Update: An Open Letter To Dr. Clarence Bayne
By N Oji Mzilikazi
December 7, 2013
On November 28, 2013, I was served with papers threatening legal action over “An Open Letter To Dr. Clarence Bayne,” published in the Montreal Community Contact Volume 23, Number 19 October 3, 2013, and unless retracted within 10 days, be liable for compensation for damages past, present and future.
As serious is the matter, I laughed — and hearty at that, at this legal shenanigan of Clarence Bayne to silence criticism and dissent — that is a hallmark of a healthy democracy. Much more to know Clarence Bayne is a frequent contributor to the Montreal Community Contact — and for more years that I can remember was allowed to freely run his mouth; given leeway with articles rife in condescension, platitudes, lack of coherency, and endless ad hominem attacks — that for the most part went unchallenged, and in some cases weren’t allowed refutation and rebuttal.
Consider his January 6, 2011, article, “Take Back Our Carnival.” Bayne stated: “Egbert is the only journalist writing in the Black community that would dare tell people they irresponsible, and how they’re wasting the community time, fighting in public with one another, making we look like fools; while a set of scamps in the City get away with murder.”
The “City” in question is Montreal City Hall. Bayne had no qualms about casting aspersion on the administrators (scamps) of the City, and to accuse them of getting “away with murder.” Who did one of City Hall’s functionaries kill?
Lest you think that was merely colourful language; one can be held liable for words considered colourful, just as one can be held liable for words uttered in haste or anger.
Words can slander, inflame, incite, and hurt — even when true. People hurt by words — even when true, can be unforgiving.
Words have meanings and context. People jockeying for position; seeking elected office, seeking to hurt, put down another — score brownie points, as well as people hurt by words aren’t averse to engage in deliberate contextual misrepresentation, make false associations, get into technicalities or engage in semantics, even when a person wasn’t careless with their words.
In my August 2012, “Garvey & The Abolition Commemoration Farce” I wrote: “I was sixteen when I met the Rt. Honourable Marcus Mosiah Garvey. I was introduced to him by a dashiki clad, afro-wearing professor… We — a group of students would go to his home to read, discuss and critique things from “Garvey and Garveyism.”
Even someone with the smallest iota of deductive reasoning is able to construe I came to know Garvey through a professor, and the study of his works. But when mental midgets “fight,” they will say and do anything; “fight” as dirty as possible to secure victory. Thus Clarence Bayne wrote in “Garvey Panelists Respond To Attack” (Montreal Community Contact September 6, 2012): “Garvey died in 1940. We know that N Oji is not 90 years or older. So how he could he have been introduced to Garvey when he was sixteen? This is just part of the misinformation and the deceptions of the alto-ego at work.”
When the Black Studies Center (BSC) was conceptualized and established, there was no Internet or websites to speak about. The BSC was a physical entity; the building located at 1968 De Maisonneuve. Pointed out in Bayne’s lawyer’s letter is: “The Black Studies Center (BSC) is not a building and is not for sale. BSC is, as described on its website, a searchable gateway to the history of Blacks in Montreal and Quebec.” The shift; separating the BSC from the building it owns, allows Bayne to position those who see the BSC and the building as one and the same as spreading misinformation, thus liable.
Stated in the first paragraph of Clarence Bayne 22 September 2013, press release/email: To Friends and Supporters of the Spirit of Sensible Community Enterprise and Building, is the following: We are “about to make a financial decision with respect to the restructuring of its holdings. And we do not intend to give away funds that it took us 40 years of sacrifice and commitment and waiting in the real estate market to produce as part of our long term financial planning and strategy.”
Note the “waiting in the real estate market to produce.” Yet my statement: “It is my contention that sitting in prime location, you deliberately kept the BSC underused and underdeveloped for a future sale — that in your estimation is now,” is included in the lawyer’s letter under Bayne’s 5th bone of contention with my Open Letter.
The issue I took up in the Open Letter; the selling of the BSC building, goes back to 2010 with Bayne himself a participant in the discourse. Yet Bayne’s legal action is as if my piece is foul, unwarranted, unfounded, and crosses the boundaries of good and robust debate.
Progressive societies are self-critical; rife and rich in debate — competitive and opposing views and ideologies, but Bayne doesn’t want truth or dissension to speak to presidential authority.
How do we know that someone was here or there? They take pictures, inscribe their name, draw, carve, etch on walls, build, and distinguish themselves so name is memorialized. They even leave progeny so bloodlines continue. Pyramids, institutions of brick and mortar; owning businesses, property, and homes empower individuals and community, engenders community pride — let others know we are here.
