Anyika Mark has been going to Carnivals for as long as she can remember — following in the footsteps of her mother, who did the same thing.
“Carnival to me really is about freedom,” Mark said. “I think I already felt that going as a kid that it was something where I was just free and it was just this beautiful environment.”
Carnivals were also a big part of her mother’s childhood.
“Because I grew up in Trinidad, it was a big thing,” Heather Mark said.
“When we were growing up, our mom would take us on Carnival Tuesday and we would collect the little pieces of costumes.”
The tradition carried on when they came to Toronto, attending the city’s Caribbean Carnival and collecting photos and memorabilia every year they went.
“It’s almost generational, where I was able to collect those things in Trinidad and here, my kids were being able to do the same thing,” Heather said.
WATCH | Anyika and Heather Mark share memories and history through photos and memorabilia of Carnival:
Canada marks 1st official Emancipation Day
This year is significant, as Canada celebrates its first official Emancipation Day — a day commemorating the abolition of slavery in the British Empire in 1834.
The day is also deeply connected to Carnival.
“I think Carnival’s really important to emancipation,” Mark said. “Carnival is an element of our emancipation and our continuous emancipation.”
“When slavery was abolished in the Caribbean, they celebrated through Carnival, through costumes, through music, through food, through culture. It was a really important way for us to be free, to feel like our freedom wasn’t just legislative. It was actually in real life.”
In March, the House of Commons unanimously voted to designate Aug.1 as Emancipation Day.
“It’s really important that we’re doing this,” said Irene Moore Davis, president of Essex County Black Historical Research Society.
“I think there’s a recognition that we have to factor in and contend with the darker parts of our history, the more difficult parts of our history, including our history of slavery.”
For Heather, Carnival was something inherent in her family history that she wanted to pass on to her children.
Now, she’s able to enjoy those same traditions with her daughter, who is equally as passionate about it.
“When I go to Carnival, I’m really reminded that, ‘Wow, this is me,'” Mark said. “And I think it’s cool that it’s in Toronto because it really connects me to my city a little bit more.”
For more stories about the experiences of Black Canadians — from anti-Black racism to success stories within the Black community — check out Being Black in Canada, a CBC project Black Canadians can be proud of.
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