New Year Wish List For Our Community

New Year Wish List For Our Community

By N Oji Mzilikazi

(Originally published in Montreal Community Contact volume 20,#24)

December 16, 2010

Rebirth of a Central Organization:

Individual associations if island based or community oriented are limited issue organisations. Attending to the complex and multitudinous issues confronting/affecting our wide and diverse community limit their effectiveness and detract from their mandate. Furthermore, they have no real power to negotiate meaningfully with municipal authorities, the government and or private corporations. Therefore, it makes sense to have a strong central organisation.

The power of the collective ensures better access, better services and even better funding. Since blueprints already exist a la the Black Community Council of Quebec (BCCQ), my wish is for persons with influence and committed to community to initiate dialogue with others towards the rebuilding of a central organization.

A Report on Reports

In July 1992, the brightest minds from various organizations spent a weekend in Val Morin working out strategies and structure to best advance the interest of our community. Having obtained a copy of the document the conference produced, I can attest it is verily a blueprint for success, yet its implementation never materialised.  

In September 2005, Premier Charest mandated public consultations and task forces on the state of the province’s racial, ethnic and religious minorities towards their betterment. I don’t know whom, or what organization took the lead on ours, “The Full Participation of Black Communities in Québec Society,” but something is amiss when given our present circumstance, none can say to Premier Charest, “You promised instant action on recommendations from those task forces but x, y, and z hasn’t been implemented.”

Far too many things have been done to improve our community and in the name of community for us to be still treading water. My wish is for concerned community members to rise up and demand accountability. Our stewards past and present owe explanations. It is not a witch-hunt. Sins will be forgiven. We are in need of information and clarity so our next leaders won’t be fumbling or look like bumbling idiots, or be treated with disrespect by the City and others. My wish is for those involved in the two aforementioned processes to come forth in this newspaper or in a forum and enlighten us.

New Leadership

My wish is 2011 will bring a recommitment to community by its long serving members as well as new faces to the fore. Our community is in need of the service of those who are financially astute, intellectually brilliant and committed to its rejuvenation. These emerging leaders must commit themselves to the promotion of education, technical certification, fiscal responsibility, and economic empowerment, and they must be the morally courageous, fearless, respectful and of the highest integrity. Leaders who understand that selfishness, negativity, hopelessness and evil prosper when people lose faith, and people lose faith when leadership falls short of ideological expectations, is morally compromised, duplicitous, arrogant, abusive, and self-serving.

Happy Holidays to one and all!

Hereunder Is What Was Edited:

 

New Leadership

My wish is 2011 will bring a recommitment to community by its long serving members as well as new faces to the fore. Our community is in need of the financially astute, the intellectually brilliant, persons seriously committed to its rejuvenation, the promotion of education, technical certification, fiscal responsibility, economic empowerment, the morally courageous, fearless, respectful and persons with integrity. Leaders who understand that selfishness, negativity, hopelessness and evil prosper when people lose faith, and people lose faith when leadership falls short of ideological expectations, is morally compromised, duplicitous, arrogant, abusive, and self-serving.

Sorrel & Ginger Beer

Could one of our Ways and Means Committee give Bob White a medal so he could stop repeating ad nauseam about his storied past? His regurgitation has gotten past tiring. Given the frequent boasts by White of the success of his star pupil, it would be negligent of me not to question how come over the years, his bimonthly recalling of the barbershop crew’s every rant never included any analysis as to how his star pupil ended up incarcerated? Surely, lessons can be learned.

Given Ruthven Licorish past involvement in Carifiesta, his statement that the City sounded the death knell of Carifiesta (C.C. 2/12/10) is pure idiocy. The lack of visionary leadership and infighting by Carifiesta Boards past and present is to blame. The city isn’t responsible for our carnival plagued by the absence of sound business policies, mismanagement, winners of various competitions shorted, failure to execute post-mortems to produce a better and more successful product, accusations of theft, “bobol,” or “racheffy” not addressed by investigations and the hiring of a forensic account to find out “whey de money gone,” and prosecution of person(s) if funds were truly misappropriated. “No one plans to fail. People fail when there is no well-crafted, thought out plan.”

Happy Holidays to one and all!

