Caribbean Excellence on the Road to the King's Plate
If you’ve ever visited Woodbine Racetrack located in Etobicoke, Ontario, you’ve been privy to the exhilarating sounds and often distinct smell of horse racing in the air. The stands are filled with excited fans who’ve put their money on their favourite racehorses, anxiously awaiting that starting bell.
Legally Brown: Natasha Prasaud on Fulfilling Generational Dreams and Making Room for Self-Actualization
Natasha Prasaud is a Canadian Lawyer-turned-Director of Associate Programs, Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (Stikeman Elliott LLP) who was born to Guyanese parents that migrated to Toronto after leaving Guyana citing political conflict.
Navigating Truth and Reconciliation as a Descendant of Migrants
September 30th in Canada is now named the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation. It’s a statutory holiday, born out of the annual commemoration of Orange Shirt Day, in haunting memoriam of all that was lost to the Canadian residential schooling system. Throughout the month, many Canadians host conversations and events around Indigenous history and justice. Those who have been paying attention for years may be sharing a thought: that finally, this is being given the attention it deserves.
Saldenah Carnival: A Legacy
Toronto Carnival is revered worldwide as a place to let loose, celebrate and free up yourself on the road. The annual Caribbean Carnival Parade, better known as Caribana, is held on the Saturday of the Civic long weekend here in Toronto; but for the Saldenah family, the road to Carnival is much longer. Ronny Saldenah is the son of Louis Saldenah and grandson of Harold Saldenah, a lineage of trailblazers and leaders in the Toronto Mas scene. Before we really dove into our interview, I told Ronny about my unforgettable experience playing mas with Saldenah and stressed how organized their process was, to which he replies, “Masqueraders, that’s our number one priority, to make sure that they’re having a great time”.
Moments of Masquerade
For the 56th year in a row, a sea of masqueraders filled the lakeshore stretching into the horizon to celebrate the Toronto Caribbean Carnival, more commonly called Caribana. Despite repeat visits to the Grand Parade, stepping onto the road surrounded by the sounds and sights of revelry is not quite like anything else.
Carnival Take Me Home
Growing up in a mixed household with two different but the same cultures gave me a very blessed experience. To have a mother who is a Muslim Guyanese person and a father who was a born Hindu/Christian Convert Trinidadian provided me with a mind of openness. Fast forward a few years where I am now a parent, I now want to share the things I love with my children that I shared as a young child with my parents, particularly my dad. My dad taught me the love of Soca, Calypso, Chutney and Indian music. We would sit down with his cassette player with the latest tapes from Trinidad and listen to them every time he came back from a trip. The voices of the Mighty Sparrow, Sundar Popo, Anand Yankaran would be loud throughout our household.
Beauty Behind the Scenes, An Interview with Sarita Nauth
Social media was ablaze on Tuesday May 2, 2023 - the day after the coveted Met Gala, where Social Media Manager, Sarita Nauth graced the red carpet to cover the event. For Indo-Caribbean, and Caribbean folks at large, this was monumental. I did not know Sarita, when her photo came across my feed, nor had I heard of her but at that moment, I was cheering for her.
Pandit Toshan Persaud's Spiritual Calling to Spread Joy and Learning to the New Generation
Religion can be intimidating. More and more you hear Gen Z and Millennial folks describe themselves as atheists, or as “spiritual but not religious”. Young adults and children in Indo-Caribbean households have mostly grown up Hindu, Muslim or Christian and while many have held onto their religious practices and traditions, there are some who would describe themselves as blank but not that religious. The term religion itself, for many folks - worldwide, signifies a system of rules or a structure to be followed; something Gen Z, Millennials and Gen X have a knack for challenging.
Reclaiming Indo-Caribbean HerStories: Reflections on the Indo-Caribbean Women Past and Present Panel
Indo-Caribbean women have played a central role in narratives of survival throughout history. However, representations of Indo-Caribbean women’s resilience through time have been monotonous, and they have not often received the recognition they deserve.
Toronto Carnival Music: The Hype List
As the Toronto Caribbean Carnival season approaches, it's time to get ready for the biggest party of the year! As one of the most important aspects of any carnival celebration is the music, we asked our followers for their favourite songs to create the ultimate carnival hype playlist. Here are some of the top picks for the upcoming Carnival season.
Alim Lila: Politics, Community Organizing, and Encouraging Indo-Caribbeans to be Civically Engaged
“I think a lot of it is pushing people to consider the importance of civics and politics, participating in the things that will shape your life, regardless of whether you want them to.”
Becoming Sanjina: The Hyphenated Journey of a Trans-Indo-Fijian-Woman from Vancouver to Toronto
“As it is, right now, if you look at the world: drag shows are being banned, all of us trans girls, trans folks in general are being targeted.” Sanjina (she/her) aka Sanjina DaBish Queen, is a charismatic drag queen who is determined to bring Bollywood dance to the forefront of the community courtesy of her Indo-Fijian roots - a heritage that she is undoubtedly proud of. Through organizing our sit down together it was clear that the star of Call Me Mother’s first season is booked and busy. Not only does she dream of bringing her art of performing to top stages like Rupaul’s Drag Race, she also dreams of creating pathways to success for future generations who are interested in the art of drag.