In “25 Years And No Change” (Montreal Community Contact April 8, 2010), Clarence Bayne rightfully states: “There can be no question that self employment and small business are definite ways to improve our situation. There is a culture of hiring out our human resources that seem to be a part of the Black immigrant colonial past. A spirit of entrepreneurship has to replace the ‘skills for hire’ strategies we bring with us.”
According to various articles in the Montreal Community Contact, Bayne is director of ICED – Institute for Community Entrepreneurship and Development, John Molson School of Business (JMSB) at Concordia University. As such, the man knows what he is talking about. Yet Bayne fails to see the irony in selling a building (the BSC) owned by us — the Black community, for us to become renters — grist for the mill.
Not because a person might’ve successfully escaped prosecution for murder by faking insanity one should attempt or contemplate the same, and neither because one has a right to do something it means they should do it.
In “What A Waste…A Fallacy Of Community Ownership And Responsibility” (Montreal Community Contact September 23, 2010), Clarence Bayne stated: “It is important to understand that in market-oriented capitalism not-for-profit organizations can hold assets in forms other than a physical building. In some instances it is more resource – efficient to hold risk free interest earning assets and rent rather than tie up scare resources in the maintaining of a physical building.” While true, what visibility or social value accrues from selling the BSC, giving the paucity of buildings owned by Montreal English speaking Black Canadian/West Indian/Caribbean community?
The Cote-des-Neiges Black Community Association — a flagship organisation, has been serving the community for the past 41 years, and it still does not own the building it operates from.
To move from being consumers to creators of content and product, or from being hourly paid workers/employees to entrepreneurs, necessitate vision and the goal of ownership.
In nothing but short-sightedness and mis-leadership, Clarence Bayne stated in “Yes We Can” (Montreal Community Contact December 20, 2011): “Some people in our community seem to think that we must own property in order to be seen to be successful. I do not hold this view.” (Hence, Bayne’s fixation on selling the BSC building; the BSC is on the market.)
Owning property is not about the “appearance of success.” It’s about legitimizing presence. It’s about dispelling notions of “otherness.” It is about sowing roots, demonstrating commitment, belonging, having a stake in the fortunes of the society, and solidifying claims on the nation’s patrimony. Thus, my open letter — objection to the sale.
The message in the sale of the BSC building is that owning property is a liability. Owning property is rarely a liability. If the BSC is a liability, it is of Bayne’s doing. After all, he was its steward; its long-serving president.
In “Skin Teeth Ain’t No Laugh Nor Are Congresses A Cure For Racism” (Montreal Community Contact November 24, 2011), Clarence Bayne stated: “We should be able to look painfully into ourselves…Visibility comes with a practical sort of unity, not the single voice of conformity…That visibility must be able to withstand the slings and arrows of time.” But my arrow resulted in a lawyer’s letter.
In Clarence Bayne’s “Advice To Ron” (Montreal Community Contact December 16, 2010, Letter to the editor), Bayne stated: “We need to be more critical of proposals presented for public support and consumption.” I took Bayne’s advice, and look where my examination; logical dissection and counter-arguments to the president of the BSC “proposal” got me — a lawyer’s letter.
This is the same Clarence Bayne who stated in “A Deeper look At The Perils Of Our Community” (Montreal Community Contact August 26, 2010):“A minority lives in a trap. It is a place where many tricksters and community leaches may hide and turn their minds to treachery that keeps us in chains, forged by our own anvils.”“We do not take ownership, and we do not try.”“We lack the courage of self-criticism.”
This is the same Clarence Bayne who stated in “A Deeper look At The Perils Of Our Community, Part 2” (Montreal Community Contact September 9, 2010):“We just become indignant at anyone that looks in on our wrongdoings and comments. Public criticism is regarded as public lynchings.”
Yet Bayne wants to lynch me. His lawyer letter says I attempted to discredit and defame him.
Bayne didn’t resort to the services of a lawyer when the police and English and French media regularly discredited and defamed the Black community in the late 80s and early 90s. Photo Police, the French weekly, named Dan Philip, the head of the Black Coalition of Quebec, their Asshole of the Week, in Vol. 25# 10, 31 July to 7 August 1992, and had a photo of Philip positioned under the tail of a donkey.
I understand the likes of Clarence Bayne. Slavery left people of African descent with a lot of scars; one of which is self-hate. Self-hate has us tolerant to the “oppression of outsiders” and extremely hard and violent to our own people — who step on our toes, thus the scourge of Black on Black violence. On account of the infection of self-hate, criticism outside of organizational infighting is framed as an offense; an attack that merits retribution — overpowering and intimidating force.
