Liberation Education: Community Building Funds

Liberation Education: Community Building Funds

By N Oji Mzilikazi

(Originally published in Montreal Community Contact Volume 21, Number 22)

 October 27, 2011

From the frequency of directional mis-steps, blurred vision and jaundiced view of self that inflict damage and limit community growth; I cannot help but ask myself if our guiding lights are afflicted with conjunctival hyperaemia.

Then again, I wonder if what they really need is something for “dey back.” Something to slug off tiredness, give them a lil’ pep in their step, more bounce to the ounce, a lil’ stamina and strength to handle the heavy lifting their office demands.

For “Chinaman” and “Black Stone” to work, one has to already have “blood flow.” I would’ve loved to suggest a raw egg concoction for seven days then a purge, but you can’t trust eggs. Viagra? I don’t know who among them have health issues. I wouldn’t like anyone to “come” and “go” at the same time.

While I trust Bois-bande and Yohimbe, it would be a shame if after using; they decide to change careers to be an “iron man” in Salah’s Steelband. I’ll play it safe and go with the trusted Multivol 12 Mineral and Vitamin Tonic- the one with Vitamin E, not Iron. Iron can cause constipation, and return them to sluggishness.

I recently questioned a gentleman about the failure of the literary organisation to which he belongs having an online presence, and their overall lack of presence. I believe their archive is valuable, a resource that ought to be accessible. They have been around for 20 plus years.

He explained the organization found a submitted price of $2000 for a website prohibitive, even though a member was willing to donate $500 to the project. I was flabbergasted. The fee wasn’t really expensive.  Given the profile of the players in that organization, raising that paltry sum to expand their brand, to be a player in the global marketplace ought to be child’s play.

The disservice in such an organization not having a website far outweighs whatever “hole in the pocket” the expense leaves.  And to know this year is the United Nations designated Year of People of African Descent.

I hung up the phone feeling those people had lost the strength to fight. They were just a bunch of tired old men who by virtue of letters to their name, and past accomplishment were caught up in the elitism of cliquishness, so contented to sit idly by and lament over our lost youths. Is Multivol fuh dem!

In August the Imani Family and Full Gospel Church led by Reverend Daryl Gray launched a campaign fund to acquire their place of worship. Their target – $400, 000.

This month the Union United Church in Little Burgundy launched their campaign fund. They need $6 million for its restoration. Gray was once the head honcho of that United Church.

While I’m all for ownership, the Black Church has ceased to be a motivator  and driving force in the community, or given to political activism.

Its demographics are much older people who tend to drag their young children or grandchildren with them. Some who once lived the life; were in the game and in recognition of mortality want to make their soul right with the Lord. Not that there is anything wrong with that.

But we have like two lost generations; Black males in the main, 14 to 30 that are clueless, have no sense of self, identity, morality, understand cause and effect or care for education, are attached to a culture rife with negatives and inherently self-destructive. They need intervention, need saving, and they never go to church.

Would owning a church re-establish the moral, spiritual and religious codes of conduct so lacking in our children? Get our children back into the classroom, engender studiousness? Revitalise the spirit of the community? Bring people back into the houses of worship so their spirit and soul could be fed?

Given the current state of the community and the partisan nature of Christian denominations- each sect having their own dogma, interpretation of the Bible and not given to associating with others; who is going to be served from a church owning their building? Is this where our community dollars ought to go?

While Union United has had a storied past; serving the community since 1907, its glory days is long gone. Furthermore, although founded by 14 Black families, it belongs to the United Church organization. No amount of community dollars pumped into it will make it Black-owned.

25 plus years ago there was enough open space for Union to expand its structure and or build a parking lot for its parishioners. It didn’t. Its board of directors and guiding pastor(s) lacked foresight and visions for growth. Condos/apartment blocks went up in the open space next to the church. Increased were their parking woes.

To the Church saying the building no longer meets the congregation’s needs, I could only shake my head. On the other hand, Montreal Sikhs built a massive temple in LaSalle to serve not just its present community, but future one as well, and with ample parking.

It is straight up negligence that allowed the Church to decay to the point that it had to be deconsecrated. They could’ve embarked on aggressive funding when its problems first reared its head.

Didn’t none who served get Proverbs 6: 6-8?  “Go to the ant, thou sluggard; consider her ways, and be wise: Which having no guide, overseer, or ruler, provided her meat in the summer, and gathereth her food in the harvest.”

At what point do we stop funding dysfunction and incompetence? I say let the Church stay in its current digs and build a new history.