The Killing of Fredy Villanueva

“The Killing of Fredy Villanueva:
Policing, Race Bias & Media Complicity in Canada”

Explores policing and race, the culture that gave rise to and supports it. The complicity of the mainstream media in sustaining the lack of accountability in those mandated to serve and protect, and how their failure to exhibit maturity and decency in being fair and impartial in reportage on visible minorities, specifically the Black community, and in catering to the fears, insecurities, and bigotry of the majority population have been contributors in the replication, moulding and support of racism and racial bias. The complicity of the legislature and judges in supporting a police culture of disorder and impunity while throwing the book at others, especially non-white minorities, and self-preserving techniques for people to best navigate interactions with the police.

“The Killing of Fredy Villanueva” is about deconstructing and confronting racism, a demand to a return of the old-fashioned law and order ideology of “to protect and serve,” equal and consistent enforcement and application of the law, procedural fairness, protection of human rights and civil liberties, and  healing and strengthening bonds of nationalism so the nation’s ethnically diverse citizenry can truly sing with pride, “O Canada, we stand on guard for thee.”

Table of Contents

Introduction:

Implicit in citizenship is membership willing to sacrifice life and limb in defence of nation. In that respect, African Canadians have a long history of being good citizens. People of African descent – freeborn, runaway slaves, and former slaves from the United States and France fought for the British Crown during the Canadian wars of 1780’s and 1812, gaining the moniker of Black Loyalists.

During World War II, Canada was one of the nations who recruited young men from the West Indies to fight for them. Ostensibly, to fight for a land they had never seen. Black West Indian youths in their prime, some not yet men, contributed to the war effort.

In April 2002, Cpl. Ainsworth Dyer, a Black Canadian soldier was killed in the Allied war against the Taliban in Afghanistan.

Suffice it to say, people of African descent have been shedding blood for Canada since the 1780’s. On the other hand, when it comes to reciprocity from the state and its institutions to allow African Canadians the unfettered benefits that go with being a citizen, a different politic emerges. The Black community is seen as outsiders, as having no roots in the society and no stake in its well-being and as a sort of internal enemy. As a result, Blacks continue to feel the sting of racism, discrimination, and marginalisation.

Chapter 1: The Killing of Fredy Villanueva

Is a brief overview of the 2008 shooting of Denis Meas and Jeffrey Sagor-Météllus, and the death of Fredy Villanueva by a police officer. All three Latino youths were unarmed. The chapter is framed against the jeremiad of police abuse against visible minorities and Aboriginals.

It is my contention that judging from the non-implementation of recommendations from the Bellemare Report 1 & 2 (1984 & 1988), Coroner’s Yarosky 1992, the Corbo Report of 1992, and the Malouf Report of 1994, in respect to the police and their interaction with visible minorities anyone hoping the inquest into Fredy’s death will bring clarity, resolutions or changes to the culture of policing are going to be sadly deluded unless…

Chapter 2: Policing & Race

Criminality exists in every community, society and country, and among every race, religion and ethnicity. Disproportionate number of criminals from any culture, race, religion or society is never an indictment of nationality, country, religion, race or ethnicity. Furthermore, no race is a unified biological population. As such, it is backwardness and dishonest to tar and feather an entire community on account of the few who commit crimes.

Yet, on account of the ideological philosophies in support of racism, that is exactly the vice-grip within which people of African descent find themselves.

Blacks are positioned as, and accepted as a racial monolith with a singular culture, to wit ingrained criminality, stigmatized and criminalised over the errant few, and victimized by a police culture of race-based policing – skin-colour being automatically a cause for suspicion in lieu of probable cause, and Black neighbourhoods detailed as zero tolerance and suppression zones.

Subscription to the criminalization of Blacks (and by extension certain non-white communities), and race-based policing is the source of law enforcement officers demonstrating a different code of behaviour and attitudes towards Blacks than the rest of the population.

Under greater scrutiny by police officers (and by extension private security guards), Blacks are subjected to frequent stops, being questioned and searched.

Oftentimes in the process, they encounter officers who do not see Blacks as citizens, deserving of common courtesy, civility, respect and most importantly, the presumption of innocence that has long been one of the cornerstones of the law. Consequently, those officers exhibit behaviours that are downright hostile, abusive, openly racist, and or would relentlessly assail or assault their dignity.

While law enforcement has consistently and steadfastly denied the existence of race based policing, documentation to Black officers admitting having racially profiled Black youth is provided, thereby supporting my case that racial profiling is endemic and an intrinsic aspect of Canadian policing.

In addition, to bolster my contention that racism thrives in law enforcement- that race bias is police culture; I’ve also provided evidence showing that Black police officers are themselves not immune from victimization and acts of racism by fellow white officers.