The April 19, 2012, Montreal Community Contact, contained “Incompetence Destroys Communities” by Peter Francis. Bayne used Francis’ article to launch “The Accountability Question Runs Deep” (Montreal Community Contact May 17, 2012), and chided Francis as well.
Bayne stated in the piece: “Peter tells me he deliberate kept the article general so as to avoid anyone thinking that he was attacking them…His fears underline that we do not have a culture of criticism and critical debate in the Black Community. Hence, accountability does not happen and experiences are not shared in a constructive manner.”
In the same article, Bayne referenced my April 19, 2012, open letter to the organization that puts on Montreal Annual Carnival parade titled: “CCFA, You Made A Boo Boo” and says: “N Oji made a brilliant observation…But the man is reflective. He doesn’t just dish out he could take…The second reason that I like the N Oji article is that it creates an atmosphere of debate in the larger context of the City politics, not just community badmouthing.”
Yet, when I pointed out in the August 23, 2012, Montreal Community Contact, the farce that took place at the United Negro Improvement Association (UNIA) on August 17, 2012, in what was billed, “A Critical Discussion of the Garvey Model of Education and Development of the Black Community” in commemoration of Marcus Garvey (Bayne was a speaker at the event.); all Bayne’s values and pronouncement about criticism went out the window.
My keeping them honest at the event; I interrupted the intellectual masturbation that was taking place, rather than suffer in silence over their failure to discuss what was promised, was not taken as legitimate criticism but framed as an attack.
The September 6, 2012, Montreal Community Contact contained a “million-word” Clarence Bayne orchestrated: “Garvey Panelists Respond To Attack.” Dishonestly, signatures to the article included non-panelists.
“Nobody reads the man’s articles,” it proclaimed. I was accused of “looking for respect by arrogant and shameless name-dropping and vile bad-mouthing of people,” described as a “wouldabe social critic,” and “downright professionally rude.” Since I put up facts, cite sources, and employ deductive reasoning to support my assertions, de-legitimization was attempted by giving me ownership of “basement archives.” At least I have an archive.
I stated: “A storied association like the UNIA ought to have monthly discussions on Garvey and Garveyism. Marcus Garvey is their raison d’être. They ought to bring in scholars and authorities on Garvey like the acclaimed and well-respected Tony Martin. Monthly discussions and the like would ensure when Garvey’s birthday come around, UNIA’s cup runneth over.”
Their response to that supposed “attack”: “He was not happy that his self-proclaimed expertise and scholarship was not used…He urged the organizers to bring in experts and people of knowledge from other countries for future local and very domestic meetings of this kind. Apparently, we need foreigners to show us how to meet and greet. ”
It is from such conceit, and our penchant to hold on to dysfunctional templates that in this fair city, very few things from Black hands flourish.
(For the record: For Garvey celebrations 2013, Clarence Bayne and I were the panelists — and were at odds.)
Such was the sensitivity of Clarence Bayne’s ego, internalization of injury to my criticism, the need for revenge, and his paying lip-service to the virtues of criticism; Bayne decided to drink another person’s medicine to put me down.
In nothing but a bold-face lie, maliciousness and slander (and paradoxically empowering), Bayne stated in the aforementioned article: “His reach is so deep that he turned up at a fun game of cards ‘All Fours’ organized by a group of friends and immediately passed the blade of his poisoned pen on this private party.” Yet Bayne ran for a lawyer over speech I could defend.
In “Time For Open And Honest Debate” (Montreal Community Contact February 5, 2004), Clarence Bayne stated: “The reality is there are some leaders in the Black community that do not live the talk, and who owe their existence and subsistence to the misfortunes of other Blacks and mis-allocations of our tax dollars at all levels of government…We have to break free from the crippling silence of the false united public front which masks the inappropriateness of inefficient managers and organizations.”
In “Voices of Despair: A message From The Minority Trap” (Montreal Community Contact May 20, 2004), Clarence Bayne stated: “Ten years or so ago, we protected a date rapist, partly out of our fear of collective shame, but most sickeningly because sufficient Blacks proclaim we cannot allow the police to destroy an educated Black man in this racist society.”
Yet, when I state (About Leadership And Community, Part 1 November 18, 2010: “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.”) Bayne takes umbrage — and responds 8 months later.
Bayne’s A Response to N Oji’s About Leadership and Community, was published in the July 21, 2011, Montreal Community Contact. Bayne considered my article “an out-of-body poetic rant, ramble and cuss out,” and tags my space as one of “truly damned souls.” He diagnosed me as being: “A turned off youth who did not benefit from a social and emotional development,” as well as stated: “It is clear that you (I) have no respect for the elders and those that have tried but fallen short of your (my) standards.
