New York, USA - It’s a week before Christmas and for two weeks now California has been burning. Literally. In addition, there was a major power outage in Atlanta at the world’s busiest airport and transfer hubs, during one of the most challenging travel times of the year. Strange movements in the forces that govern nature indeed. But it is the rumblings and disturbance in the underbelly of the Brooklyn, New York steelband community that have been creating an undeniable seismic change in the “Force” felt by all NY Pan people since this past fall.
And so it is in this regard and environment, that on December 18, 2017, USSA (United States Steelband Association) held its first meeting open to the public since the newly-elected USSA executive board has been in place. Of course as to be expected the topic of Panorama consumed a lot of the oxygen in the room. However, the meeting did not devolve into an uncontrollable, raging fire, self-consuming any and everything in its path with no logic or direction. Instead, it was an intense discussion that identified the particulars and critical issues for change and success going forward. Not them, Not you, Not I - but We.
Roaring Lions, crouching Tigers and growling Bears were in the house - sometimes bellowing, clawing and barking at each other, out of the frustration of not being able to sink their fangs into the creators of and those responsible for - their disillusion and pain. And even more so out of their undying love for the art form, and lack of clear direction and leadership. And yet, even through the sometimes-highly charged and emotional outbursts that these meetings tend to generate, it was clear—at least to this observer—that the NY Pan community was much more in sync than ever before. Tango dancing with the “Evil Empire” was not an option. Indeed, deadlines and dates were set in this public arena and marching orders delivered.
Three main topics were tabled on the agenda for this general meeting - developing a player-union relationship, a 2018 Easter Showcase, and three possible paths to going forward with New York Panorama 2018. Those three possibilities?
USSA having its own Panorama
Go back to the long-time event organizer, WIADCA (West Indian American Day Carnival Association)
No New York Panorama for 2018.
In relation to Panorama 2018, a definitive position was taken by the bands present and expressed verbally in this public forum. Present were the decision-making members and/or executives of the following organizations - CrossFire, CASYM, Pantonic, ADLIB, Metro and Despers USA.
As a means of exacting clarity, WST (When Steel Talks), who was present - asked each executive band member to state individually their organization’s position publicly and for the record. The responses ranged from an emphatic “No way,” “Absolutely not!” to “Hell, no!” - in terms of considering the WIADCA option for Panorama 2018.
WST followed up with contacting two other past Panorama steelband participants who are USSA members. Rondell Pompey, leader of, and spokesperson for Philadelphia (Philly) Pan Stars Steel Orchestra told WST that their organization was open to all of the three options, but would follow the lead of the other organizations. Pompey also stressed that a firm decision needed to be reached ASAP due to the heavy investments in terms of finances and human resources necessary for the competition. Not to mention what his organization had already invested in this past NY Panorama 2017 - resulting in no competition taking place.
Through their spokesperson, Toronto-based Pan Fantasy Steel Orchestra conveyed to WST that they would support whatever position the bands eventually took. However they were not opposed to an iron clad contractual agreement being worked out with WIADCA. Pan Fantasy, like Philadelphia Pan Stars, stressed that time was of the essence as they were in the process of making their 2018 plans, and the runway was very short for any potential participation in a New York Panorama event.
Also at the meeting in addition to the Panorama discussion, one member of the public broached the topic about a sustainable way in which USSA could raise funds and practice self-sufficiency. The individual himself, being a practicing event planner, stressed that Pan in New York has to be more than just Panorama.
Anthony Joseph, vice president of USSA stressed that the next step going forward was the critical one, in that beyond the verbal commitment from the individual executive members on behalf of their bands - contractual agreements needed to be entered into between USSA and its member bands. These agreements would appoint USSA to be the sole legal representative for them relative to any Panorama-related negotiations; no band would be ‘interacting’ in a lone-wolf fashion. Full consensus and said contractual agreements are expected to be in effect in the first week of January 2018. In full disclosure, USSA did not formally have the authority to represent the steel orchestras during the last couple of years.
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