TO RECTIFY DAMAGE, REVERSE PARALYSIS Conclusion Part 1
By N Oji Mzilikazi
Originally published in the Montreal Community Contact Volume 24, Number 13 June 26, 2014
A rule of success is to “Beat the iron while it is hot.” More so in this internet age of information overflow, information access, and social media hydra-headedness that overwhelming has focus on the trite, superfluous, just what is current. And news is fast, immediate, and quickly forgotten.
The partial collapse of the historic Negro Community Centre (NCC) in Little Burgundy on April 13 that prompted this series resulted in an ad-hoc group of concerned citizens soliciting input and support for a monster rally — slated for Saturday May 24, 2014.
Never mind I found the “Rallye and Petition” event to be ill-conceived, a knee-jerk reaction, misdirected, and told the organizer the same, but to plan a politicking/crusading action 40 days after the fact epitomize the deep-rootedness of laissez-faire attitudes, the lack of community activism, and why the Black work ethic is routinely questioned — to which those under its scrutiny feel offended.
While it is always prudent to act with caution, acting in a timely fashion is always best. When it comes to social action, delay all but ensures diminish interest.
As someone in the “Rallye and Petition” email chain, I strenuously objected to the suggestion that Reverend Gray and Dr. Dorothy Williams be their political spokespersons.
My arguments included that both had had their bite of the NCC apple. It was under Williams’ watch the NCC door was shut, and Gray was part of the NCC rebuilding process in the early 2000s; the chair of the NCC Board.
I thought given the state of community, we ought not recycle leadership and cannot afford to do so. Repetition of the same cannot but deliver the same results. It was time for others; new faces (preferably female) with new ideas to step up — given opportunities — even if it is to fail, than recycle. Long-serving and former stewards ought to take back seat, best serve by being resource persons/advisors.
Sadly, our community is riddled by the cult of personality; persons we like and persons whose failures, wrongdoings, incompetence, or “smartman” ways do not diminish support or love for them. They could verily get away with murder. Their fans would simply laugh, marvel at their ability to escape, and it is that willingness to suspend critical evaluation and criticize that maintains paralysis.
That being said, my disagreements over strategy prompted offence. The person stating: “I feel the need to express my concerns regarding 2 emails that I received from Mr. N Oji Mzilikazi, who was included in the committee emails. These emails (which I am forwarding to you) stirred a very bitter feeling in me this afternoon, as it contained nothing positive, and seems to go against the committee’s mission.”
Shirley Gyles, president of the NCC, filed for bankruptcy protection of the NCC: doing so changed the nature of the discourse. So fossilized is the thinking, the committee mission must be adhered to, the “Rallye and Petition” proceeded as planned. At least, the flyer for the event was well-designed, cute… hope it didn’t cost.
I found it rather interesting that many names/persons and “leaders” that showed interest in the fallen NCC got together, invested time, effort and energy to arrange the demonstration, ostensibly to bring pressure to bear — on whom is the million dollar question — to try and find ways to save a partially collapsed building, stayed quiet when it came to light that Dr. Clarence Bayne, the long-serving president of the Black Studies Centre (BSC) was digitalizing the BSC archives and selling the BSC building, getting rid of a community asset — impoverishing the community.
Bayne was also part of the email chain. His bitter-laced two-cents saw the likes of Reverend Gray having to rebuke him.
Beggars get no respect.
The ability to put one hands in one’s pocket and withdraw coin does so, and contributes to self-esteem. Also, businesses as well as governments tend to look kindly upon those who can raise capital on their own strength. If we have to get things done, we must have seed money and not look for, or expect, handouts.
I posited that contemplation of how the community could raise at least half a million dollars, and an action plan to do so is the best option, far better than the rally. Then, the three levels of government could be approached to at least double the monies raised, and the NCC can be reborn, rise like the mythological phoenix.
Inasmuch as Bayne is a staunch believer in social pragmatism and was quite vociferous in the email chain, I suggested that since the BSC building is up for sale, could fetch at least $500,000, the Committee could ask Bayne to make the Black Study Centre part of the Negro Community Centre — invest the monies from the sale of the BSC into the NCC to increase its seed capital.
