Aging: Planning Makes A Big Difference

By N Oji Mzilikazi

Originally appeared in the Montreal Community Contact Volume 27, Number 21 October 17, 2019

Aging is an inevitable aspect of living. Its absence from general school curricula has generation after generation of young adults living in the moment, not thinking or planning too far ahead, thus ignorant and unprepared for retirement and old age. The unpreparedness is exacerbated when leadership couldn’t be bothered to dispense advice regarding planning for old age and there are no peers to encourage same.

Add to the mix expressions and idealised notions regarding aging, like “aging gracefully,” “golden years” “good old age,” and “age brings reason,” and entrenched is the perception of a certain amount of esteem and comfort with age. The reality is far from. Studies show the elderly have high poverty rates, and are a vulnerable population.

Quebec government pension kicks in at 60. Work history determines the amount. Canada federal pension kicks in at 65. To qualify for the maximum payout ($600+) one had to have resided in Canada for 40 years, after the age of 18.

Consider the concept of “working under the table”: A citizen or landed immigrant might believe they are getting over by having no taxes deducted from source by their employer; they have more disposable income. The employer might encourage and support the practice to exploit the worker and to cheat the government. But by not paying into the system; not having a work history, they cannot collect any pension from Quebec. The same goes for hustlers and those, who, barring medical condition, scorn work.

Age is something that silently creeps up on us. Aging shouldn’t catch you unawares. Plan for your retirement. If you already have, great! Even if it’s too late for you, you can still save a life by encouraging your children, your grandchildren and the younger people you know to pursue meaningful employment, invest, save; put aside money for a rainy day and their retirement, and if self-employed, make sure to pay into the system.

Why prepare for retirement? To maintain your lifestyle/afford the retirement you want. You could be forced into early retirement by cutbacks or health. You can’t borrow money for retirement. It costs more to live longer. Inflation will take a chunk out of your savings. You will probably need long-term care. Your children might not be financially independent and able or willing to contribute to your support. Health care costs keep rising.

Bear in mind the adage, “No one plans to fail; people fail to plan.”

N Oji Mzilikazi is the author of Shards of Glass and president of the Council for Black Aging Community of Montreal Inc.

The Council’s 18th Conference, Health & Wellness: Beating The Odds takes place October 26, 2019, at Le Nouvel Hotel &Spa Info: 514-935-4951

Loneliness and Seniors: An Emerging Public Health Threat

By N Oji Mzilikazi

Originally appeared in the Montreal Community Contact Volume 27, Number 20, October 3, 2019

Given size of community, we’ve all known someone or heard stories of members who died alone in their home and whose body was only discovered days later.

Per a CTV Montreal January 2019 article: “An estimated one in five seniors in Quebec doesn’t have anyone to check in on them or call when they need help.” Statistics for our native-born Black and West Indian/Caribbean anglophone community are anyone’s guess.

Quebec’s aggressive French language (and culture) policies and push for separation from Canada resulted in an anglophone exodus—that included our children—our skilled, trained and educated youths, to other provinces or other counties. The more families are spread geographically…

Add divorce in the late 50s and 60s, bereavement, widowhood, a lifetime of solo female parenting, and lengthening lifespans to the mix. Throw in the West Indian privacy culture of “Ah doh want nobody to know meh business,” and one cannot but deduce that our community is worse off when it comes to loneliness and social isolation.

One of the inevitable consequences of retirement is the reduction of one’s social network and fracturing of bonds; diminished or loss of touch with friends and coworkers.

Loneliness affects health and well being—one’s mental and physical health. When it comes to seniors, an already vulnerable population—plagued by retirement unpreparedness, money problems/low pension payments/inadequacy of retirement pension, ill-health, reduced mobility, pricey medication, feelings of worthlessness after a life of work, productivity and contribution, its impact is devastatingly worse.

Loneliness is linked to increased mental health issues, depression, alcohol and prescription drug abuse, personal care neglect, poor eating habits, increased risk of chronic health issues such as diabetes, and even early death.

A UK study found loneliness and social isolation were “risk factors for coronary heart disease and stroke.”

At the British Royal College of General Practitioners (RCGP) 2017 annual conference, Dr Helen Stokes-Lampard, the head of Britain GPs make known, “Social isolation and loneliness are akin to a chronic long-term condition in terms of the impact they have on our patients’ health and wellbeing.”

One of the takeaways from a British year long study of loneliness, the Jo Cox Commission on Loneliness is loneliness is a giant evil of our time.

The United Kingdom introduced a minister for loneliness in January 2018.

New research shows Canada’s elderly population is growing increasingly lonely and isolated.

Research by professor Norah Keating suggests immigrant seniors in Canada from non-European countries are more lonely.” Clinical psychologist Ami Rokach says, “loneliness in seniors is a public health crisis comparable to obesity.”

As much as there are persons who enjoy being alone or don’t care for company—without being lonely, humankind is overwhelmingly social by nature. Humans have an innate need for company.

Reasons include fellowship, community, emotional comfort, a sense of security, stability, protection, self-esteem, a sense of place, a sense of value, a sense of appreciation— and sanity.

Last month the CAQ government announced $280 million for home care in addition to the $1.5 billion the ministry already spends annually. Loneliness wasn’t a thought.

As a society/as a community, we ought not to wait/cannot afford to wait for the government to come up with strategies to combat loneliness. We must do our part.

Rebuild your social network. Volunteer and/or join a club/organization or activity/interest group and enrich your life.

N Oji Mzilikazi is the author of Shards of Glass and president of the Council For Black Aging Community of Montreal Inc.

The Council hosts its 18th Conference, Health & Wellness: Beating The Odds on October 26, 2019 at Le Nouvel Hotel & Spa.

Reflections On Carifiesta 2014

REFLECTIONS ON CARIFIESTA 2014

By N Oji Mzilikazi

Originally published in the Montreal Community Contact Volume 24, Number 14 July 10, 2014

The 39th staging of the Carifiesta Parade on July 5th was one of the best in years.

