, nicotine) dependency.

Mental health disorders are a leading cause of disability and a major contributor to the burden of non-communicable diseases (NCDs) in the Region. In Jamaica, for example, the burden of mental illness is predicted to cause US$2.76 billion in lost economic output from 2015-2030.

This year’s World Mental Health Day, on 10 October, comes at a time when lives have changed considerably as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.  The campaign focuses on investment in mental health.

The World Federation for Mental Health states “Good mental health is critical to the functioning of society at the best of times. It must be front and center of every country’s response to and recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic. The mental health and wellbeing of whole societies have been severely impacted by this crisis and are a priority to be addressed urgently.”

When the capital city’s Downtown Owners and Managers Association leader Gregory Aboud intervened to encourage the government to stage  Carnival 2021,  many people were quietly happy. 

Memories of how Trinidad has dodged the dangerous bullet on more than one occasion at  Carnival time are well known. As recently as  December 2020 – when the COVID 19 first reared its head in Wuhan China – the government here went into high gear to brace for the pandemic while committing to hold the Carnival which came off without any great fault,  much to the dismay of many.

It was a similar situation when the polio pandemic threatened the country in 1972 and the Carnival was postponed after protest from the masqueraders.

Having received  official permission to stage a delayed street program in May – some four months after the official date –  all hell broke loose when the rains came and caused the calypsonian Kitchen to sing:

“Mama when  they hear they go get they carnival

All masqueraders on heat

When they did not know if it was official

But they start making Mas on the Street

And they start to jump around

And they fall on the ground  

And they start to dingolay

If you see how they gay

But what was so comical 

In the midst of Carnival

Rain  come and wash out Mas in May”

Already this year, as if in a complete turnaround against what is natural and organic, a virtual party has been criticized for allowing the live audience to stand up and dance; a beach party was visited by the police to apparently arrest people for not wearing their masks; a house party was invaded by police with pictures of attractive ladies in short skirts hastily running up from their knees. 

DJs are protesting while river bathers are pointing out that the beaches are open but they are being told to stay home – perhaps on the basis of ethnic bias. 

Bar owners are suffering and senior policemen who understand the ridiculousness of the situation can be seen popping out of their marked cars and berating lonely old men for not wearing their masks in front of the bars where they are allowed to pull their stools outside but not be seen sitting on them when the police pass.

As Trinidad and Tobago pushes forward with Carnival 2021,  the young people are leading the charge for the cause of a festival which some feel must be held for continuity and integrity of TT as the home of the greatest show on earth – an image statement, if you like.

In all this, Prime Minister Keith Rowley is quickly recovering from a heart procedure while his Planning Minister has gone home after emergency surgery.

Let’s hope they both can be back on track to enjoy the Jouvert and the Monday Sailor Bands which we all know our PM and his colleagues have loved to play in for so many years in Port of Spain – the city of Carnival.

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