A Queer Relearning Hindustani
"I have always been haunted by the traumas of my creation story. I come from an East Indian, Guyanese community that was colonized, indentured, and forcefully displaced by the British colonial machine from 1838 to 1917. The story of the overseer’s whip still cracks, still torments my family, albeit in steadily modernizing ways now that we live in the United States. One trauma is the gradual forgetting of our language and the taking of English as Eucharist. Our poetry recedes into the darkness of obscurity. I relearn my Aji’s language to heal my white scars, to join the broken earth of my body with queer light. Like many West Indians, I did not grow into a family that spoke a South Asian language consistently. My ears, however, were attuned to the phonetic structures of the Hindi and Caribbean Bhojpuri of the music that scratched its high pitch across our living room. My parents did not speak much of it and only mimicked the Ram Ram and Pranam that they learned from their own parents, who were fluent in a culture that my parents’ generation ran away from, packing their suitcases filled with collections, British poetry, Western clothes, and rum. On Saturday mornings nostalgia and longing for back-home, despite their earlier abandonments, smote their hearts with its hurricane force winds. I grew to learn the words to Hindi songs like “He, Neele Gagna Ke Tale” before I knew the meaning: Beneath the blue sky…"
Dance is Me
As my eyes opened on a Saturday morning, I could already hear the bhajans, or the latest bollywood soundtrack coming from the stereo. This was my alarm clock. Growing up, music was always around me. I remember spending Sunday afternoons as a child by my grandparents house in Ajax watching Bollywood movies and music videos with all my cousins as our parents socialized in the other room. Dance has played an important role in my life. I grew up in a very musically and artistically inclined family. I began dancing at a very young age . At first, I was just performing as part of family functions. Dance was just something I tolerated since it was a fun way to hang out with my family and spend more time together. But as I aged, I slowly started to realize how I was able to express myself through dance in ways words never could. Over time it developed into a passion that allowed me to learn more about who I was and fully understand my culture and heritage.
Brittany Singh on Lesbian Visibility and Leaving a Legacy
“Growing up, I never saw anyone that looked like me talking about their sexuality. Hopefully, some of our followers who may be young or who may be going through difficult times with their sexuality [can see] that there are people who look like them, have those identities, and can also be successful.” This pride month, I got to speak with Brittany Singh, 27, a Student-at-Law, J.D. based in Ottawa, Ontario. Brittany went to Law school at UOttawa and did her undergrad in Political Science at Queens University. Identifying as lesbian, Brittany does tremendous work for EPIC, a program within the Indo-Caribbean Canadian Association (ICCA) dedicated to LGBTQ2S+ Indo-Caribbean people.
DJ Reyaz: Meet the Indo-Guyanese DJ Who Is Breaking Down Barriers
“I played my music, and I felt very happy”— Making waves as a DJ, Reyaz has proved that anything is possible with hard work, determination, and a wholehearted love for what you do. We had the pleasure of sitting down with the 25-year-old on National Down Syndrome Day (March 21) to chat about his experiences. We all know how much music is a huge part of Indo-Caribbean culture. The uplifting energy that comes with hearing a DJ blast soca and dancehall music at an event is one of the key moments that inspired Reyaz to learn more about his craft. Located in Etobicoke, Ontario, Reyaz started to DJ in 2017 when he saw another DJ perform at a party. “I was at my cousin's 16th birthday and I saw the DJ playing, so I wanted [to do the same],” he says. You can see his eyes light up as he recalls the moment he was inspired to pursue his passion for music.
A “Sacred Vision” of 170 Years Presence of the Indian Diaspora in Martinique
Each year on May 6th, Martinique commemorates “Indian Arrival Day,” honoring the arrival of Indian indentured laborers to the French Caribbean. Various waves of immigration and deportation of men and women have contributed to make the Caribbean an intercultural space where syncretism is often manifested. After the violent enslavement of people from Africa and the abolition of slavery, thousands of South Asians Indentured laborers were brought to work in the sugar cane plantation in the Caribbean. These laborers were called by the derogatory term ‘coolie’. Under obscure conditions, they were often tricked, forced, mistreated and abused. As a result, most of them never physically returned to their homeland but still kept a deep emotional attachment to India, which was subsequently passed on to their children.
I'm Not Going to Lighten My Skin To Feel Beautiful and I'm Going to Need Businesses to Stop Telling Us To
Colourism is hardly a new concept that people of colour have had to face from those within and outside of our communities. Aside from the social implications that come from ignorant remarks and the inherent ways in which folks with darker skin tones are discriminated against in their daily lives, there also exists a system of capitalism that profits off of our man-made insecurities with regards to the colour of our skin. Skincare products boast a number of different benefits that can help us improve our confidence and make us feel more beautiful and comfortable in our own skin. Among those “benefits”, there still exists a number of products from a host of suppliers, ranging from independent brands all the way up to luxury beauty houses that we’re all quite familiar with, that offer to whiten the colour of our skin.