While my heart welled with pride for the thousands of community members that were participants — revellers as well as on-lookers — I couldn’t help but weigh the power of their presence, the financial and voting power they collectively constitute in their hands against community laissez faire attitudes, divisiveness, paralysis, and other shortcomings.

I couldn’t but weigh the potential power in our numbers against the continuous underfunding of Carifiesta by City Hall, the absence of funding from the Quebec government and the Montreal Tourist Board, and that Carifiesta is without a corporate sponsor.

Though the current board have brought Carifiesta back from the brink of disintegration, for Carifiesta to grow, to be much better and crazily successful, CCFA has to find ways to leverage the strength of community that was on display last Saturday, and attract serious funding. Even if that means partnering with or hiring a top notch firm that specialize in securing sponsors/getting solid funding.

Better funding is a must for this carnival thing that we love to grow. Something is fundamentally wrong when Carifiesta remains relegated to being like yesteryear’s bastard child that was legally denied rights of inheritance.

Worldwide, carnivals are a multi-million dollar industry and revenue generator to the tune of hundreds of millions of dollars. Governments and business gladly invest in them, save for Montreal’s Carifiesta, and a lot of that has to do with us — our failure to demonstrate organizational maturity, financial accountability, and equally our inability to sell Carifiesta from a financial perspective to them.

Would you trust a disorganized or scampish person to handle your finances? Obviously not! The bank would never approve a business loan without a thorough examination of the business plan to ascertain if it is sound and profitable. Yet we want or expect funding when dysfunctional.

Our inability and unwillingness to move away from dictatorial leadership, build a strong organizational structure, put the right people in place, and attract persons who are not afraid of heavy lifting contribute to our failure to soar, and the disintegration of organizations.

Organizations are paralysed by members who run from heavy lifting or doing any lifting whatsoever, and who contribute nothing, not even a suggestion towards its betterment or achieving a goal. Ironically, when it comes to the organization high days, they are the ones that step up to strut, to be on show.

While we can never get away from those types, organizations must foster a corporate culture/core value system that includes respect for one another, and that “This, is we thing.”

Internalization of belonging, ownership, and appreciation would have members willing to give of themselves, rather than undermine an organization, backbite, or leave everything up to its executives.

A clinical examination as to Carifiesta’s nosedive would reveal that previous leadership were lacking in leadership skills and training. And that in spite of some with connections to carnivals elsewhere or knowing about mas culture, they had no rootedness in business ideology and how to market Carifiesta, no vision of what they want for Carifiesta beyond people jumping, and no vision of where they want Carifiesta to go.

As a result, Carifiesta was just a hustle (even for bandleaders) rather than a self-sustaining business with the power to mobilize and economically empower community.

Thus, envisioning the big picture, having long and short term goals, being detailed in planning, anticipating problems and having counter-measures or solutions, and being able to maximise resources including human capital, as well as able to inspire confidence, display integrity and trustworthiness, and band leaders launching their bands at least six months in advance were out of the question.

Thus, we have members who would play mas in Toronto, and play mas in Miami, but wouldn’t play mas here in Montreal. They feel our carnival has gone down the drain, lament its lack, and not see their refusal to participate contributed to its diminish status.

The upwards trajectory of Carifiesta is worth celebrating. We all have a stake in Carifiesta being successful.

A substandard product reflects not just badly on CCFA, but on the entire community. But since we have not been taught to look at things that way, we mistaken feel that failure by others, as well as bad behaviour and bad acts by those that share our pigmentation does not inform attitudes towards us, does not affect the community.

Community participation in numbers increases Carifiesta’s viability and worth. More masquerade bands would nice up the carnival parade even better. Hopefully, bands would return to having king and queen costumes, as well as Montreal would reclaim its former status as an important part of the West Indian carnival circuit.

I strongly believed that Carifiesta could’ve been one hundred times brighter and better if Joel Anthony who plays with the Boston Celtics, and who won two NBA rings with the Miami Heat, was exposed to liberation education and had some financial love for community. Then, he would think nothing of donated a small sum, say $25,000.00 to CCFA.

Charity is supposed to begin at home before it spreads aboard. But since enslavement inflicted psychological traumas on people of African descent, successful Blacks are not beyond seeking validation from whites, pandering to white gaze, enriching others at the expense of their own, or neglecting their own.

On May 29, 2014, at a restaurant on Sherbrooke Street West, Joel Anthony and his mother Erene Anthony gifted one million dollars to Selwyn House School. They set up the “Erene & Joel Anthony Bursary Fund” in a lily-white private English language school for boys — a school that Joel was kicked out of.

A 2007 article on the Selwyn House website quotes Colin Boyle, itsMidget Basketball Coach saying: “Actually Joel’s basketball skills were pretty rudimentary when he was at Selwyn House.” Ergo, Selwyn House didn’t develop or shape his basketball prowess.

In a June 2013, National Post interview with Erene Anthony, Ms. Anthony stated about Joel: “From Emmanuel [Christian High School], he went to Dawson [College] and continued there. He really wanted, at that point, to play basketball.” Selwyn House was never mentioned in the article.

Interestingly, on Joel Anthony’s Wikipedia page, Emmanuel Christian High School is not mentioned, just Selwyn House and Dawson. I guess Emmanuel is too unknown a brand.

Since Selwyn House is private, and located in Westmount, a municipality long equated to class/upward mobility; the Anthony’s could get more mileage giving so much to Selwyn House as opposed to the Negro Community Centre in light of its recent woes.

Or the Union Church that for the longest while has been soliciting funds to rebuild, and is an organization in which Ms. Anthony is quite active, the Chair of the Official Board of Union United Church.

Or contributing to the building fund of the Côte-des-Neiges Black Community Association that currently stands at $250, 000.00.

Or paying to erect a plaque memorializing the 12 children from the NCC that drowned on July 13, 1954, whose cause Bob White has been championing for years.

