Leadership Round-Table Discussion

Leadership Round-Table Discussion


By N Oji Mzilikazi

Originally published in Montreal Community Contact Volume 23, Number 23 November 14, 2013

At a recent round-table discussion I attended about community, leadership, and what was needed to move the community forward, a lot of people and organizations were fairly and unfairly targeted and pounded.

A lot of time was spent identifying “obstacles to growth” with a view on how best to overcome them. Yet, in spite of the exuberance of the participants and their willingness to work towards better, the consensus was that things aren’t going to change; they are going to get worse. For, given the way we do things; the way things are, and the depth of community apathy, “We clearly eh ready yet.”

Expressed was that the “old guards” rooted in “smartman/hustling” politics still run things — badly, and seduced by an inflated sense of status, pride of visibility and yen for unchallenged office, they aren’t interested in passing on the torch.

Community leadership and organizational leadership were cut from the same cloth. People with no shame, no integrity, no conscience, no vision or imagination, and whose only interest is self-interests; to gorge on much of the little and freeness they get. And since they know one another, keep secrets for one another, as well as know how each works the system, they would not criticize the other — and give ammunition to upstarts and those that demand accountability.

The inordinate amount of backstabbing by those in “positions” to help, people “toting” feelings because they’ve been slighted or criticized, people being obstacles just because they can, as well as to prove they have “power,” the lack of political activism in the community, and younger folks not willing to rise and make a bid for leadership were seen as exacerbating matters.

To support their contention as to the depth of community malaise, they cited the issue of Dr. Bayne putting the Black Study Centre (BSC) up for sale.

Bob White was singled out for high praise; the only person pressing; seeking to keep the sale of the BSC as worthy of community attention. (Thanked for my contribution, I was chastised for not continuing to apply pressure.)

Since the Contact published no letters on the issue; people didn’t care enough to write or email the editor though it was much talked about. (They said if I was smart, I could’ve fired off a couple letters myself using different names.)

Pointed out was that not one of our community stewards, present or past, or community organization, or person associated with the BSC from back in the 70s or early 80s, publicly weighed in on the issue one way or another.

Coming in for serious criticism was the silence of the Quebec Board of Black Educators, seeing that the Black Study Center fits into their wheelhouse. There was wonderment as to why that Board both under the directorship of Dr. Bayne and with Dr. Bayne just a Board member didn’t rent space from the BSC — keep the money in community hands as opposed to renting from “other” landlords.

They also opined that although Dr. Bayne has been an integral part of QBBE, there is no reason for them not to take a stand.

They felt my “Open Letter To Dr. Clarence Bayne” was something worth capitalizing on. The points raised could’ve been used to mobilize community; used as a petition to garner the signatures of those opposed to the sale of the BSC. Plus, the nepotism in the Board of the BSC I exposed was in their view, grounds to legally challenge the sale, given that Dr. Bayne justification for putting the BSC up for sale is the approval by the Board.

They found it offensive that none of our highly degreed, pedigreed, or academics saw fit to jointly formulate a position in regards to the BSC, affix their name to the document, and have it published in the Community Contact and/or elsewhere.

When looked at in such a light, it seems to lend credence to Dr. Bayne’s assertion that the community does not give a “ship.” The community does. It’s just that we have a bad habit of leaving the “labour” to few; relying on the few to stick their necks out because we want guard friendships.

Healthy and progressive organizations and societies are self-critical. Unfortunately, when it comes to Caribbean Blacks, slavery’s depersonalization led to an inherited culture of fragile egos, fragile self-esteem and super sensitivity.

Criticism often leads to “narcissist injury” which prompts demonic manifestations, public undressing, cuss outs, verbal abuse, threats, physical assaults — bullying in the cause of silence. As a result, there is a tendency for many to shy away from open criticism, and by extension guard friendships — to our, community detriment.

For the record: Over the past two years my writings have led to me being threatened, a person stepping up to fight me, and words thrown at me — in public spaces — and in the face of witnesses.

Brought up and considered a new and worrying trend was people doing “Black” things and totally ignoring or not marketing it to the Black English speaking community.

The Black History Month organization; The Round Table on Black History Month, that came out of the Black English speaking community is seen as a serial offender. The “Commemorative Happening 50 Years — Martin Luther King I Have a Dream” held this past August did no outreach to the Black English community

The Congress of Black Writers and Artists (October 18-20, 2013) presented by Community-University Talks, and held at McGill University did no promotion in our community.

The conference, build as marking the 45th anniversary of the 1968 Black Writers Congress held at McGill, was such a well kept secret that the majority of Caribbean/Black English speaking Montrealers that have sacrificed for community, been supporters and participants in our struggle to build, defend, and establish an equitable society, and who relish debate and discussion on culture and identity, and who are writers (including the budding and unpublished), and who attend book launches weren’t aware of it, myself included.

Ironically, the theme of the 2013 Congress was “Create Dangerously.” The title taken from Haitian-American writer Edwidge Danticat’s “Create Dangerously: The Immigrant Artist at Work” who, according to the press release, took her title “Create Dangerously” from the last public lecture given by Albert Camus — a white man.

When I saw the edifying subjects slated for discussions, it brought home just how bankrupt we are in regards to leadership, and perchance those who ought to know better have confused “the grassroots” with grass/weed/ganja so no need to get them on board.

Ignoring our community is creating dangerously. It is saying we don’t count, and lays down tracks of selectiveness; black intellectual, cultural and social elites.