Bayne recognizes I have standards. But my standards are nothing special, just good old-fashioned integrity in leadership and governance, transparency, accountability, and that leadership must display respect of persons and not given to name calling and personal attacks.
Like Mayor Rob Ford supporters who laud the City’s prosperity against his bad, almost bordering on criminal behaviour, Clarence Bayne wants us to believe that we shouldn’t be overly concern about integrity in leadership; it ought not to matter.
In “Honour Thy Father And Thy Mother” (Montreal Community Contact March 8, 2012), an ode to all the militants who struggled to create the opportunities our youths have today, and a tirade against any seeking to supplant current leadership, Bayne states: “They cannot differentiate between a person’s private failings and their public contribution.” It’s not about differentiation.
What people think is reflected in what they do. The failure of exemplars (including parents) to be one with their message; to walk the talk, is at the heart of societal disconnect of young people, their willingness to middle-finger the world, and perception of them being ungrateful.
8 months for someone to reply to an article? Talk about something sitting on somebody’s chest for a long time! Perchance it is the affliction; insatiable appetite for visibility that plague the likes of retired narcissistic politicians who can’t reconcile themselves to growing old and being irrelevant, so they must rage against those with promise, ideas, the young, and at the ingratitude of youth. They must bless everything; be the one all come to for solutions, absolution.
Thus in the previously mentioned “25 Years And No Change,” Bayne states: “The community leadership that is getting the attention of the various levels of government and the Provincial civil servants (Black Entrepreneurship Task Force) do not seem to understand the economics of entrepreneurship.” Bayne does. After all he is director of ICED – Institute for Community Entrepreneurship and Development, John Molson School of Business (JMSB) at Concordia University. So why is he being ignored?
Sadder still, is with all the entrepreneurship wealth at Clarence Bayne’s fingertips (being director at the prestigious JMSB), the long-serving president of the Black Study Center didn’t grow the BSC; didn’t buy the building next to it or buy and move the BSC to a bigger building. Like the tragic figure in the biblical parable of the talent; he buried it — to beat his chest and repeatedly boast:
“The Black Studies Center owns its building fully. It has just finished upgrading the facilities without any help from external agencies or persons.” (“Yes We Can” (Montreal Community Contact December 20, 2011.)
“BSC never raised funds in the community. That has been our policy for years. We are not funded by Governments. That too has been policy.” (Bayne’s already cited press release/email)
The BSC “has never begged money of the Black community, it has always depended on the good will of a few individuals and some Board members.” (“What A Waste…A Fallacy Of Community Ownership And Responsibility” (Montreal Community Contact September 23, 2010.)
Notice the pride of arrogance, elitism, and distaste in Bayne’s choice of word — “beg.” “Solicit” would’ve been too charitable and kind a word.
The BSC Charter allows the board to raise funds. But since fund-raising events and soliciting funds from the community is distasteful; too low-brow for the board, and its long-serving president is director of ICED – Institute for Community Entrepreneurship and Development, John Molson School of Business (JMSB) at Concordia University, thus eminently qualified on the ways and means of making money, one must wonder as to why the Black Study Center was a “secret;” had no presence for the past couple decades.
It would be interesting to see the BSC books, and the names of those whose donations kept it alive all these years, as well as their financial contributions.
Montreal Black community do not have persons with money that can make serious donations to any of our institutions, otherwise we wouldn’t have descriptors such as dysfunctional, struggling, ineffective, or out-of-business applied to many of them. (Not that money; the lack of, is at the root of organizational dysfunction.)
It would be shameful if the “few individuals” that contribute to the upkeep of the BSC are not members our community. For it would show us to be indolent, and undermines the motto of self-reliance that Black philosophers like Marcus Garvey advocated in the cause of empowerment —and that Clarence Bayne, as an expert on Garvey is familiar with. Then again, a white man sits on the board of the Black Study Center, and is its current secretary. It’s wrong, wrong, wrong, but I wouldn’t fulminate…Brutus was an honourable man!
The debacle between CCFA and MCDF resulted in suspension of the 2010 Carifiesta Carnival parade, and the case going before the courts. Clarence Bayne and several community figureheads went to City Hall to try and “save,” some say “get” the Carnival. They failed.