Their generosity to Selwyn House resulted in Ms. Erene Anthony getting airtime on CJAD, and the radio station declaring her its hero for the month of June.

While CCFA’s Constitution calls for elected officers to come through the ranks, be a member in good standing for at least two years, Quebec Liberal Party had no qualms about recruiting Jean Charest from the Conservative Party and installing him as its president.

With no disrespect to its current stewards, I believe that CCFA would be best served by recruiting persons with business acumen (not a hustler’s certificate) who understands finance and the corporate game, and persons with intellectual depth that are skilled in interpersonal relationships. One of them should be installed directly on the board, and the rest asked to serve in an advisory capacity. I believe doing so would allow the organization to make some serious power moves and get Carifiesta where it ought to be.

To Rectify Damage, Reverse Paralysis Conclusion Part 1

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

To Rectify Damage, Reverse Our Paralysis (Part 3)

Black public figures are just as opened to bias and discrimination as any of us…

TO RECTIFY DAMAGE, REVERSE OUR PARALYSIS

(Part 3)

By N Oji Mzilikazi

Originally appeared in the Montreal Community Contact Volume 24, Number 12 June 12, 2014

What is the purpose of education for the children of enslavement and colonialism who bear multitudinous psychological, educational and economical scars from centuries of inhumane and unbridled exploitation, torturous suffering, dehumanization, racism, discrimination and hatred, if not to make us whole?

Yet the scars of colonialism; internalized racism and self-hate have many believing it’s all about becoming privilege, being a cut above others of the race, achieving “white gaze” – validation and approval of whites – escaping the constraints racism placed on Blackness.

Thus the colonial mentality of mothers telling sons as they’re off to college, university, or on obtaining a “good” job: “I doh want no pickey-head grandchild hair to comb. Marry a girl with straight hair, marry a light skin girl.”

That mentality is not confined to West Indians. Many professional African American sportsmen have married white, and not to white females they went to school with, but girls they met in a bar, or worked in a bar, or in a dead-end job, had no leg up on education, and whose only quality was whiteness.They’d pass on the sister in the bar, even when educated, because her skin colour opens no doors, and their children wouldn’t have mixed-race, light skin privilege.

Even though education elevates, it does not immunize Blacks from the violence and harm of racism.

In 2011, Karine Joizil, a lawyer of Haitian descent was chosen to be the Liberal Party candidate in the Montreal riding of Laval-les-Îles. The Quebec Hellenic Congress sent a letter counselling its members who traditionally vote Liberal, not to vote for the Party in the riding because Joizil is not of Greek origin. They were advised to support another candidate, another party.

Still, there are persons that enjoy using certification, that have weaponize their education as a tool to belittle, exploit or oppress  fellow Blacks, instead of assisting or liberating the race.

What is the purpose of education for people of African descent if not to decolonize our mind, reclaim our humanity, reclaim voice, reclaim personal and racial self-esteem, reclaim agency, take control of our own destiny, pursue empowerment in all areas, build institutions and strong communities, bring respect to the race, and to challenge the culture of white supremacy and whiteness as the hegemonic narrative so we can have an equitable society?

To believe in anything else including “making it” and becoming wealthy is delusional, as well as betrays ignorance in regards to how deep white supremacy, anti-Blackness, and keeping Blacks poor have been institutionalization.

The facts are that Black success is only tolerated, never fully endorsed, and undermined at the drop of a dime.

Neither making it nor having loads of money was able to save Michael Jackson, Janet Jackson when Justin Timberlake exposed her breast, Oprah when she endorsed Barack Obama’s candidacy, Tiger Woods over his affairs, Serena Williams over her outburst at the US Open, Kobe Bryant when accused of rape, Puffy Coombs when going around with Jennifer Lopez and a gun was found in the vehicle, and Michael Vick over dogfighting claims, just to name a few. The backlash driven by racism was swift and brutal.

Barack Obama made it – to the highest office in America, yet obstructionist polices and mischaracterization driven by the politics of racism; people who believe they are divinely and inherently superior and better than Obama, colour everything he does or wants to do.

There have been race-inspired plots to assassinate Obama, pastors that delivered sermons with pleas for his death, and second and third grade students on a school bus in Idaho chanting “assassinate Obama.”

There were the bumper stickers: “Pray for Obama: Psalm 109:8.” When checked out the verse reads: “Let his days be few; and let another take his office.” Also, “Don’t Re-Nig in 2012,” and written in smaller print under it: “Stop repeat offenders. Don’t reelect Obama!”

The magic wand of racism is truly miraculous.

Jean Charest, the former Liberal premier of Quebec was once a member of the Conservative Party. Charest was recruited by Liberals to take over the reins of the Quebec Liberal Party. When Charest switched parties, he didn’t face recriminations from former Conservative allies or called a traitor. They were happy for him.

According to varied press reports, Haitian-born Michaëlle Jean and her husband (white) were closet sympathizers to Quebec separatist/sovereignist cause. When Jean was nominated to be Canada’s governor-general, one would think that members of the Bloc Québécois, the Péquistes and other separatists groups would’ve been happy to see her move up the political ladder. After all, they knew where her true sympathies lie. That was not the case.

Appointed governor-general, Jean was denigrated, called “reine nègre – negro queen.” The Bloc Québécois under the leadership of Gilles Duceppe issued a press release saying they would boycott her swearing-in ceremony. They considered the position of governor-general archaic.

In 1999, Duceppe and company had no problem being present for the swearing-in of Adrienne Clarkson as governor-general, but when it came Michaëlle Jean’s turn…

Le Devoir is a pro-sovereignist newspaper. One of its November 2005 editorial suggested that Governor-General Michaëlle Jean was becoming an international embarrassment to Canada, and advised her to shut up.

