Hitch your wagons and hop around the world in three days! All you need is a festival passport, access to free Transit and a sense of adventure.
Friendship festivals were born in the 70s, when our federal government made multiculturalism an official policy. It was a way to help new immigrants feel comfortable with keeping their heritage while casually introducing themselves through music, dance, food and cultural art. Today, in Brampton, CaraBram celebrates its 33rd year.
This year, there are ten cultural pavilions participating in CaraBram – Africa, Caribbean, Eelam, Hawaiian/Polynesian, Ireland, Macedonia, Philippines, Portugal, South Asia and our home and native land, Canada. For a city of ethnicities, this is a modest representation of Brampton’s vast mosaic. From Friday July 10th through Sunday July 12th, there are three recreation/community centres hosting three pavilions each, and one union hall for Canada’s pavilion. Country hopping has never been so easy!
CaraBram is celebrated in the month of Canada Day, and Rosemary Irene of Pavilion Africa arrives at the CaraBram Gala in traditional colours – red and white. “Today, my outfit brings light to this celebration, when our cultures can come together, beautifully!” This is Africa’s second year at CaraBram, and Rosemary shares this year’s theme. “We want you to come back to your black base, with your siblings and your childhood friends. We want you to go to the beach, play in the sand, and feel the breeze from the palm trees all around. We want you to feel very, very much at home!”
Though this year marks my first CaraBram, Brampton Regional Councillor Gael Miles is having a hard time remembering which number this is. “I’ve been going since I was a very young girl,” she jokes, as for over 30 years she has loved going around the world without going anywhere. “I just love the fact that, when you come to CaraBram, you get to celebrate all of the amazing people that live in our community. It’s not about looking at the differences; it’s about celebrating the fact we are all different. We are an amazing city!”
This year, Portugal returns, not in the vein to promote their community, but their greater community – Brampton. “A few months ago, Paul Vicente and Joe Pimentel, CaraBram Board members, suggested we consider hosting a Portugal Pavilion and the monies we raise can be put to the hospital,” begins Manuel Alexandre, President of fund-raising efforts for Amigos Portugueses do Peel Memorial. Four years ago, the Portuguese community pledged they would raise $1,000,000 within five years for Peel Memorial. They reached that milestone a few months back and, so far this year, have added another $400,000. Never, in the history of the Portuguese community in Canada, has any group raised this much money for their larger community. Manuel doesn’t want to stop; every dollar raised at the Portugal Pavilion will go towards their fundraising. “We’re all going to need the health care services Peel Memorial will be offering. Everyone, come visit us at the Portugal Pavilion.”
Today’s sense of community is very international and it’s found not only in our cultural community, the greater community, but also within our business community; is there a tie?
“It’s a perfect tie. We’ve got to remember why we do business; to enjoy the perks in life,” explains Badar Shamim, Chair-elect & Vice-Chair of International Trade at Brampton’s Board of Trade. “The softer side of networking depends heavily on us respecting and acknowledging each others’ different cultures.” Multiculturalism is woven into our cultural mosaic; acceptance of each other is mainstream today. Is there still a need to celebrate our cultural nuances?
“Brampton’s youth is unique and different than you and I, in that they get introduced to multiculturalism through their primary schools,” Badar explains for most Bramptonians CaraBram is a big learning opportunity, and opens the door to international travel. “One of the challenges that will happen moving forward, what will make it inherent, is if our youth, or anyone intends to travel to Europe, South Asia or the Caribbean, this is a great learning opportunity.”
This weekend, a $12 Passport takes you to 10 countries, and it is your pass onto Brampton Transit and Zum. Canada is the only single pavilion hosted at Unifor Union Hall on Reagan Drive. South Fletchers Sportsplex is home to South Asia, Hawaii and Macedonia; Philippines, Ireland and Portugal at Century Gardens Recreation Centre, and at the Brampton Soccer Centre we find Eelam, Caribbean and Africa.