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Dencentralizing Carnival

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30.MAY.08

With the advent of the month of June, Carnival activities in St. Vincent and the Grenadines move into high gear. Three decades after the changeover of this popular national festival from the original February/March season to June/July, there are many areas of development within it of which we can be justly proud. In spite of some long-standing weaknesses in several areas, any objective overall assessment can only conclude that the mid-year festival has been a huge success.##M;[more]##

Perhaps the greatest area of success is demonstrated by the spread of Carnival to the rural areas. This is a most welcome development in that it allows for greater participation of the majority rural population, facilitating the honing of their skills and greater expression of their talents. It augurs well for the process of decentralization and for the inclusion of the bulk of our people in Carnival activities. There are now rural Carnivals in a growing number of communities in St. Vincent, as well as in the Grenadines. What needs to be built on is the mas component of the out-of-town festivals.

The decentralization process is vital for increasing the meaningful participation of rural folk in Carnival activities. Kingstown never had a patent on the festival in the first place, but as is typical in societies organized like ours, the city is where all the action was concentrated. But as one veteran calypsonian, Reality, warned us, years ago, Kingstown is too small for our Carnival. Expansion necessitated rural Carnival development. Out of this expansion, the country has gained by having a widening pool of persons involved in all aspects of Carnival, including administration. This is a step in the right direction in developing the human resource base in all the components of the festival. It complements a similar approach to the other major national cultural festival, Nine Mornings. The organizers of our Independence activities should draw inspiration from these examples of decentralization. The long-promised Local Government reform, if properly implemented, can provide the legal and institutional framework within which such decentralized activities can hold their own and flourish.

While Carnival has in it all the ingredients for healthy cultural expression, it is true that there are those in our society who abuse the opportunities offered to spread negative messages, especially around sex, alcohol and violence. With the alarming rate of HIV/AIDS and a frightening escalation in violent crime, we have to do all in our power to ensure that our young people are not fed on this socially harmful diet. Negative messages have a direct co-relation to behavioral patterns. In particular, our calypsonians, disc jockeys, promoters of shows and those in the media have heavy responsibilities for the messages they transmit. There are simply too many young people who have absorbed the wrong message as to what Carnival is all about and act as though Carnival is all an orgy of promiscuity, drunkenness and raucous behaviour.

This is a message that is difficult to counteract, as it has grown stronger over the years. Yet it is a task which we must undertake. The future of our youth and country is at stake.

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