Emancipation 2013: Beyond Rumshop Politics


By N Oji Mzilikazi

Originally published in the Montreal Community Contact Volume 23, Number 15 July 25, 2013    

Apart from those that make a living from pimping community, one would be hard-pressed to find anyone who can say they are happy with the state of Montreal’s English speaking West Indian/Caribbean community, and Montreal Black community.

Yet, outside of living room and rumshop discourses, there are no animated and raised voices in protests, perceptible disgust in what passes for community and organizational leadership.

There is no revolt; people demanding better service, a better product and refusing to buy shoddy goods. People willing to hold promoters, community stewards and community leadership accountable, shame and take to task all those that sow divisiveness, engage in skullduggery and “smartman” politics, and/or invoke and use community interests for personal gain.

And though unchecked “ship” continues to erode and destroy all that was previously built by resistance to institutional racism and legalised discrimination, blood, sweat, sacrifice, and community dollars, our interests seems to be about staying friends with everyone and not influencing, working towards or demanding change.

Still, in the spirit of righteous indignation, we quickly got angry over the Zimmerman not guilty verdict.

Healthy and progressive societies are self-critical. Pursuers of achievement and success use criticism as a tool for introspection and retrospection, to spur growth and shore up weaknesses. Not us.

We’ve been socialised to interpret criticism – the critiquing of policies and actions – not personalities, as badmouthing and personal attacks. And that childishness manifest in us “toting” feelings; vex and not talking to this one, not supporting that one, forever seeking ways to pay them back, putting whatever dirty laundry they believe they have on the person out in the streets, using comedy – jokes, “fatigue” and “picong” to verbally abuse and humiliate, and throw words at a person rather than discuss the disagreement. In the extreme we form new and competing organizations.

I belong to an All Fours Club that was formed in 1994. The recently departed Johnny Cool was one of its founders.

One of our presidents suffered from prime ministeritis and presidentitis. It’s the syndrome of persons in power who believe they are most capable leader. They must be in charge. They know what is best for everyone, and can trample on the constitution if it gets in his/her way. He was deservedly taken to task.

Rather than be contrite and willing to make amends, he resigned to form a new All Fours club. On account of the clannish relationships people foster in organizations, the club secretary, treasurer and a couple of his flatterers and toadies left ours to join his.

The person in question has a history of breaking away from existing organisations to form his own, to be unchallenged and in control of the hustle. Why “hustle”? Anything that doesn’t think about sustainable initiatives, envision and have long term objectives, or care for structure, accountability, transparency, is a hustle. And so his organisations have died ignominiously.

In the spirit of hustle, there are persons who formed organisations to be their personal fiefdom. And in being its president and/or chair, and having family members on its executive or board, they mistakenly believe they’re exempt from openness and having to explain or defend acts and action.

Nonetheless, when they put out a weak product, it’s the community – not them, that reaps the bad name, is charged with incompetence. And every time the community is sullied, brought into disrepute, it makes it harder for others to trust us, and be willing to invest in us – and growth is stymied.

Without growth and models of success, our children and grandchildren will be burden with the weight of low/diminished expectations, which in the long run engender a criminal mindset.

We all have a stake in organisational outcomes. Yet our many organisations refuse to talk to one another.

In every issue of this newspaper, you’d see entertainment events colliding and competing with each other, and not that we have the numbers to support them all. How hard is it for organisations (even street promoters) to have an entertainment mafia, to have a sit down and divvy up dates on the calendar so their respective events have a greater stab at success?

Though democracy and capitalism advocates free agency and a free market, and we are born self-centered and egoistic, our operating businesses after starting four hundred yards and four hundred years behind others necessitate a different approach, a more co-operative one, if we have to catch-up, much more exceed.

Plus, if you look at the world, corporations and big business have established monopolies; made mom and pop operations obsolete. Yet we don’t want to align ourselves with and/or work with others, or support one another.

How difficult it is for our organisations to subscribe to each other’s events, reciprocally buy at least five (5) tickets in support? A 5-member alliance of organisations thus has a built in sale of 20 tickets.

As much as we wrap ourselves in our island flags, talk about big island, small islanders, who is from the mainland, who is “country bookie,” and who is the best and the worst, island identity isn’t doing “ship” for us here. The majority population and others, see us through the lens of blackness and homogeneity, and all that goes with it.

Power respects power. Economic success lends itself to accessing power. When we support other organisations, we break down inherited and cultural island and ethnic antagonisms – impediments to community success. Where there is a will, there is a way.

David Austin, in his recent book, “Fear of a Black Nation,” published an excerpt from an August 15, 1968, RCMP memo, showing its fear, concern that “Negroes in Canada” were collaborating with “Negro Black nationalist in the United States and abroad.” Abroad — as from the West Indies/Caribbean.

There is strength in alliances and unified objectives. Politicians, business people, and strong communities intimately know that success is dependent on their ability to marry their interests. They don’t have to like, much more love each to do so, and they do not pursue their interests to the detriment of the other. Isn’t it time we do the same?

Emancipation Day: August 1, 2013

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *