The NCC Saga: “Rallye and Petition”
By N Oji Mzilikazi
April 28, 2014
A “Rallye and Petition” email from an ad-hoc group of concerned citizens interested in preserving the Negro Community Centre (NCC) building in Little Burgundy, and soliciting input and support for a monster rally on Saturday May 24, 2014, is currently in circulation.
As much as I would like to see the NCC preserved, I find the desire and intent to make the NCC a cause célèbre to mobilise the community around to be ill-conceived, a knee-jerk reaction, and misdirected.
Are we never going to accept ownership for our self-oppression through organizational infighting, incompetence, sins of omission and commission, and our penchant to recruit, empower, and recycle egotistical, selfish, poorly-educated, visionless, and untrained soldier-leaders to lead troops on the front line of a war in which Blacks are attacked on all fronts, and we are perennially victims?
No wonder we overwhelmingly die from self-inflicted wounds.
There were no calls for a rally or petition when Centraide withdrew its funding from the NCC over issues of accountability and transparency. There were no calls for a rally or petition when the door of the NCC was locked in 1989. But now that bricks are on the street…
It is not the first time in the history of the NCC a wall buckled. This collapse points to underlying structural issues with the building. Furthermore, in accordance with the law of use and disuse, buildings and houses rot and crumble when empty. 20 plus years of abandonment must prompt decay.
A more detailed inspection has to take place. Any which way, the collapse drastically increased the price tag to renovate.
Given that our newly elected mayor voiced that the state of the City finances warrants austerity, the only way the City might contemplate bailing the NCC out is if the community can raise at least $500, 000 on its own strength.
Better than a massive rally is contemplation of how the community could raise at least half a million dollars, and an action plan to do so. Then we can approach the 3 levels of government saying this is what we have, we’d like them to at least double if not match it — and the NCC can be reborn, rise like the mythological phoenix.
Dr. Clarence Bayne, the long-serving president of the Black Studies Centre (BSC) has been quite vociferous in the emails exchange in regards to the NCC. Since Bayne has the BSC building up for sale, and it could fetch at least $500,000, it makes sense for the ad-hoc group to ask him to make the Black Study Centre part of the Negro Community Centre. Invest the monies from the sale of the BSC into the NCC.
That is social pragmatism, a phrase Bayne enjoys throwing out, and at the same time Black empowerment, we doing for self.
I would like to think that the Board of the BSC would have no problem throwing their lot in with the NCC. After all, they both have the same goals, the empowering of community.
The August 14, 2007, Gazette informed thata $2.5-million grant from the city of Montreal was recently approved to renovate, restore, and reopen the NCC.
The article stated: “A new board (under the presidency of Shirley Gyles) started working to reopen the NCC in 2004. They presented a feasibility study to the city of Montreal and got their grant. They are hoping to get the rest of their $6.5-million budget from the provincial and federal governments.” And all went quiet until a wall collapsed on April 13.
Rather than demand the resignation of Shirley Gyles and the entire NCC board over them being asleep at the wheel, 2007 to 2014 without progress reports, fund-raising activities, and keeping the restoration of the NCC front and centre, commentators in the email want to make Gyles and company a part of the equation.
I’m sorry; Gyles can bring nothing to the table.
Didn’t none of them read the April 14 Gazette article in which reporter René Bruemmer stated about Gyles: “She was at a loss about what to do next.”
You mean to tell me that in the face of that “disaster,” Gyles couldn’t take the time out to consult with anyone and craft a well thought out and solid statement inferring that the Board still has things lockdown, instead of appearing clueless?
Hasn’t she never seen CEOs and “big boys” on tv engaging in crisis management or executing a mea culpa?
To add insult to injury, Bruemmer’s article contains the following: “We were not all slaves,” she said, a hint of anger in her tone. There were a lot of educated blacks who came here and did good things. Not just musicians and tap dancing.” How ignorant is that?
Slavery legally ended for those in Europe, North America, and the West indies approximately 150 years ago. Apart from continental Africans, all Blacks in those lands native-born or otherwise came out of the cauldron and legacies of colonialism and slavery – that has us still traumatised, mentally enslaved, suspicious and distrustful of one another, given to undermining one another rather than unite in pursuit of organizational growth and success. Thus we create and recreate weak organizational structures that accounts for our stagnation and deterioration.