I’d much rather see a Capital Campaign Fund for ownership of a Black Caribbean/West Indian Cultural Centre. Its very nature negates partisanship. One can be Episcopalian, Methodist, Muslim, Baptist, atheist, or other and able to use it.

Imagine a Black Cultural Centre with guest rooms and service to accommodate artistes and performers our promoters bring from abroad or from other provinces. A building housing a library, a 300 to 500 seat auditorium, space for exhibitions, expositions, literary readings, functions including wedding receptions, birthday parties and anniversary celebrations, and of course with ample parking.

There was a lot of infighting, and it took twenty-one years, but in November 2005 the Montreal Chinese Community was blessed with its Cultural Centre. The three-storied complex cost $7.2 million.

Funds came from the City of Montreal, the Canada-Québec Infrastructure Works Program and from the Federal Heritage Department. One could look at it as a taxpayer-funded enterprise. Surely a Black Cultural Centre should be able to obtain funding from those bodies as well.

In 2002 George Gyrovatka paid $1 for a 99-year lease on a Parks Canada Property to build a Czech Cultural Centre. The property is located next to the Lachine canal. Gyrovatka is the director of the non-profit Czech Cultural Centre Inc.

Bear in mind that the Czech government has some 19 cultural centres in cities like London, Paris, and New York- places with a huge Czech population. Published statistics place the Canadian Czech population at 60,000, with 5,000 residing in Montreal.  Yet in the name of so few, Gyrovatka came up with a fantastic plan.

Gyrovatka’s Czech Cultural Centre was not affiliated with those of the Czech government so it was going to be privately funded. Its slated design was a four-story building with 36 rooms for visiting artists, rooms that could be rented out for meetings, a canal-side restaurant and a rooftop sports club that would be open to the general public. Upon completion it will have 70 permanent jobs. That is vision in action.

In July 2007 after two years of painstaking work, the $40-million Hindu temple, the BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir was unveiled in Toronto. Made of marble, every stone in its construction was hand-carved in India. Vision and self-industriousness allowed the Hindu community to raise funds for a magnificent structure that makes Hindus all over the world proud.

The Black presence in Canada predates that of many other ethnicities. Yet we don’t have institutions that testify to that. Granted we have faced tons of obstacles, but a united vision allows us to face them gallantly. Individually a person might falter, be injured or even be fatally wounded, but the will of the collective can only be denied for so long.

Our community has numbers. All we need is vision, leadership commitment, a concrete plan and unbending will. Don’t get me wrong. There have been strong organizations, persons and groups with clear vision. We have had buildings, and then… Who is going to step to the plate? Up you mighty race you can!



The Purpose of Education for Black People

The Purpose of Education for Black People

By N Oji Mzilikazi

(Originally published in Montreal Community Contact Volume 21, Number 21)

October 13, 2011

The western educational system was designed to serve the majority population; ensure white hegemony, their enjoyment of privilege and hierarchy reproduction. They built their nationalism and world views of themselves though historically biased and reworked narratives. Contributions of non-white ethnic minorities were relegated to footnote status and overlooked by mainstream histories.

Consider that archaeological records out of Egypt have exposed obelisks and walls where the names of kings, queens and others had been erased to obliterate all traces of their existence. In our time we’ve seen reports polished, embellished and dictated by the powers that be (Iraq and weapons of mass destruction) or slanted to make an administration look good.

Historical records are therefore more than just documentation of actual events. They can also be coloured by scribes in service of the king and his politics, embellishments, and the opinions of the intellectuals and media of the era.

Victims of the record of the dominant culture must out of necessity examine things rather closely, engage in critical thinking and stay singularly focused on empowering themselves educationally and economically.

When the Pope divided the world between Spain and Portugal, the English felt that as sons of God, they deserved a share in Adam’s will. Bent on obtaining their inheritance, and fuelled by anti-Catholicism, they waged war against the Spanish Empire in the Americas.

They attacked and plundered their treasure ports and treasure ships leaving the New World for Spain. Pirates the likes of John Hawkins, Francis Drake, and Walter Raleigh (who were also slave traders) were considered by the British as great men serving queen and country, knighted and bequeathed the title of “Sir.” To the Spanish they were brigands and thieves to be put to death.

Captain Henry Morgan was arrested on piracy charges and shipped to England to stand trial. Not only was he released by King Charles II, but was knighted and made Deputy Governor of Jamaica.

When Somalis decided to take up piracy, there was no romanticism of the trade or recall of those days of yore. They were an evil to be wiped out. In May 2011, a Spanish court sentenced two Somalis to 439 years in jail each for the 2009 hijacking of a Spanish fishing boat in the Indian Ocean.

History is not politically neutral. When the British had the legal mandate over Palestine, Jewish militants who wanted to establish a Jewish state engaged in acts of terrorism against them. When the state of Israel became a reality those anti-British terrorists were elevated to national heroes.

Menachem Begin was responsible for the act of terrorism that killed 91 Britons, Jews and Arabs at the British headquarters at the King David Hotel in Jerusalem. Begin was a terrorist who went on to become the prime minister of Israel.

Yitzhak Shamir was the leader of the extremist and terrorist group LEHI (Fighters for the Freedom of Israel.) He was also another terrorist who went on to become a prime minister of Israel.

June 7, 2001, Alliance MP Rob Anders blocked honorary Canadian citizenship for former South African President Nelson Mandela, a recipient of more than 200 international awards, including the Nobel Peace Prize. He considered him a terrorist.

The white world was up in arms when Robert Mugabe decided to appropriate land from white farmers in Zimbabwe and gave them to Blacks. They called for sanctions against him and the like. Mugabe cited the theft of Black-owned land that European imperialism and colonialism facilitated across Africa as the reason for such draconian measures. They didn’t want to hear that.

After hundreds of years of occupation, thousands of Palestinians were displaced and their land expropriated to facilitate the State of Israel. Jewish theological claim to the land took precedence over any kind of constitutional, civic, legal laws. More Palestinian homes and land were appropriated when Israel decided to build its Berlin Wall. How different was Mugabe’s action in Zimbabwe to that of Israel in Palestine?

Blacks in America have been voting for white presidential candidates all their lives. When Oprah endorsed Barrack Obama in 2008, she was flooded with a barrage of hateful and abusive letters, comments, and emails. Columnists both in Canada and America went on the attack, some opining she should be taken off the air.

Oprah’s audience has always been around 98% white. White folks were the primary beneficiary of her largesse and giveaways. Her daring to manifest a little Black Power was enough to bring recessive racist genes to the fore.

The Black historical experience in the west has been one of discrimination, chattel slavery, obliterating identity, culture and religion; everything that reinforced traditions, gave voice, infused worth and was psychologically sustaining.

Our education thus has to be also centered on making us whole, languaging ourselves, acquiring power, controlling our destiny and bringing respect to the race. We can’t trust anyone else with the task.

It’s not an understatement to say that everyone has had a piece of us.  People of African descent at home and abroad bear multitudinous psychological, educational and economical scars from the execution of centuries of inhumane and unbridled exploitation, torturous suffering, racism, discrimination and hatred by others.

We know the history, worldview and world of the authors of our scars better than they know us and our world. We live in theirs, are educated in it, but are not of it or accepted in it. We can speak their language and flawlessly at that. We know how they feel about us and having been at their beck and call, intimately know their ways.

Stupidly, we continue to be accommodating and hold hope for them to change. We’ll do all sorts of crazy things just to be liked, to be their friends or to be in their company. We’ll engage in self-mutilation and self-deception. Interpret their racial put downs, acts of negativity and that which undermines us as something other than, rather than drop two mother so-and-so on them or call them on it

When we cross swords with those in power or authority, we never want to come across as angry, disagreeable, or ignorant. So we display intelligence, demonstrate nice and often acquiesce to things that disadvantage us. Let a brother or sister step on our toes and immediately we get serious, have voice, and are ready to unleash biblical retribution.

We just aren’t prepared to be forgiving to them as we are to others, and it has to do with our miseducation, even when we are holders of certificates of higher learning.

No one can ride a person’s back unless it’s bent. Our failure to demonstrate testicular fortitude and vaginal elasticity outside of the bedroom contributes to continued racial disrespect, others believing they can run up on us anytime and with any kind of stupidity, and get away with acts of racism and discrimination.

The lack of liberation education accounts for our continued paralysis, being enablers of self-defeating behaviours, supporters of mediocrity and complacency, having entrenched laissez-faire attitudes, and opting for a hustling “smart man” economics, religious and “smart man” political culture rather than building institutions and stronger communities.

The field of engagement has changed drastically. Global concerns in regards to the economy and environment have relegated “Black” issues, and we as a people to the back-burner. Municipal, provincial and federal authorities don’t want to hear from us or care about any racial discourse. The courts have never been our friend.  We are on our own here. Up you mighty race you can!