In nothing short of disguised racism, some veteran members of The Royal Canadian Legion said they planned to show their displeasure with Governor-General Michaëlle Jean’s unconfirmed but assumed support for Quebec separatist movement by turning their backs to her, at the upcoming November 2005 Remembrance Day ceremony in Ottawa.

Even if Michaëlle Jean held separatist sentiments, her acceptance of the governor general position was of itself renunciation of separatist views, so why the fuss?

Throughout all the opposition to Michaëlle Jean’s appointment and attacks on her, none ever questioned her qualifications. Education was no saving grace… Michaëlle Jean’s political bent was just a smoke screen; her skin color was the real issue.

Who have been the friends of our diverse Black and Caribbean community? Who have ever looked out for our interest? Yet, rather than recognize that we are fighting the same fight, the same enemies, we turn on each other and view one another as competitors.

So, what is the purpose of education for West Indians and people of African descent if not to put an end to our infighting, affirm we are allied in the same struggle, and to be morally courageous, fearless, and committed to community?

Yolande James is the daughter of English-speaking West Indians. Though bilingual, James is English, therefore Anglophone.

When Yolande James won the Neligan riding, and became the first Black woman to be elected to the Quebec’s National Assembly, Gazette columnist, Don Macpherson in his September 22, 2004, column, Kick me – I’m a West Island Liberal, described James as Premier Charest hand puppet.

In one fell swoop, Macpherson used a loaded and highly pejorative term to erase James education, qualifications, and worthiness.

Dehumanization and the erasure and nothingness it engenders go hand in hand with racism. (Throughout her political career, Macpherson and the Gazette displayed anti-James bias.)

In 2007, Charest appointed Yolande James,Minister of Immigration and Cultural Communities, making James the youngest cabinet minister ever, the first Black minister in Quebec, and the only Anglophone minister in the cabinet.

With James a cabinet minister, none could claim that Quebec’s Anglophone community wasn’t being served, or that no ethnic community, visible minority, or cultural community was represented in government. But in keeping with white supremacist culture that seeks our erasure, dehumanizes and refuses to accept that people of African descent are fully human, capable of leadership and the reins of power and responsibility, James appointment was characterized as a betrayal to Anglophones.

Macpherson was incensed that James was picked over several more seasoned colleagues. He pointed out that James is not yet 30 and had been a member of the National Assembly for less than three years.”In other words, James was young and inexperienced – the same case made against Barack Obama when he decided to run for the US presidency.

The Suburban and The Chronicle newspapers were awash with articles and letters critical of James and her appointment. In The Chronicle, Martin Barry quoted Liberal MNA Russell Copeman, Jewish, saying the formation of the new cabinet will result in a backlash in the English-speaking community.

Allen Nutik, Jewish, declared the cabinet’s makeup was insulting to English-speaking voters, and launched Affiliation Quebec, a new political party for those dissatisfied (Code for privilege and angry Jewish, and white males.) with the Liberal Party in Quebec.

Racists have more tricks than the famed Harry Houdini had. Thus, Quebec’s100,000 plus English speaking Black/West Indian/Caribbean community – Anglophones that overwhelmingly vote Liberal, were suddenly insignificant, invisible and unimportant.

In support of white privilege, our presence and votes were not configured to count.

Haitian-born Claudel Toussaint was chairman of the Parti Québécois (PQ) committee on ethno-cultural relations. In 2001, Claudel Toussaint represented the PQ in the provincial by-election for the Mercier riding. Since 1976 the Mercier riding was a Péquiste stronghold, yet Toussaint didn’t win the seat. The PQ faithful decided to vote race before party.

How do we navigate and raise our game?

Conclusion in the next issue

To Rectify Damage, Reverse Our Paralysis Part 2

To Rectify Damage, Reverse Our Paralysis Part 2

By N Oji Mzilikazi

Originally appeared in the Montreal Community Contact Volume 24, Number 11 May 29, 2014

Moving forward sometimes call for one to look backwards; even take a couple steps backwards. Doing so allows us to engineer change. Doing so facilitates understanding the forces that made; shaped us, have us where we currently are.

Doing so allows us to learn from the past,gain new perspectives, contemplate and come up with better strategies, make different and more informed choices — strategic choices to bring about better, healthier, and more successful outcomes.

Often, in the face of use and abuse, wrongdoing, wickedness, errors, fault, incompetence at the helm, missteps, organisational ineffectiveness, mismanagement, skullduggery, misappropriation of funds, and the infliction of trauma, hurt, pain and suffering, those responsible are quick to suggest “we” turn the page and move on.

They want the misled, injured, and victimized to put aside their anger, disappointment, hurt and pain; put incidents/the past behind them and restart the relationship — fresh, without the requisite analysis that conceivably could result in termination, charges, and/or herald strategies to avoid repetition.

Articulation of just letting things go is all about hubris, protection of ego, the desire of those responsible to stay privileged and hold on to control, power, or leadership, and a way of avoiding ownership forany and all damages arising out of incompetence, misleadership, and sins of omission or commission.

The human mind is a sponge. It consciously and unconsciously absorbs and retains information. Also, the mind wasn’t constructed to easily forgive or forget. Injuries tend to leave indelible footprints that scars, damage, and impact on behaviour and attitudes.

Sadly, the entrenched culture of fearfulness, weakness, and timidity have people (and members in many organizations) sheepish in behaviour, caught in the cult of (leadership) personality, relishing being close friends and blind “yes men” to leadership (that in the long run destroys the very organization). So even when transparency and accountability are non-existent in an organization, or persons (and organizations) are ripped-off, injured, and scarred, they not only stomach the ills and stick with their friend — their abusers and exploiters, but continue to vote them into office.

Thus leadership long past its “sell by/expiration” date are able to stay on the shelf. Bad and poor management and those afflicted with “presidentitis,” the need to be visible, important, and in charge, and whose shortcomings in leadership are self-evident, are recycled. And clearly perceptibly opportunists that seek positions or elected office to personally profit or as a badge of honour, or to pad their résumé, or feel powerful are embraced.