Chapter 3: Sentencing Disparity

Since the legacy of racist ideology is at the heart of the law and order machinery mobilized against Blacks, their is continued collusion between politicians, legislators, the police, judges and prosecutors to ensure people of African descent who fell afoul of the law feel its full weight.

As presented evidence show, judges are prone to impose longer sentences on Blacks than on whites, even when their crimes were of the same magnitude or of a lesser degree, and it was not unusual for Black juveniles to be tried as adults in order for them to receive a more severe punishment.

Chapter 4: Deconstructing Race Bias

Government policies, legislation and programs to combat racism have failed to have a bigger impact because white folks (and by extension Blacks) are trapped by complex historical, institutional and deep-rooted racist and cultural forces, and education to dismantle some of those foundation stones of anti-Black racism has been woeful to say the least.

While endless whites have repudiated racism and racist ideologies, a vast majority are so emotionally bound to race prejudice that they don’t care to or simply refuse to accept and institute equality on the social level. Hence the continued state of affairs. This chapter seeks to exorcise the devils of racist beliefs that arose out of the evils of slavery and its legacy of institutional racism.

Chapter 5: The Myth of the Lazy Negro

Given that Judeo-Christian doctrine espoused the view that Blacks are a people born to servitude, African enslavement was seen as unto perpetuity.

The life of a slave was one of constant labour. There were no holidays, vacation, age of retirement or a pension. The enslaved were worked to death and until death. Consequently, the application of “lazy” to Blacks was none other than a slander to hamstring the race, and was psychological punishment and retribution over the freedoms brought by Emancipation.

Emancipation threatened the economic survival of plantation economies as well as portended change to the racial and social dynamics of the society. It positioned the former slaves to earn wage. To determine what their labour was worth, to control, set its price, sell it to the highest bidder, work for self and the options of migration – freedom to move wherever and start a new life.

Chapter 6: Why Don’t Blacks Learn From Other Immigrants Trap

Giving the impression that people of African descent are anything but industrious, Blacks are routinely scolded. Oftentimes the telling is along the lines of taking a page out of the books of other immigrant communities and lifting themselves up by their own industriousness. While the advice appears to be sound and logical, it is misguided and emanates from ignorance.

Such a view conveniently ignores the roles of racism, discrimination, marginalisation and racial hatred in sabotaging the industriousness of people of African descent and keeping the race in the vice grip of poverty. It overlooks the deliberate underemployment of educated Blacks and those with professional qualifications/certification, and how white skin advantage enables other ethnic and immigrant communities an easier go at economic gains.

Furthermore, what is never exposed is that members of some immigrant communities are products of merchant/business and or criminal/mafia collectives in their own country, and thus invested in abroad with a resource pool that includes financing and expertise at their disposal.

Chapter 7: Media as an Instrument of Racism

While freedom of speech is worth defending, this chapter details how corporate owned media in Canada have constantly reinforced and reproduced racial bias in their newspapers, slant and colour stories that deal with race, cater to the bigotry of the majority population, use photo to highlight and imbue the crime with increased severity and inspire fear of the race to which the person(s) belongs, and the reliance of counterfeit images of Blacks in television commercials.

Bearing in mind that a society can only truly prosper when there is tolerance and respect to those who are ethnically, culturally and religiously different, such things perpetuate racism.

The overwhelming emphasis is on the Montreal Gazette, for excluding the short-lived Montreal Daily News that lasted less than two years, the Gazette has been the province only English daily newspaper for the past thirty years, ever since the closure of the Montreal Star in 1979.

With such marketplace monopoly, I’ve set out to show that the Gazette has repeatedly abrogated journalistic ethics of accurate and balanced reporting, opting to be a bastion of support for racial bias as well as being a running dog for the police, all to the detriment of Montreal’s Black community.

Chapter 8: Law & Disorder. Police as Thieves. The Culture of Impunity

Amidst the calls and implementation for stricter penalties to rein in crime and punish wrongdoers, this chapter documents how judges continue to be complicit in giving the criminals in law enforcement the lightest possible sentence, if ever it comes to that, and police ethics and disciplinary boards continue to exonerate officers or give them the lightest of slap on their wrist.  Such a state of affairs has justice in Canada operating with her eyes open and being of a multi-tier system. There is one standard of justice for the police, another for legislators, a different one for whites, and an even different one for Aboriginals and Blacks.

Chapter 9: The Politics of Containment

Exposes the collusion between Montreal’s City Hall and the police to contain Montreal’s non-white communities, police harassment to get Black youths into the system, and the usage of incivilities by Montreal’s police to oppress the community as well as generate revenue for the city.