Gyles articulation reeks of island tribalism/intra-racial discrimination, personal insecurity and self-hate.
When the white racial superiority belief package and baggage that extols the homogeneous and evil nature of Blacks pretty much consigns people of African descent to the back of the bus and the hold of the ship, self-hating Blacks love to differentiate and engage in discourse as to who came here by birth, and who arrived by boat, as well as jockey as to who is a superior Black.
The again, conflict between native born Blacks and Black West Indian immigrants to Canada has long plagued the NCC. And in many cases, the parents or grandparents of native born Black Canadians were West Indian immigrants themselves.
A commentator made the point that Reverend Gray and Dr. Dorothy Williams are perhaps the best political spokespersons for the group. I disagree. They already had their bite on the apple, give someone new the opportunity to step forth and lead.
Given it was under Williams’ watch the NCC was locked shut, is it wise to have her as a spokesperson? Surely with her insight and knowledge she could function more effectively as a strategist, consultant and resource person.
It was under Gray’s watch the 40-year-old NDG Black Community Association (NDGBCA) closed its doors. Yet, Gray had no qualms stating to CBC Daybreak (April 14), and posted on line, on CBC website that: “We can no longer sit by and let our community institutions crumble and collapse.” How ironic.
Gray told Daybreak: “Montreal’s black community lacked the financial infrastructure to see the project realized.” But it was under Gray’s watch that the CDNBCA became NDGBCA fiduciary -the Côtes-des-Neiges Black Community Association (CDNBCA) had to step in and assist the NDGBCA in setting up a management and financial structure to ensure the sustainability of the NDGBCA. And Gray dares to utter the word finance.
Gray was also part of the NCC rebuilding process in the early 2000s. He was the chair of the NCC Board. Gray’s baggage is too much. Having him as a spokesperson is definitely problematic.
Pointed out was: “Unless we present a united front, the people in power will view us as divided and this will hurt our appeal.”
The people in power have long known Montreal Black English speaking community to be divided, impotent and given to infighting.
Three years ago there was no Carifiesta. While infighting between two competing groups is said to be the cause, Everiste Blaize, the president of CCFA that puts on Carifiesta explained: At the suggestion of City Hall, CCFA called upon a group of community elders to go to City Hall to lobby on their behalf. The elders then decided they were best suited to run the carnival, and threw their hat in the ring.
Three groups vying for the carnival resulted in its suspension. Blaize identified Dr. Clarence Bayne as one of elders that went to City Hall.
For the past couple years, the Jamaica Association has been celebrating Jamaica Day on the same day as Carifiesta. Given that both festivities more or less tap into the same pool of people for support, and the music for each is remarkably different, doing so ensures that our food vendors and party promoters have one day and not two days to “eat ah food.”
Jamaica Day falling on Carifiesta hurts the community economically. It denies our businesspersons, entrepreneurs and hustlers the chance to turn a profit. Furthermore, Brand Jamaica is too big to have to feed off Carifiesta, but no one at the Jamaica Association is listening to sound arguments as to why they should return to having their own day.
Just as we in the community have the inside story on our exemplars who are divisive, shady, “smart man/smart woman,” and who wear masks of integrity, competence and so on, but are far from, so do the people in power.
On account of community pettiness, infighting, and lack of strong and visionary leadership, and the record of past and current leadership, those in power are never going to truly extend a helping hand to our community, or seek to empower it.
Thus, our concerns are never taken seriously or acted upon. As a result, our members continue to be discriminated against, marginalised, not treated fairly by officers of the law and the courts, and find themselves beached on the lowest rungs of the economic ladder.
We do not need to present a mythical united front to get the NCC back up and running. What we need to do is to clean house, bring in new leadership — fresh voices, and a fresh voice (preferably female) that understands Black empowermentto articulate community needs, demands, and positions, and a game plan/business plan that has been analysed to death to ensure it is truly solid. Anything less and the NCC would never rise.