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FEBRUARY 22

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To most non-Caribbean people, pre-Lenten festivals such as Trinidad’s Carnival are presumed to be like their base American cousin, Mardi Gras: as just wild, street parades involving flamboyant costumes and often lascivious, out-of-control behavior. But to many born in the islands they mean much more. For Alex Pascall, the Grenada-born host of the BBC’s first black radio program and the former chair of London’s Notting Hill Carnival, now Europe’s largest cultural festival, “it’s life itself.” In “We Ting,” a presentation that takes its patois title from Pascall’s pride-filled poem about Notting Hill, this oral historian of Caribbean music and culture will discuss Carnival’s literal and metaphorical role in defining islanders’ “struggles for identity and equality in racist societies.” First, he’ll explain the event’s roots in a celebration by emancipated Trinidadian slaves that for more than 100 years was subject to suppression by white authorities (whose banning of drums ironically helped create the island’s distinctive pan music). He’ll then relate this to similar provocations by police in London in the 1970s and ’80s, as well as to the British event’s current transformation into a money-driven event that Pascall says “has been snatched out of the hands of its Caribbean pioneers” by “capitalist birds of prey.” With Trinidad-born WPFW DJ Vaughn Martin at 7 p.m. at Smithsonian Arts & Industries Building’s Discovery Theater, 900 Jefferson Dr. SW. FREE. (202) 357-2700. (Steve Kiviat)