In the previously mentioned “Take Back Our Carnival,” Bayne stated: “As the Director of the Institute for Minority Entrepreneurship and Development I am prepared to explore the possibility of a community-based Carnival arts program with the appropriate leadership and make a presentation at a special workshop on a suitable curriculum and business start-up strategy.” CCFA got the Carnival, and they didn’t give Bayne with all his expertise the time of day.
With the demise of the BCCQ, Montreal does not have a central or coordinating Black organization. Community stalwart Ron Licorish believe we do ourselves a disservice by not having one. Licorish proposed the formation of The Caribbean Canadian Community Congress.
In the previously mentioned “Skin Teeth Ain’t No Laugh Nor Are Congresses A Cure For Racism,” Bayne told Licorish straight out: “You cannot create an institution that is intended to represent the Black Community and call it the Caribbean Canadian Community Congress.”
The Caribbean diaspora includes East Indians, Asians, whites, and huge numbers of mixed race persons. The very name, “Caribbean Canadian Community Congress” infers inclusivity, whereas Black “anything” make those who do not subscribe to the identification feel like outsiders, and limits the participation of many whose history, culture and gastronomy intersect with people of African descent. As far as name goes, Licorish is on point. But since the “name” didn’t come from Bayne, he found it problematic.
In “Skin Teeth And A Cure For Racism” (Montreal Community Contact December 8, 2011), Clarence Bayne who sits on the board of the Black Community Resource Centre (BCRC) stated: “The Black Community Resource Centre was created with the hope that it would carry out the mandate of facilitating the strengthening of community organizations, but it never fully embraced that role.” And whose fault is that? And to repeat, Dr. Clarence Bayne is on the board.
In the same article, Bayne launched a broadside at the Cote-des-Neiges Black Community Association’s “Family Strengthening Program.” He reduced its good work to simply a brilliant strategy of “stabilization of funding and jobs of workers.”
Since Bayne is Mr. Know-it-all and the only one who can get things done and get things right, Bayne stated in the article: I am willing to participate in a meeting called by Community Contact to review the protocols for the community Forum (set out at the 1992 Val Morin Conference) with a view to exploring the possibilities of reconstructing and reactivating the Forum.”
I don’t think that meeting ever took place, and if it did, it went nowhere
In July 1992, the brightest minds from 45 Black community organizations spent a weekend in Val Morin to set out an agenda for the community; work out strategies and structure to best advance the interest of our community — and it came to naught. The clash of egos and ambition outstripping talent accounted for the non-implementation of the agreed upon agenda.
Moral cowardice empowers bullies and bullying. Quite a few persons and professionals who have dealt with Clarence Bayne in different organizations confided in me that “many persons ’fraid his tongue,” so they avoid butting heads with him. A retired professor attributed that to his abundance of “demonic energy.”
In the previously mentioned “Honour Thy Father And Thy Mother,” Bayne blasts those who take issues with the old guard, and those he labels the “nouveau Black savants.” The 80 + year-old Bayne makes it abundantly clear he has no intention of passing the torch.
Stating: “We have no intention of allowing our children to prematurely put us into social and political wheelchairs,” Bayne issues the threat: “Your days…could be made more pleasant, because we laid the foundation. But we can also make it painful and socially uncomfortable if you push us.”
One would think a person that has done a lot of living would be a pillar of calm, strength, a guru of sorts, and more than willing to be a resource person for others. But ego can be a fragile thing. In Dr. Alwin Spence, “Messages From The Parables” (Montreal Community Contact September 6, 2012), Spence stated: “A competent, self-assured person does not have to feel threatened by anyone.” Something lost on the long-serving president of the BSC.
People who know Clarence Bayne quite well; people I trust, say that Bayne is quite the cheapskate, so they were surprised he’d resort to hiring a lawyer over my article. But as pointed out, it wasn’t that one article. It was about me getting the better of him every time we clashed, and getting under his skin.
If the threat of legal action was to make me bite my tongue, shake; feel pain and be socially uncomfortable; the serving of the letter by the bailiff only strengthened my resolve.
Wired into my DNA is: “You cannot play mas and ’fraid powder.” Thus, when I came to Canada some 30 plus years ago, I came with “court clothes” in “meh grip.” My court clothes have long been pressed and ready for a day/threat like this. With my “basement archives” as my defence lawyer, I am ready to take the stand.
I am also prepared to take the issue outside the community, as well as to Toronto’s Black community. I have nothing to retract unless a judge or jury rule differently.
I said it before, and I’ll say it again: There is no way, shape or form, the selling of the Black Study Center could ever be justified. Doing so exposes our intellectual poverty and lack of business acumen, and is traitorous to those who conceptualized and/or paid for the Black Study Center.