Chapter 10: Economics of Crime and Punishment

Explains that as strange and sad as it is, on account of the inter-relatedness between crime, punishment and economics, crime is a necessary and much needed evil.

The infrastructure that surrounds crime and punishment is an employment bonanza. Tickets and fines put money into the State’s coffers thus police zealousness in issuing tickets.

City administrators, the justice system – prosecutors, judges, defence lawyers, clerks, bondsmen, prisons, ancillary and associated industries need crime and a constant prison population to maintain their employment.

Law enforcement is a business of knowing. As such, police in every city have files on every criminal organization, street gangs and the like, their leadership and who controls what area. They know who is doing dirt and the locations of drug dens and its dealers.

Chapter 11: How to Best Deal With The Police

Overwhelming documentary evidence attest to police officers benefitting from an ingrained culture of impunity. Its sanctification by the courts allows them to figuratively and literally get away with murder, brutality and oppressive conduct. As such, the police are the deadliest threat to the health, well-being and quality of life of Blacks and other non-white minorities. This chapter offers self-preserving techniques to best navigate interactions with the police.

Copyright © 2011 by N Oji Mzilikazi, All Rights Reserved

No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted (other than short excerpts for review purposes only) in any form: electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, online reproduction or recording without express written permission by N Oji Mzilikazi.

Drunk, I wasn’t Drinking (Poetry for the Strong Hearted)

Is an unpublished compilation of poems with a proactive stance and no holds barred attitude to the ongoing hydra-headed and elephantine social crisis: economic uncertainty, heightened anxiety, frayed nerves, disenchantment, resentment, anger, hate mongering and political timidity. It’s a call to fearlessness, sparking a fire under comfortable and complacent butts.

Foreword

We live in a time and culture of anti-intellectualism, moral laxity, declining civility, social indiscipline, where aggressiveness, vulgarity, crudity and hyper-sexuality have been normalised, and one has to be either crazy or drunk to openly speak truthfully on things.

Everyone knows crazy. The mouthing of crazy is ignored or dismissed as illogical. Intoxicated persons are known to say and do all manner of foolish things. More often than not, their verbal outbursts, verbal assaults and embarrassing acts are excused as they being out of it – as being temporarily crazy, and so exempt from recriminations. At the same time, there are “smart folks” who have no qualms assuming intoxication to capitalise on the free pass wrought by drunkenness.

Let me assure you dear reader, I am not crazy, and rarely do I imbibe intoxicating brew.  “Drunk, I Wasn’t Drinking, (Poetry for the Strong Hearted)” was conceptualized and crafted with total mental clarity and disdain for the culture of correctness and political docility, and I make no apologies for anyone offended by its bluntness.

The stakes are just too high to be pussyfooting around issues given the rise of political, community, ethnic and religious misleaders who exploit the illiterate masses, appeal to our base instincts, fears, bigotry, racial and religious intolerance, the wilful embrace, cultivation and spread of ignorance, the elevation of mediocrity, abandonment of vigilant parenting, mass migration of youths to gangs and incarceration, and the self-destructive culture of victimhood, self-oppressing and self-defeating behaviours.

Some Titles & Snippets

Letters to the Editor
Viewer Discretion Advised
The Labyrinth of Mystification
Academic Treachery
Groundation For Contemplation
Nudity, Violence, Course Language
An Apology to Woman
Woe Unto Woman
Cultural Pornification
Beauty the Beast
Toxic Mix of Palliatives
The Concrete Jungle
Posturing For Profits
Rum Shop Politics
Papa Bois, The Midnight Robber
Words of (dis) Honour
Elegy For The Family
Gang-Gamily: the New Family
Arrogance in Ignorance
Smart Sentencing
The Pierrot Granade

Plastics, Metals & Elastics

Like thousands of species,
Civilizations of numerous worlds,
Assimilated into the Hive of the Borg,
Star Trek’s fearsome invaders from the Delta Quadrant,
Dissolution of society’s long-held social template,
In the swirling vortex of technology’s slipstream,
And its reconstitution,
Artificial reality reconstruction
With the cult of celebrity the prime directive,
Is consuming, reducing, transforming humans,
From being executors of………..