Equally sabotaging are those that sit on the board of an organisation (as well as others), knowing full well they do not have the time to invest in its business.

If people are serious about hoisting the flag of community high, reclaiming the unity and strength of community many of us once knew and experienced, we have to critically revisit yesterday.

We did not emerge from a vacuum.

We are the product of our genetic inheritance, our yesterdays, and the sum of our choices.

Yesterday holds the key to today. And today — today defines and determines our tomorrow.

Yesterday explains why we are the way we are, why and how we do the things we do. And it is in understanding yesterday that extricating oneself from trapped positions and dangerous minefields, doing better, and charting a course for success is possible.

For all the haplessness and innocence we assign to babies, and all the joy to welcoming parents and grandparents they bring, babies do not come into the world with an empty slate.

The genes a child inherit from both parents along with the physical, emotional, mental, psychological, and spiritual state of the pregnant female set the template for the child hereditary, biological and emotional wiring, mental state, and mind.

Upon birth, the environment and other spheres of socialization modify or accentuatefor better or worse, the genetic inheritance, predispositions, and mind of the child. And that begs the question: What sort of genes did you — we inherit? Better yet, what were the spheres of socialization for our forbearers — us?

As much as humans are a product of their genes, socialization, and experiences, we are the sum of our choices. The consequences we either celebrate or rue.

What we are, and where we are, is a direct result of choice; decisions made, and it is choice — present choice that will decide the quality of our tomorrow.

A gun to one’s head does not remove the power of choice. So let’s dispense with the notion that choice is sometimes taken out of our hands. We might not like the choices available, but choice is always on the table.

Epigenetics is the study of heritable changes in gene activity that are not due to changes in DNA sequence. Epigenetics reveals how genes interact with environmental factors.

38 women who were pregnant on 9/11 and were either at or near the World Trade Centre at the time of the attack participated in an epigenetic study. The results released in 2011 confirmed that “traumatic experiences can be transmitted from one generation to the next.” (Not that verification of that reality was ever needed.)

The hard-wiring of a child is set in the womb, plus children live what they see, absorb, and learn. Without intervention — therapy, and a safe, healthy, and loving environment, the child with inherited genes damaged by trauma is more than likely going to have feelings and fears that arise from an unknown source, display behaviours and attitudes that are shocking to all or quite left field, as well as replicate dysfunction.

Ergo, damaged genes can resurface and negatively manifest in progeny across generations and in environments far removed from places of original injury. (Thus, as documented, underperformance of first and second-born generation of Afro-Caribbean Blacks in Canada, the United States, and Britain.)

National tragedies, suicide on account of bullying or a shooting in a school or crowded public space oft result in mental health services and psychiatrists made available to those traumatized. Therapy allows one to come to grips with trauma, even heal.

The exploitative and dehumanization structures of colonialism, slavery, and the plantocracy culture, in conjunction with racism, discrimination, economic and educational apartheid, inflicted people of African descent with mental illness; numerous psychiatric injuries and traumas, including post-traumatic stress disorder.

Also with seething anger, rage, short tempers, aggressiveness, stubbornness, and the penchant to be physically and verbally abusive— to assert and/or validate identity and/or humanity. In addition, forced members of the race to be adept in “smart man” politics and “smart man” economics,living by their wits, hustling; doing whatever it took to put food on the table, secure a piece of the pie.

It is from that gene pool many of African descent step into the world — under constant stress — filled with unresolved rage — close to the edge — wired for hypertension and mental illness —a little bit mad.

A 2008 study into ethnic differences in hypertension that was deemed ground-breaking revealed: “Canadians of South Asian and black descent are three times as likely to suffer from high blood pressure as East Asians or Caucasians, and they are far more likely to develop the condition at a younger age.”Discrimination, exclusion and racism cannot but raise one’s pressure.

Throw into the mix the daily experiences — reminders of colour difference, and by extension objections to our humanness, and one could understand why we act in ways that results in the race tagged with numerous labels.

Unfortunately, we the children of colonialism, former slaves, and Indentureship — still abused by historical forces of power, attitudes and practices, and racial, economic, and social exclusion, are never looked upon as damaged or in need of therapy, though our dysfunction makes the case.

Although education is the greatest liberator, it doesn’t automatically lend itself to emancipating the mind scarred — nurtured in the aforementioned cauldron. Thus, some of the revolutionaries and builders in the struggle to eradicate racism and discrimination, in the fight for Civil Rights, social justice, racial respect, and to establish Black institutions in Montreal and elsewhere, and some much lauded community stalwarts were, in spite of their accomplishments not mentally liberated — and subsequently not very nice persons, as per their record.

On account of damaged genes left untreated and rootedness in the legacy of the colonial mindset, our community remains badly educated, uneducated, miseducated, malnourished, dysfunctional, rife with conflict and organizational infighting, cliques and island nationalists given to undermining “competitors,” and worse yet, pimped by some of by those that promised or were entrusted to do right, effect change, and lead. Also neglected by some of those in position to make a difference or advance community fortunes. The effect of which currently stares us in the face.

 

The Never Ending War Against Females Part 2

Boko Haram Kidnapping, Child Brides, Female Genital Mutilation

The Never Ending War Against Females Part 2

By N Oji Mzilikazi

Originally appeared in the Montreal Community Contact Volume 24, Number 10 May 15, 2014

In face of the awesomeness and majesty of the universe and the finiteness of man, religion as a system of unquestionable faith was birthed to motivate, sustain, make sense of life, and to control society, maintain personal and public order.

Religion became the great unifier — the culture and politics of the tribe, the state religion. However, its “divine” laws, rules, and doctrines disproportionally disadvantage, oppress and exploit females, keep females under the permanent heel of patriarchy.

Wars for resources, territory, and simply to subjugate and rule others saw victory positioned as evidence of the power of a tribe’s god(s), theirs being the one true god/religion.  The vanquished had to acknowledge the religious beliefs of the victorious, their new gods and dogma, convert or die, or feign belief to worship their ancient god(s) in secret.

Sometimes, in an act of benevolence or political expediency, the gods and religion of a defeated people were allowed existence.

Overlooking the effects of colonialism and western cultural imperialism, loving the reflection in the mirror is hardwired into people. Accordingly, all races and ethnicities have their own factors of beauty and attractiveness (And what is attractive to one ethnicity might be perceived as unattractive by another ethnicity.), and what constitutes culture.

Inevitably, environmental factors and cultural traditions of a tribe/people were fused into the religious tapestry, even positioned as God ordained or believed to be so.

Just as French is the language of France, Arabs speak Arabic. An Islamic Hadith says “Love the Arab for three things…,” one being that the language spoken in Heaven is Arabic. (Wouldn’t someone who only speaks French say the same thing?) Thus Muslims use a common language in prayers —language unites believers, and converts to Islam take Arabic names.

Sandstorms are common in deserts. Keeping sand and dust out of one’s hair and face makes a headgear a necessity. In Islam, that head dress has become a religious identifier, and its facilitation to veil – cover the nose and mouth from the sand was elevated as religiously binding on women, to protect them from lustful eyes.

All religions paint Heaven as a place of delights unattainable in our earthly existence. For a desert tribe, Heaven cannot but be a place flowing with rivers of water.

More often than not, religions depend on blind faith bordering on ignorance and fear to keep devotees in line. Should a critically-thinking believer venture to separate cultural practices or untruths from religion, they will be accused of heresy, excommunicated, and even killed.

Christians will tell you that the Bible is the word of God, and everything in it is truth; nothing could be added or subtracted from it.

Biblical scripture, Joshua’s miracle, his commanding the sun to stand still, and it did, and on that day Joshua slaughtered thousands of his enemies, was proof positive that the earth was indeed the centre of the universe, the sun revolved around the earth.

In 1633, Italian astronomer Galileo Galilee declared that wasn’t the case. The earth revolved around the sun. Pope Urban VIII gave Galilee the option of recanting or excommunication.

In the 1980s Pope John Paul II exonerated Galileo. He admitted that the church erred in insisting that the sun revolves around the earth.

Apologizing for doctrinal errors does nothing for the millions persecuted, reduced to poverty, and murdered in the name of God —holding opinions contrary to what was considered the true doctrine, or believing in a different god.  God beliefs continue to victimize and kill millions.

Perchance, it was on account of the short life expectancy of our progenitors, but puberty once defined adulthood, and girls were betrothed while quite young.

Since marriage between a very young girl and a much older man has its roots in antiquity, child marriage was perceived as religiously blessed, righteous, and — legal.

Pregnancy in a still developing or an under developed female resulted in high mortality rates of infants and women dying in childbirth. Hence, “Till death do us part” became an integral part of the Roman Catholic/Christian marriage vows.

Marriage has a long history of being motivated by family enrichment and politics, including brokering peace or to form or strengthen an alliance. Little girls/princesses/a chief’s daughter marrying royalty were nothing new.

In 1396, Richard II of England, then aged 29, married Princess Isabella of France, the eldest daughter of King Charles VI, of France. The French princess was six-years-old.

It’s worth noting that Richard’s mother Joan of Kent was secretly married at age 12, to Thomas Holland, Earl of Kent, and a man twice her age. And at 13, was publicly married to William Montacute, Earl of Salisbury.

In the 6th Century, marauding Muslims periodically invaded India, for among other things, to seize, carry away young women. Inasmuch as Islam forbade the defiling of married women, the practice of child marriages as a preventative measure against kidnapping gained favour and became common.

In India, married Hindu females were identified by the Bindi, a red dot between their eyebrows or in the center of their forehead, so it was easy for Muslim raiders to distinguish the married from unmarried.

Though female abductions by the followers of Islam have long been a thing of the past, child marriages in India and elsewhere continue, sometimes driven by culture and other times by poverty. Child marriage (along with the selling of a child) is simply one less mouth to feed.

For all the moral condemnation in the west of child marriage, girls in fundamentalist Christian and Jewish communities are often married by age 15, and to older men.

The UN defines child marriage as marriage before the age of 18, and it applies to boys as well. That being said, regardless of religious or philosophical dressing, child marriage of young girls to much older males is criminal and nothing but legalized pedophilia.

Nine of the ten countries with the highest rates of child marriage are in Africa. The 10th country is Bangladesh.  According to the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) 7 March 2013, press release,In terms of absolute numbers, because of the size of its population, India has the most child marriages.

In positioning child marriage as a violation of the rights of girls, and affirming that “No girl should be robbed of her childhood, her education and health, and her aspirations,” the release proffers that Between 2011 and 2020, more than 140 million girls will become child brides.

As numerous studies have repeatedly confirmed, countries with high child marriages have significantly higher rates of maternal and infant mortality. Plus, child brides are quite susceptible to obstetric fistula, a debilitating injury —a hole that develops between either the rectum and vagina or between the bladder and vagina, on account of obstructed labour, severe or failed childbirth — their body not sufficiently matured to facilitate childbirth.

Religious belief that women are born to serve men and to be a baby making machine are at the heart of Boko Haram abduction of over 200 girls in Nigeria. In their eyes, education is not a requirement for that calling.

Religious belief in India that women are of no worth except to birth sons, along with the potential for indebtedness on account of having to pay dowry created a culture of sex-selection — gendercide, the abortion of the female foetus.  A 2011 study by Lancet alleges that in the past three decades over 12 million girls were aborted in India.

Female genital mutilation (FGM) which involves removing part or all of a girl’s outer sexual organs for non-medical reasons — and worse yet, with no anesthetic, no pain medication, no bona fide medical practitioner on hand, and performed in an unsterilized environment is recognised as a violation of the human rights of women and girls.

FGM psychologically scars, inhibits sexual pleasure, and engender sexual and reproductive health complications. Girls die from complications arising from FGM.

