DJ Craig Dominic says Caribana, the annual festival of Caribbean culture, has always been a bit queer.
“It’s a very black weekend and it’s a very queer weekend too,” he says. “Regardless of what people think, black people are queer a lot of the time, and we are here to celebrate Caribana with everyone else.”
Dominic is a member of Blackness Yes, the organization behind Blockobana, one of the queer parties held each year during Caribana. Blackness Yes is also responsible for the wildly popular Blockorama, an outdoor party at Toronto Pride.
Kicked-off in 2010 (and occasionally called Back to Our Roots), Blockobana is about Caribbean culture, and African culture as well — or, as Dominic puts it, “celebrating blackness.”
Blockobana will happen this year at the climax of the 48th annual Caribana Toronto Festival, the weekend of Thursday, July 28 to Sunday, July 31, 2016.
Dominic says Blackness Yes and organizers of some of the other parties are working to grow the queer side of the Caribana weekend. They hope it will eventually become a kind of second Pride, but focused on queer black people for a “queer Caribana weekend.”
This year’s party will feature DJs Dominic, Pleasure, Nik Red, Black Cat and others, spinning soca, dancehall, afrobeat, R&B, hip hop and soulful house. But unlike most of the other queer Caribana parties, it isn’t a club event.
“It’s more of a community event for everyone,” he says. “It’s a family-friendly outdoor festival. You can sit down and relax, have a picnic. People can bring their own food. Kids are welcome — they have a splash pad outside.”
As in previous years, the party will take place in Barbara Hall Park. The organizers have also invited the Toronto Kiki Ballroom Alliance to run a ball in one of the rooms of The 519 during Blockobana, so that folks can wander inside for an hour or two to strut and win prizes before heading back out to the party.
“There should be more opportunities over the course of the year for queer people to celebrate blackness,” Dominic says.