Mrs. Skera

Time and illness, having carved, tattooed their
personalities unto her face and physique, have
transformed, actually reduced her into a generic
geriatric. Her quick-witted tongue that never
accepted foolishness for long had finally been
restrained, retrained to be patient and silent.
To be assertive was to incur victimization from
overworked, underpaid caregivers who see the
elderly with their loss of  autonomy and host
of health problems as…………………………

Cheap Dis & Dat Mart

Claiming economic imperatives-
Preserving domestic market share, competitiveness,
Entire industries, jobs outsourced,
Livelihood of millions to poor countries lost,
Solid, long-lasting, quality merchandise,
Healthy, well-off communities the cost,
Increase in drugs, alcohol addiction,
Hopelessness, gangs, crime, the spinoff…………..

Obfuscations of Academia

Education is now political machinery,
Schools victims of its bureaucracy,
Reputation, yearly progress, tenure of teachers,
More important than pedagogic edification,
Christian evangelists, social conservatives,
Demanding religious oversight,
Conservative, religious principles in education,
Imposing changes, rightwing views,
Historical revisionism, curriculum amendments,
Textbook revisions that impacts on science,
Enlightenment repealed………………..

Copyright © 2011 by N Oji  Mzilikazi, All Rights Reserved

No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted (other than short excerpts for review purposes only) in any form: electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, online reproduction or recording without express written permission by N Oji Mzilikazi.

The Journey of a Soul (Liberation Through Poetry)

Is an unpublished compilation of poetry that though borders on the personal, is simultaneously an exploration of the human experience, delving into matters of the heart; love, sex, relationships, faith and spirituality, joy, hope, pain, frustrations and pain with the hope of fortifying, uplifting and inspiring.

Introduction

Each person confronts life’s unveiling of the human experience: growth, the pursuit of love, intimate relationship, employment, wealth, status, joy, success, and the devastation wrought by the unexpected or circumstances beyond one’s control, failures, frustrations, pains and disappointments differently. In addition, a person’s moulding and center of being – their morals, values, character, integrity, and mental constitution oft determine how they fare in the face of challenges, adversity, temptations, social pressures, and in the navigation of life’s highs and lows.

Weaned on racial pride, integrity, honour, social consciousness, environmental awareness, self-defence, revolutionary philosophy, pan-Africanism, articulating and languaging voice, race and class issues, poetry saved my life on many occasions. Putting pen to paper allowed me to diffuse mountains of frustrations and anger from the continual psychological defacement, systemic and deliberate economic, educational, cultural and social inequities, injustice and discrimination wroth by racism, and refraining from the execution of dark deeds or seeking to blunt the pain by way of drugs or alcohol.

Writing allowed me to emerge with a little more strength, sanity, clarity, balance, patience, and rejuvenated to do battle. Furthermore, initiation and exposure to spiritual and religious philosophies profoundly affected the perspectives of my politics. I came to see revolutionary struggle as more than raging against the machine, but also striving for mastery over one’s mental and emotional self, as well as unifying or integrating the disparate elements of self. The infusion of spiritual awareness allowed both my politics and writings to breathe. 

“The Journey of a Soul (Liberation Through Poetry)” is rooted in social commentary, spiritual awareness and matters of the heart; love, sex and relationships. While it borders on the personal and explores themes extracted from the land of my birth, it taps into the joys, hopes, frustrations, experiences and disillusionment common to all, with a unique colour, lustre, vision, and perspective designed to uplift, fortify and inspire everyone who is struggling or aspiring to keep their heads above the water while trying to secure their piece of heaven in the mish-mash that is life.

The poems fall into the following categories:

The Obeah Chronicles
Love & Pain
Love Should Never Lie Trilogy
Canadia
Reflections In Water
Crab & Callaloo
Dancing In The Light
Revolution
Carnival In Nine Movements

 

Some Snippets

 

Love Should Never Lie Bleeding 

Love should never lie in agony,
Cursing and screaming.
Love should never lie bleeding,
Because Love no longer wants to give.
Love should never lie bleeding,
Because Love has changed.
Love should never lie bleeding,
Because Love has been rearranged.

Love should never ever be regretted,
But accepted as an honour,
An accomplishment,
In that particular time of our space.
For, to taste an emotion,
That transcends reason,
Deserves gratitude in being chosen,
For someone else; another, any other,
Could’ve been husband, wife, or lover.
In truth, the angel call Love……………… 

For The Lions Who Roared 

Time has muted their physical voice,
But until those
Who heard them speak, teach, preach,
Whose lives they shaped, influenced,
Pass through the door of the mighty slumber,
Into namelessness and facelessness, they live.
For their disciples still reminisce,
Can hear, recall, feel the passion, quietness,
Loudness…………………..