In Somalia, 98 per cent of young girls suffer genital mutilation. A 2013 UNICEF report revealed that in Egypt, 91 per cent of women between the ages of 15 and 49 have been cut.

In spite of legislation in Canada, America, and the UK against FGM, the practice is very much alive. Thousands of Canadian, British, and American born girls continue to be traumatised and victimized by this barbaric cultural practice as cutters are flown in, or girls are given a vacation trip to meet family back in the homeland of their parents, only to be seized and cut.

According to the World Health Organisation, “Between 100 million and 140 million women and girls are thought to be living with the consequences of female genital mutilation.

While we rightfully get worked up over the doings of Boko Haram, we also need to do what we can to help stop the exploitation and oppression of women. Women are our mothers, grandmothers, sisters, daughters, lovers and wives.

Part 1 was published in the February 7, 2013, Montreal Community Contact

Racism And Enduring Hatred

Donald Sterling and the endless list of bigots that color our world

RACISM AND ENDURING HATRED

By N Oji Mzilikazi

Originally appeared in the Montreal Community Contact Volume 24, Number 09 May 1, 2014

Your beliefs become your thoughts
Your thoughts become your words
Your words become your actions
Your actions become your habits
Your habits become your values

— Mahatma Ghandi

After a lifetime of unpunished bigotry in words and actions, 80-year-old Donald Sterling, the son of Jewish immigrants, and owner of Los Angeles Clippers basketball team finally received his comeuppance.

Racist comments recorded by V. Stiviana, Sterling’s mixed-race girlfriend that was leaked to the media created such toxicity; the National Basketball Association had to act.

On April 29, NBA Commissioner Adam Silver imposed a lifetime ban on Sterling, fined Sterling $2.5million, the maximum allowed by the NBA under its constitution, and promised he will do everything in his power to force Sterling to sell the Clippers.

Seventy six per cent of the NBA comprises players of African descent.Blacks play for Sterling, make Sterling money, yet Sterling is heard on tape berating Stiviana for publicly associating with Blacks, and telling her to not bring Black people to the game.

There is also this exchange in which Sterling justifies racism, holds steadfast to racist values:

DS: It’s the world! You go to Israel; the blacks are just treated like dogs.

VS: So do you have to treat them like that too?

DS: The white Jews, there’s white Jews and black Jews, do you understand?

VS: And are the black Jews less than the white Jews?

DS: A hundred percent, fifty, a hundred percent.

VS: And is that right?

DS: It isn’t a question—we don’t evaluate what’s right and wrong, we live in a society. We live in a culture. We have to live within that culture.

VS: But shouldn’t we take a stand for what’s wrong? And be the change and the difference?

DS: I don’t want to change the culture, because I can’t. It’s too big and too [unknown].

VS: But you can change yourself.

DS: I don’t want to change. If my girl can’t do what I want, I don’t want the girl. I’ll find a girl that will do what I want! Believe me. I thought you were that girl—because I tried to do what you want. But you’re not that girl.

Silver found the views expressed by Sterling to be deeply offensive and harmful, and coming from an NBA owner all the more worse. Also, “Sentiments of this kind are contrary to the principles of inclusion and respect that form the foundation of our diverse, multicultural and multiethnic league.”

While all true, it is important to remember that racism is an ideology calculated to ensure white men remain privileged, the dominant power, and the owners and controllers of wealth.

To that end, return to an idealized past in which inferiority and inequality are accepted and whites are the overlords, ignorance over truth, proof and evidence, spurious scientific, biological and intellectual claims, and selected passages of “holy scripture” rule. Inclusion, respect, fairness and equality are simply abhorrent.

Given the odiousness of Sterling’s beliefs, words, and actions, one would think no one would step up to defend the indefensible or offer explanations or make excuses. But as we saw with Don Imus, right-wing personalities aren’t gun shy about stepping up. Hate is a right-wing family value.

In 2007 Don Imus called the Rutgers University female basketball team, “nappy-headed hos.” Republican presidential candidate and former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani told reporters he “would appear on his program again.”

When Boston Globe columnist Tom Oliphant appeared on the April 9, 2007, show, his salutation was, “Good morning, Mr. Imus, solidarity forever.”

In a November 2, 2007, New York Times opinion piece, Dick Cavett considered the Imus slur an offhand and ill-advised joke that “experts at exploitation and manipulation seized on.”

Like a Jack-in-the box, Donald Trump jumped up to declare that Sterling was “set up by a very, very bad girlfriend.”

Sterling’s racism brought flashbacks to former Toronto mayor, Mel Lastman.

Believing Toronto to be the ideal site for the 2008 Olympic Games, Lastman knew he had to lobby, convince the delegates on the International Olympic Committee that it was indeed so. Upon realising he had to go to Kenya to woo the African delegates, Lastman, deeply embeddedatavistic racism got the better of him.

In June 2001, Lastman petulantly and childishly declared:“Why the hell do I want to go to a place like Mombasa?…I just see myself in a pot of boiling water with all these natives dancing around me.”

When someone of Lastman’s stature could view Africans, and by extension Black people through that lens, and disparage the race, what can Blacks expect from illiterate, ignorant, and ordinary whites weaned on a diet of anti-Black and anti-immigrant bias?

Adding to the injury is that Toronto has the largest concentration of Blacks in Canada, and the annual West Indian Carnival Parade pumps millions of dollars to the city’s treasury.

One would think that Lastman, as mayor of the largest multi-ethnic and multicultural metropolis in Canada, and son of Jewish immigrants from Poland would be more circumspect, mindful of employing racist stereotypes given the attitude of many towards Jewry. Clearly, that was not the case, and neither was it with Sterling.

As Sterling and Lastman exemplify, racism is not the preserve of crackpots, or the poor and illiterate. Their face might be the one in the streets, and/or participating in things like the White Man March with banners proclaiming that Diversity = White Genocide, but it is rich and educated whites that manipulate them, set their agenda, capitalise on their ability to find or hold a job — that drive racism.

