By Thomas Bailey, President, West Indian American Day Carnival Association (WIADCA)
In recent months there has been a lot of criticism heaped upon the West Indian American Day Carnival Association (WIADCA). Some of that criticism has been fair and some has been downright unfair, false, misleading and untrue. After conferring with my members I have decided to set the record straight after reading an article in your newspaper of Wednesday, July 25, 2012 entitled “Carnival’s Steelband Panorama Competition in Doubt” that was written by Tony Best.
I have decided to address the facts of the Panorama issue and hopefully lay to rest the untruths and misinformation contained in the article.
When I took over as President of WIADCA on April 12, 2012, I did so knowing the challenges that faced the organization and the state of affairs occasioned by the former administration that left the organization with a multitude of problems and challenges. To start with there was no transition process and that put me and the organization at a significant disadvantage.
Since that time we have made significant strides at reforming the organization and rebuilding its infrastructure while at the same time planning to put on the 45th Annual Labor Day Carnival Festival – that included the Panorama. So from April right up this moment WIADCA has been planning its annual Panorama competition.
Unknown to WIADCA was the fact that another entity was soliciting money to hold a Panorama competition, without speaking to us or informing us about the funding availability. Nor did this organization seek to partner with us or to involve us in any dialogue. Individuals and the organization floated the outrageous lie that “WIADCA was not holding or planning a Panorama.”
To our knowledge it was based on this erroneous assumption that funding for the Panorama was made available. So coming on the heels of a blistering email attack on WIADCA by the SAME PEOPLE who now sought to highjack the Panorama, we placed the question to the members of the United States Steelband Association (USSA) – the organization that has the most members of steelbands in New York City and our members.
For your edification the so-called National Association of Steelbands (NAS) is not an umbrella organization since it can only boast three or four members –if that much. What happened is that for this new group to “represent steelbands” it had to go to bed with NAS knowing that the USSA would never have been convinced, no matter how much money was dangled, to go with this put together organization.
As the events unfolded, the motive behind this false love of steelbands became clear. WIADCA that was not consulted became the target when the funding source demanded that this new group negotiate and come to an understanding regarding the Panorama. At stake was about $200,000 in funding that was only going to be available if there was one Panorama.
The sponsor, the Municipal Credit Union, also insisted that if WIADCA was not going to hold the Panorama and the new group was going to do it the Panorama had to be moved from the grounds of the Brooklyn Museum, its traditional home, to its ball park in Coney Island. Moreover, MCU was not interested in doing anything on the grounds of the Brooklyn Museum. It is here that things started to go downhill for the new organization.
First, it had no commitment from steelpan organizations. Second, panmen were reluctant to move to MCU’s Park that is way out of their community. Third, the logistics of moving large steelbands to MCU Park would necessitate a large financial outlay by steelbands because they would have to rent flatbed trucks to transport the pans – an additional expense.
In the midst of all this WIADCA still decided to negotiate in good faith. Out of these negotiations came a document that has the name of the organization written in it for the first time. The Caribbean Americans Panorama 2012 Committee wanted WIADCA to “have an urgent meeting with the steel pan community informing them that there will be only one Panorama at MCU Park” and that “their commitment to the steelbands is that they will be throwing their full support behind moving the event to MCU Park.”
Among other demands were that “they [WIADCA] be permitted to be an official ticket outlet if they so desired and receive a $5 sales incentive for each ticket sold.” “No involvement by WIADCA or their agents in the planning or staging of the event, unless CAP 2012 make specific requests to the contrary” and finally “abide by all rules and regulations as set forth by CAP 2012 and NAS, Inc. and each individual steelband involved in the event.”
For WIADCA agreeing to all of the above, and more, we [WIADCA] had to make available to CAP 2012 “two tables at the Labor Day Breakfast and Luncheon” and “CAP 2012 reserves the right to nominate 3 of the 6 Grand Marshals for the Labor Day Parade 2012.
It is therefore very clear that CAP 2012 was only using the Panorama as a tool to a wider takeover of a legitimate organization no matter its imperfections. This document was presented to both WIADCA’s Board of Directors and the captains of the steelbands. After an open discussion the steelbands agreed to support the Panorama being organized by WIADCA. For us NAS, Inc. and CAP 2012 can exercise their right to put on a Panorama with the steelbands that are supportive of their efforts. I wish them well.
Finally, while it is of no use to refute any statement made by members of CAP 2012, I would like to correct an obviously misleading conclusion that the newspaper attributed to Ike Hinds, the president of NAS, who stated that “Contracts were signed and for the first time in Panorama history we were going to receive an appearance fee before steelbands struck the first note.”
What contracts were signed? I hope that Mr. Hinds can produce proof of this. Were these contracts signed with the three or four members of his organization? I hope that in future press articles he can substantiate these statements that we find very hard to believe.
WIADCA is going through a transition period and I am aware of the organization’s short-comings. I am working around the clock correct them. That’s going to take some time. I have moved to demonstrate WIADCA’s good will by making a part-payment on outstanding prize money for 2011 to the steelbands and put in writing our commitment to make good on the outstanding balance. That is a fact and well known to CAP 2012 even though they have found refuge in simply putting WIADCA in a bad light.