Friday Fright

As he came nearer,
there was an unconscious expulsion of air,
rapid palpitation of hearts, fear,
hisses intended to be inaudible to his ear.
At the group he stared,
a penetrating look that scared.
Who didn’t run, tried to make themselves invisible,
acted nonchalant to appear indecipherable.
From within our midst,
a quivering voice said, “Goodnight!”
Others mumbled, followed,
the salutation emoted in appeasement…..

Drums of Resistance

Unlike the tales of Anancy,
the powers of the drum are spoken of carefully,
reverently,
by those whose spiritual essence vibrates to its cadence,
energy.
Master drummers cause bodies to do more than just sway,
their rhythm entices, hypnotizes, transforms,
call souls to sessions happening miles away,
bring forth unseen forces……

The Umbilical Cord

I am both Sky and Earth in a vessel of skin,
Anchored by my umbilical cord,
Outside and within.
My umbilical cord is tied to the earth,
Buried under a tree in the land of my birth.
Salt, water, and sand are in my bones,
When waves…………………

The Madman

Childhood dreams assail me,
Running like a river,
Melting like ice.
Obstacles unifying, disappearing,
Making me laugh at the sky,
Of which I’m a part.
The wind blows,
Movements of freedom, illumination,
Its breath of energy
Penetrating viscerally,
Conjuring all manner of imagery,
Making me hungry.
Food being fuel,
I taste, gorge on little,
Enjoy much,
Hardly smiling, crying always,
Tears that isn’t real,
Just a physical manifestation,
Medication to soothe my eyes,
From looking at the sun…………..

The Journey Of A Soul

I’ve walked many paths,
Seeking freedom, understanding, truth,
Processing, dissecting philosophies,
Rearranging ideologies,
All towards forming
My heart and soul identity.
I’ve known joy,
Been friends with sorrow,
Stumbled countless times, fallen hard,
Stripped bare……………………..

Copyright © 2011 by N Oji  Mzilikazi, All Rights Reserved

No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted (other than short excerpts for review purposes only) in any form: electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, online reproduction or recording without express written permission by N Oji Mzilikazi.

Leadership & Montreal’s Black Community

Leadership & Community Part 1

By N Oji Mzilikazi
(Originally published in Montreal Community Contact volume 20,#22)
November 18, 2010

In his response to “What A Waste” (Community Contact, 23/9/10) Clarence Bayne makes the point, “We use up physical assets and human resources and don’t want to take individual responsibility for replacing them.”

I found his statement offensive. It would be nice for individuals to contribute, but the onus is always on an institution to have an astute plan to supplement government funding.

Additionally, an association has to market itself, have strong programs, ample users, display organizational efficiency, transparency and financial accountability, and be relevant to the community to attract volunteers and make soliciting donations easier. Anything else, including ineffective administrators, internal power struggle, perceptions of elitism, mismanagement and corruption, and its fossilization and inability to attract volunteers begins.

Many in the community are willing to serve. It’s just; they’re not into wasting time with an organisation that is sloppily run. Never spoken about is the inability to utilise the skills of volunteers or the unwillingness to make use of them, because “they” don’t like the person politics, or have a problem with his or her sexuality.

Our past is littered with bones of endless failures, yet those thrust into leadership spare no thought as to the success model they want, learn nothing from our failures, do no research, seek no advice, and do not surround themselves with company that could help advance their cause.

Consider the fiasco surrounding the CCFA and MCDF. We have been down that road before. One year we had one parade going west and another going east. One of those in the present debacle was involved in that division two decades ago.Is that which divides us greater than what binds us?

Invocation of “crabs in the barrel syndrome” or referencing the failed West Indies Federation as contributors to our disunity does a great disservice. They are trite and inaccurate as a means of analysis to an understanding of the roots of our condition. Those two things are merely by-products, manifestations of the symptoms of our dysfunction.

Federation failed because of island tribalism, the adherence to which is responsible for some of the conflicts and fractures within our diasporic community. The “crab ideology” can be observed in communities of every race and ethnicity when faced with limited resources. Each person looks after his or her own interest. Furthermore, usage of the “crab ideology” to us and by us infers or gives the impression to us having ideologically a racial unity, and is somehow betraying it, when such a unity is non-existent.

Moral cowardice has brought us to our current state of infirmity. Since in our community we more or less know each other, silence covers ineptitude and wrongdoing. Thus we are exposed to persons spoken of as being this and that, contributing this or that, role model for this and that, leader this and leader that, when they are nothing but self-serving culture-vultures, con artists, thieves and hustlers who will rip you off for a nickel.