That is social pragmatism, Black cooperative economics, community engaging in doing for self, and unity in action.
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, and continuity. The suggestion was a silence generator. Doing the rally, raging against the machine was better politics.
One of things the likes of Marcus Garvey and Malcolm X preached is to do for self.
There are people in our community with access to money, or have contacts to moneyed people and/or institutions, that can donate huge sums, or could raise money for the community, or have money themselves. But in not understanding the true role of education for people of African descent, and buying into success as staying as far away from one’s Black roots as possible — a manifestation of self-hate, they do not lend their skills to community orcontribute to same. Still, the community takes pride in them.
Gregory Charles is a singer, musician and actor among other things, a superstar extraordinaire in the true sense of the word. Gregory Charles is also a money-making machine; he could sell out the Bell Center at the snap of the fingers.
Not only is Charles currently ensconced at the Casino de Montréal, and has been for the longest while, but six slot machines (that I know of) bear his name. That is star power!
Gregory Charles is the only child of a Trinidadian father and a French-Canadian mother. Gregory’s father is Lennox Charles, whose commitment to community is unassailable.
Lennox Charles was president of Côte-des-Neiges Black Community Association (CBNBCA) Board of Directors for ten years (April 1994-2005). For many years he was also the big man in Roots.
One would think that as a highly successful child of a first generation West Indian immigrant to Canada, community issues and dynamics would be understood, and giving back, as well as the blood of service to the enrichment of community would be flowing in Gregory Charles’ veins. That does not seem to be the case.
Throughout all the problems in regards to community and the staging of Carnival, Gregory Charles didn’t see it fit to step up and lend his star power to assist us in doing better. A charity show for community or even a 10 per cent donation would work wonders, be us doing for self, pulling up our bootstraps.
“Charity,” the adage says, “begins at home.” When members with the means do not do for community, it makes our complaints about bias in others not doing for us a bit hollow.
In January 2013, the Black Theatre Workshop honoured Gregory Charles with the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Achievement Award, and to know King worked tirelessly for community, died in the cause of social justice and Black empowerment.
Once again, Montreal Jamaican Association is celebrating Jamaica Day on the same day as Carifiesta; they have chosen to accept a date celebrating island pride that clashes with an event whose thrust transcends narrow provincial/island perspectives, is rooted in broad-based community participation — the West Indian/Caribbean Carnival culture, and was birthed as a cultural showcase and stress reliever for the West Indian diaspora.
Once again the Montreal Jamaican Association is engaging in an act that is bad politics, bad economics, and divisive. (Fully explained in the 11 July 2013, Contact article, Cut Out The Foolishness And Embrace Success).
The Association cannot hide behind “[…] that is the date the City gave us.” Beyond being political strategy, common sense is one must press for concessions when people/your enemies are weak.
Corruption has weakened City Hall (Three mayors in four years and the ongoing revelations at the Charbonneau Commission.), and has its administrators willing to placate, do what is necessary to regain the trust, support (and votes) of the populace.
The last thing City Hall needs is anger from a visible minority, especially one that is religiously discriminated against and feels the brunt of police abuse. As such, the Jamaica Association could’ve had a different date if they so desired.
Refusal by City Hall would’ve been ammunition to rally the community, to present a show of force, as well as to bring forth and/or to the fore, our long list of grievances.
Rather than our entrepreneurs, entertainment promoters, vendors, and hustlers have two days of economic opportunities, Jamaica Day on Carifiesta gives them one — to compete/fight each other down to try and make 50 cents.
Consider that economics, the lack of financial resources is a huge part of what ails our community, is at the heart of our poverty and underachievement, and you can understand why having Jamaica Day on Carifiesta economically limits, paralyse.
From where I sit, there is no rational other than the politics of selfishness and spite that has the Jamaica Association fielding Jamaica Day on Carifiesta. Here’s hoping better heads prevail, and there wouldn’t be a repeat in 2015.
Conclusion Part 2 next issue