To be continued

Divali: Lessons For Personal, Community Rejuvenation

Divali: Lessons For Personal, Community Rejuvenation

By N Oji Mzilikazi

(Originally appeared in the Montreal Community Contact Volume 23, Number 22 October 31, 2013)

Asato ma sadgamaya

Tamaso ma jyotirgamaya

Mrito ma amrita gamaya

From appearance lead me to reality

From darkness lead me to light

From death lead me to Immortality

Namaste! Divali Greetings to Montreal’s Hindu Community, and to Hindus worldwide.

Divali, Dewali or Deepawali is one of the most important festivities in the Hindu calendar. Divali is for Hindus what Christmas is for Christians and Eid-ul-Fitr is for Muslims.

Known as the Festival of Lights, Divali is rooted in moral precepts; the triumph of light over darkness, good over evil, intelligence, knowledge and wisdom over ignorance, truth over prevarication and obfuscation, purity over impurity, fearlessness in the face of adversities, and righteousness in the face of misleadership.

Given the inherent dangers posed by darkness—ignorance, blindness, fear, insecurities, doubts, and humankind penchant for seeking paths of least resistance, and listening to snakes; deceivers skilled in wrapping up lies with truths, and that the smallest light can dispel deep darkness, Light — be it a celestial manifestation, physical, or that of consciousness or spiritual enlightenment, has always been regarded in high esteem by humans, and even worshipped.

Since Light illuminates; makes for clarity, facilitates transparency, and does not fear accountability; Light is seen as having spiritual, mental, and psychological aspects, as well as embodying knowledge — “true knowledge” and “pure consciousness” of the Absolute, the Immutable spirit that is commonly referred to as God.

Knowledge empowers — liberates, and enriches lives. Knowledge is a weapon as well as a shield. For that reason, Knowledge was guarded, kept hidden, and made the preserve of the Gods — society’s elites.

Ignorance impoverishes. Ignorance facilitates tempestuousness, acts without rhyme or reason that one would come to rue, self-sabotage, self-hate, self-pity, victimization, exploitation, and a sense of hopelessness. Ignorance enslaves.

Fire is a form of Light. According to Greek mythology, the Titan Prometheus stole Fire that belonged to the Gods, and to Heaven, and give it to man. For that crime of sharing Light — Knowledge, Prometheus was bound, and man was punished by the introduction on earth of the “ruinous tribes of women.”

While many religions saw fit to position women as evil; earth’s fruitfulness and symbolism as the giver of life; fertility to plants, animals and man, resulted in many in antiquity embracing a Mother-Goddess ideology. Hinduism did so with Lakshmi.

Lakshmi is depicted as a beautiful woman with four hands, sitting or standing on a lotus and holding a lotus bud/lotus flower in two of her hands. The lotus is the sign of a detached and knowledgeable mind. Her two empty hands indicate that in the end man carries nothing with him.

Numerous are the meanings and symbolism of Mother Lakshmi/Goddess Lakshmi. The four hands of Lakshmi represent dharma or righteousness, kama or desires, artha or wealth, and moksha or liberation from the cycle of birth and death.

Lakshmi is the Goddess of beauty and the home, embodiment of royal womanhood — female dignity, which by extension makes the case that women ought to be respected and protected. Lakshmi also represents purity, wealth, abundance, fertility, truth and piety. Still, she is best known; commonly referred to as the Goddess of wealth, prosperity, fortune, and glory.

During Divali, the worship of the mother-goddess; Goddess Lakshmi is most pronounced.

Divali 2013 is on November 3rd, and comes on the heels of Halloween and the Christian festival of Lights — All Saints Day and All Souls Day. (I could just imagine what “back home” in Trinidad looks like with three consecutive days of lights.)

Halloween or All Hallows’ Eve is an ancient Celtic festival celebrated on October 31 dedicated to invoke and welcome the spirits of the dead, allegedly for purposes of communication as well as to gain “supernatural” powers. Blood sacrifice was also alleged in its celebrations, and tricks, treats, and the telling of ghost/horror/frightening stories were strategies in encouraging their presence.

Though Halloween is seen as harmless; innocent fun, and its association with death, the dead, the macabre and horror is for entertainment; law enforcement annually warn parents and kids. The goodies received “trick or treating” could be deliberately tampered with — to injure.

Annually, animals especially dogs and cats are mutilated on Halloween, leaving one to wonder.

Since Halloween is the day of the dead and participants weren’t averse to disturbing graves, the Roman Catholic Church introduced the celebration of All Saints Day and All Souls Day on November 1st and 2nd respectively.

Candles were lit on the graves of the departed, as well as on the steps, porches and balconies of homes where death had passed. Ostensibly, to propitiate the spirits of the deceased and guide those disturbed by the “paganism” of Halloween back to their places of abode.

Divali is a festival of cleanliness, worship, sharing, family get-together, knowledge, guarding all that is good, and remembrance to live life in such a way that forefathers can sleep in peace, hold their heads high by the life and deeds of their children, and progeny can be proud of their forbearers.

Struggle defines people of African descent in the diaspora. In spite of legal terrorism and institutional obstacles we build — achieved, to a certain accent. Sadly, the work of our forbearers is being undermined by parasites, misleaders who give no thought as to the shoulders they stand on, and those lacking the imperatives of culture; those without an understanding of wealth creation and ownership, and who refuse to recognize that a house divided against itself cannot stand.

Since when is owning property — that was also maintained by sweat equity of many, and in a prime location, ever liability? Mother Lakshmi sends us your light! Lend us a hand!

(Inspired by photos; memories of weekend retreats at the Shiva Lingam Temple with the likes of Collette Lee Loy, Mwanza Donkor, Ngina, Miriam, Marie, Alex, Phillip, Keith Saadik Edwards, the grace and kindness of Pa and Ma Nancoo, and my teacher Lutchman Singh.)