Vishal Sharma on Making Sense of our Indo-Caribbean History
“Articulating an Indo-Caribbean identity in India was very difficult because either, A) it didn't translate, or B) they didn't understand that as an Indian identity.” — As Indo-Caribbeans, our hyphenated identity can be somewhat difficult to articulate. For Vishal Sharma, understanding the history of Indo-Caribbean culture has been fundamental in making sense of his own identity. Vishal Sharma is a 32-year-old academic in Sanskrit Literary and Cultural History at the University of Oxford. As one of the original members of the Indo-Caribbean Canadian Association (ICCA), Vishal joined in 2021 as a regular contributor for the heritage and historical posts. He currently holds the title as the Treasurer at ICCA. I got the chance to chat with him about his experiences of studying in India, grappling with what identity means, and the importance of getting to know your roots.
A Time to Recognize our History: A Letter from the Editor, Rebecca Dass
May marks Asian Heritage month in Canada, where it is a time to honour the diverse cultures, traditions, and histories of Asians (and yes– that includes South Asians too)! What a better way to start the month than by sharing Indo-Caribbean stories? It is a history that is often overlooked and neglected in mainstream Canadian society. However, these stories are an integral part of the Asian Canadian narrative, and it is crucial to recognize and celebrate them. This month also carries an important meaning for the descendants of Indentured Indians, with “Indian Arrival Day” being celebrated all throughout the Caribbean and Fiji during May. Friday May 5th is celebrated as Indian Arrival Day in Guyana. This date marks the first arrival of indentured labourers from India to British Guiana in 1838. Although I have personally never celebrated the day, it reminds me of my ancestors who crossed the kala pani and started a new life in the Caribbean. It allows me to reflect on what interested me about learning about my heritage in the first place, and why I joined ICCA in particular, hoping to honour the history of my ancestors.
Denyse Thomasos: A Driving Force for Caribbean Art
While I am by no means an art connoisseur, I am an avid consumer of pop culture, be it TV shows, trips to the mall, movies, concerts, festivals, books, art galleries, museums, and so much more. When art is showcased, that has traditionally meant featuring Picasso, Van Gogh, Monet, or Da Vinci. And while "Water Lilies" and "Starry Night" are undoubtedly beautiful and appealing pieces of artwork, they often fall short of connecting with onlookers outside the realm of standard Western Art.
The Beauty of Conflict: Growing up Sassy in an Indo-Caribbean Household
As far back as I can remember, I’ve been called argumentative. When I was a little girl, my mom used to say “yuh mouth hot.” If you’re Guyanese like I am, you’re likely familiar with the term. It means you have, as they say here, a sharp tongue. An answer for everything. Wit. Attitude. It’s usually a pejorative, but it’s sometimes used in awe. It’s a way of saying, especially to young women, that you’ve noticed they are talking back and that is out of the ordinary. It was used on me a lot.
Wear the Yellow Dress
When I’m picking an outfit out (that isn’t sweats) I often go through a series of criteria before making a choice. Is it something I like? How does it suit the occasion? Is it trendy or is it classic? Is the fit flattering? And also, is the colour flattering? That last one has been on my mind for a while now that colour theory seems to be a trending topic on social media. It’s not uncommon for folks across many skin tones to consider what colour garments compliment them best; but I do wonder if there are other POC out there that feel like they’ve limited themselves from exploring certain colours because of their skin tone.
Ricky Sookram: Reflecting on “Star Bhai”, Future Goals, and Empowering the Indo-Caribbean Community
Born to parents from Trinidad and Indian origin, Ricky Sookram, 43, is a Manager of Learning at Toronto Community Housing. He declares himself a lifelong learner, earning a college diploma in Business Administration specializing in financial planning, in addition to possessing certificates in adult learning and agile project management. “I’m at a stage in my life where I want to give back,” he says. “I’ve been raised by a good family, I’ve always had their support. My family has passed on a lot of wisdom to me during the course of my life, and as I get older, I wish to do the same by serving our community as well as our greater society.”
A Letter from the Chair, Ryan Singh
April is a special month for the Indo-Caribbean Canadian Association because it's our anniversary month. At merely two years old, our organization has grown, built a reputation, and proudly delivered on a number of objectives for Canada’s Indo-Caribbean community. Throughout this journey, as we onboard new volunteers, the one thing that has become evident is that we are boundless. While our community deals with the ongoing risk of falling victim to stereotypes that box us in, or being rather niche in that we have remained largely undiscovered and under-recognized, our talents and ambition prove that we have the full potential to exceed expectations and defy limitations.