Then we wonder about the disengagement of our youth, they seeing us as failures and hypocrites, and how our once strong community centers are disappearing, dying or supported by the aged and the very young.

While leadership or lack thereof deserves blame, we are very much contributors to our own impotence. Endless are the sidewalk politicians itemizing all our ills and proffering solutions, but wouldn’t put their foot where their mouth is and be contributors in one-way or another. Even as they spread dissension, they are unable to process that non-participation contributes to our inadequacy.

Then there is complacency of rank and file; uninterested in seeing to it principles are upheld, stewards held to accountability, entrusting the most capable into leadership roles instead of the politics of friendship and cliquishness, and allowing themselves to be manipulated by leadership bent on being Gulliver among Lilliputians. They elect officers and believe their job has ended.

They’d complain bitterly about what’s not being done, yet when the time comes to voice their concerns, tongues are stilled, and they return inefficiency back into office.

To Be Continued.

Leadership & Montreal’s Black Community part 2

Leadership & Community Part 2

By N Oji Mzilikazi
(Originally published in Montreal Community Contact volume 20,#23)

December 2, 2010

In December 2009, the United Nations General Assembly declared 2011, as the International Year for People of African Descent. Judging from the current health of our community, we are in need of an extreme makeover if we are to count our gains or celebrate.

The world currently stands at a crossroad. The long dominance of western economies, western culture and military strength is being assailed. Nonstop are the efforts to replace the American dollar as the world currency. Technology, outsourcing and globalisation have changed the nature of the marketplace; employment keeps disappearing while competition for existing jobs intensifies, and change continues to occur at rates hitherto unimaginable.

Although discrimination keeps Blacks with education or technical certification unemployed and frustrated, to be without them puts the community at a greater disadvantage. Yet, it is still better to be prepared for an opportunity that never comes than to be unprepared for an opportunity that comes.

Music and sports that were once profitable avenues for people of African descent are no longer so. In a way, not even crime is profitable. For while the Internet has changed the nature of crime and criminal activities, technology has also made it easier for the police to fight crime and for criminals to be caught.

So what is to become of youth, if they choose to be posers, un-ambitious and embrace an anti-academic identity? The stakes are high, very high. We cannot afford to let our children fail, and fall prey to thuggishness, the lure of gangs, and gun violence as is happening with alarming frequency elsewhere. For, they are going to turn around and victimize you, yours and mines. Our community is small enough where preventative measures can be implemented.

We have to adopt a new paradigm to give ourselves and our youths a chance at winning. To that end, it is imperative we destroy the geriatric ward of political thinking and its leadership, revitalise our institutions and rebuild infrastructures.

Don’t get me wrong. I am not ungrateful to the leadership who have brought us this far, but do consider that for all the great things Moses did, he couldn’t lead the children of Israel into the Promised Land.

Moses was excellent as a militant and confrontational leader, but the new field of engagement required leadership who were articulate, could think on their feet, have long term vision, are able to negotiate, navigate governmental bureaucracy, and do not feel out of place in corporate boardrooms, municipal and government offices.

Our community has reached a point where its Moses must be commended, applauded, sent into retirement homes, and perhaps be advisors. Our community is in need of transformational leadership: persons of character and integrity who can revitalise community spirit, increase participation, devise and execute plans for its economic empowerment.

In response to a spate of shootings, the Burgundy Urban Mediation Group (BUMP) organized a town hall meeting in Little Burgundy on October 29, 2007. Its panel included Borough Mayor Jacqueline Montpetit and Station 15 Commander Pierre Savard. Persons wishing to speak were required to submit their names, thus called in sequence.

I witnessed one of our church leaders who doubles as a community activist/leader disrespecting the process, interrupting speech, and encouraging others doing so, because the concerns of the white speakers from the community were other than Black youth selling drugs and killing one another. I was ashamed and embarrassed over conduct unbecoming one wearing the religious mantle.

Not only did he betray elementary Christian principles that I’m sure he espouses from the pulpit, but he insulted the spirit of community, and displayed a lack of character and integrity. He diminished himself in my eyes, and outside of his supporters, those Black folks who witnessed the event. Now, when I see him on tv, I suck my teeth.

Leadership demands sterner stuff and unflinching discipline. As stated so eloquently in Proverbs 31: 4 – 5, “It is not for kings to drink wine; nor for princes strong drink: lest they drink, and forget the law, and pervert the judgement of any of the afflicted.” Simply put, respect and do not betray your office. When leadership is tainted, the duplicity causes people to lose faith, and conscientious community/cultural workers who are in the trenches feel the sting of it.

