Leadership Round-Table Discussion
SHOWING HOW DISJOINTED WE ARE
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