People will question their integrity, paint them with the same brush or question them as to why that person is still in office. We are at a juncture where individual survival is more pressing, and taking precedence over issues of racism, police heavy handedness, racial profiling and community dysfunction, and where people would rather socialize on social networking sites than a physical local. Still, we need to come together and dialogue, otherwise, our grandchildren’s future is going to make our long, hard and difficult past, look like days of glory.

Community work, like culture, is never really financially rewarding. Its workers for the most part are driven by political conviction and social consciousness, thus they are apt to toil beyond the call of duty. Lovers of culture are driven by their love, and so in its creation and promotion they will invest time, effort, money and energy without thoughts of financial remuneration. On the other hand, there are those, for whom community work and culture is either a footstool or things to exploit.

They adopt the axiom, “Where you tie your cow, it is there it must graze.” And so they seek elected office. However, their ambitions far outstrip their talents, and the organisation suffers. They feel threatened by intelligence and those with ideas, take criticisms personally, sow discord and are vindictive, all techniques in their holding on to power.

Then, there are foundation members or persons who started an organization who feels it entitles them to control it until perpetuity. They never groom others to take over, and their ego becomes an obstacle in its progress.

Then there is the case of those on multiple boards. Even if it’s not about padding their résumé or accessing financing, their inability to invest quality time in any one organization contributes to all of them weakened.

Who have been the friends of our diverse Black and Caribbean community? Who have ever looked out for our interest? We stand alone, yet in our deformity of exaggerated self-importance and pedigreed arrogance, we view each other as competitors rather than allied in the same struggle.

Back in the day, there were three Black-owned record stores on Rue Victoria.  The owner of one was always obsessed about putting the other two out of business. When they closed, he considered it a personal victory. When I opened Chin Phat Musique on Peel St, my store fell under his pronouncement. Never mind he was uptown, and I downtown, and my client base was different to his or that HMV was just a stone thrown from my door, or other ethnics and whites have stores standing side by side, selling more or less the same goods, and everyone eats.  The venom of self-hate had him wanting to see me out of business.

It seems we have come to think of “strength in unity” as a worn out cliché, so we oppose or undermine organized and collective efforts. We allow professional jealousy and the clash of egos and agendas to be hurdles in the path of community success. Thus, we hear of those who wouldn’t take part or contribute to a community event if “so and so” is involved.

Then again, one is hard pressed to see our cadre of leaders, even official delegations from various community organizations at community functions, unless their members or organisations are involved. They have transcended networking at the grassroots level and displaying solidarity.

At the same time, there are some, who on account of position, titles, university degrees, and professional certification invest themselves with “special” or elite status and vainglorious attitudes that isolate them from the very people they claim to serve.

We cannot be engineers of our own incompetence then have the nerve to cry foul and say, “Look what the City, the police or the white man is doing to us.” Are we that dense to ignore the cardinal truth that power only respects power?

Power is a manifestation of strength. Strength is the ability to impose one’s will. Strength is fed by the unity of a common agenda. Strength positions a community to demand, to hold their ground, and reward or punish a politician by voting or not voting for them. We do not think of strength. If we did, we would’ve harnessed our votes and show City Hall our strength, and the dispute between the CCFA and MCDF would’ve been long resolved.

If we believed in strength, we would ask anyone vying for organisational leadership to enumerate theirs, their goals and vision for the organisation, and have them tell the members why they deserve their vote. Accountability would then be weighed against what was promised and what was achieved. To elect a president/chairperson/leader without a platform is in effect to forgo growth.

Our leaders do not think of strength. Case in point: For 24 years, the Jamaican community in Montreal celebrated their nation’s Independence in early August. For the 2005, Intercultural Festival at Parc Jean Drapeau on Ile St Helene, the Jamaican Association of Montreal surrendered their traditional August date for that of June 25. The extreme low turnout shocked them so badly, that its president ended up running around crying to the City, trying to get funding and a venue to re-present Jamaica Day. Strength would’ve been not celebrating the day on the city terms.

Strength is aligned with empowerment. When we forsake strength, we become the non-authors of things, imitators of things, consumers rather than sellers, and tenants rather than owners.

Look how long we’ve been here. Yet we are still renting hotel ballrooms or reception halls from other communities for our weddings, christenings, birthdays, anniversaries, and association or community banquets. We do not even want to own our community centers, much less buy a van for usage of the said community. Have we gotten so used to building the empires of other nations that we no longer care to build our own?