Cliven Bundy, a 67-year-old rancher in Nevada, has been illegally grazing his herd of cattle on public land since 1993. In a standoff with the Federal government, Bundy has become a poster boy for right-wingers, the darling of Fox News and lauded as a patriot.

Bundy has the support of Senator Rand Paul, of Kentucky, and Greg Abbott, the Republican nominee for governor in Texas, among others.

Two weeks ago, Bundy and his armed supporters chased away federal rangers from the Bureau of Land Management who, acting on a court order, tried to confiscate 500 cattle owned by Bundy.

Elated by the “victory” and buoyed by celebrity status, Bundy decided to share his studied insights on race with his fans and supporters. “I want to tell you one more thing I know about the Negro…They abort their young children, they put their young men in jail, because they never learned how to pick cotton. And I’ve often wondered, are they better off as slaves, picking cotton and having a family life and doing things, or are they better off under government subsidy?”

Never mind that only a foetus could be aborted, and birth gives personhood and designations of baby, infant and then child, the notion that slaves had a family life shows how warped is the racist mindset.

Bundy use of Negro is calculated to deny identity. Not unlike Glenn Beck, who on his August 30, 2011, show railed against the African American appellation. He, a white man believed colored to be most appropriate, and not a bad thing.

While diseases we once though were eradicated are making a comeback, so are different strains of racism.

On September 29, 2011, the Ohio Civil Rights Commission ruled that Jamie Hein, white, violated the Ohio Civil Rights Act by posting the sign, “Public Swimming Pool, White Only.”

In March 2012, a supposedly atheist group put up a “Slaves Obey Your Masters” billboard in a racially diverse neighborhood in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania.

The billboard had a photo of a slave manacled at the neck, and the quote with Colossians 3:22 written under it, to identify the biblical passage it was taken from. Hence, slavery is a scripturally approved institution and the domain for Blacks.

In Charting Success In This Racist Matrix (C.C. 20/3/14) I wrote: Don’t be fooled or tempted to confuse fortuity, sacrifice and hard work that have Blacks in positions of authority with racial progress/racial advance, or buy into the same. Racism is more virulent than ever…” And every day there is evidence in support.

Until we become a police state, no one should ever be threatened or punished for their thoughts or speaking their mind.  But people must be held responsible for their words and actions.

To Rectify Damage, Reverse Paralysis

To Rectify Damage, Reverse Paralysis

By N Oji Mzilikazi

Originally appeared in the Montreal Community Contact Volume 24, Number 08 April 17, 2014

The partial collapse of the historic Negro Community Centre in Little Burgundy on Sunday, April 13, 2014, accurately reflects the state of Montreal’s English speaking Black Canadian and Black West Indian/Caribbean community.  It shows that in spite of personal achievements and individual successes of many, there is an underlining rot in our community.

The collapse couldn’t but make clear that if community members in abundance do not stand up to be counted, and the current crop of long-serving stewards and interceptors of funding continue to stay in place, along with those whose ambitions outweigh their talent, skills and abilities, things will worsen. There will be no arrest to community bleeding; this generational dysfunction that have so many at their wits end.

Underperformance, stagnation and dissolution of institutions, organizations, and businesses will continue – unabated, and there would be no English speaking Black community to glowingly speak about.

Our long-serving stewards ought to be put out to pasture.

They are bankrupt of ideas, addicted to outdated rhetoric, have added no new knowledge to expand their intellectual capacity, are out of step with the ever-changing environment, command no respect, and lack the necessary energy to be effective, as well as the skills to advocate, agitate, educate , organize, communicate, and most importantly, strategize and negotiate.

They have become obstacles to progress. Everyone knows it, including those in power and with access to power in the non-Black and wider community. But since they are entrenched gatekeepers, the power brokers and media repeatedly go to them.

Anytime there is criticism of stewards (long-serving and otherwise) under whose watch there is devolution; mismanagement, misappropriation of funds, ineffectiveness in the delivery of service by the organization, the organization holding positions and performing acts inimical to the best interest of community, constant conflict and infighting, and the break up, dissolution or destruction of an organization, the criticism is always framed as ungratefulness – by upstarts, for their sacrifice, service, and public contribution.

They also attack their critics by disingenuously saying if they know better why don’t they step in and do better, and that the person is only jockeying for position.

First, the ability to identify missteps, inefficiencies, and/or to have ideas and solutions for better do not automatically translate into that person capable of being in the driver’s seat. Plus, not every critic is seeking position, power hungry, or trying to be in a place where they could “eat ah food.”

There are persons, who in seeking community interest, are quite contented to examine, analyse, and criticize to keep management and leadership honest. That is their contribution to community, and a service that is vital in the preservation of a healthy democracy.

Second, a protective clause in the constitution of many organizations is that a new member cannot take office. The person has to be member of the organization for X amount of years. As such, when a non-member takes the role of critic in pursuit of community interests, they are rarely trying to supplant current leadership.

Ego and hubris have community stewards readily believing that holding office entitles them to a free pass. It frees them from accountability, especially when they were instrumental in bringing something into being, and more so when they demit office. Then, no one is entitled to ask them anything about their tenure in office.

Thus we have flawed post-mortems if any upon their demission, and leadership, especially when untrained, if not spoiled by their predecessors or cut from the same cloth inheriting – and blind to the fault lines that allow for dysfunction and inefficiencies to persist.

Whenever there are funding/resources to be had, or funding to community is being contemplated by municipal or governmental body, interceptors jump in. [Credit to Mr. Joseph Dyeth for coining the term]

These interceptors are known to embellish their qualifications, record, and achievements, and call or send letters “bigging” themselves or their organizations up, while informing why another person or another organization is ill-equipped for consideration.

Sometimes these interceptors straight out seize resources slated for community use – other organizations, to personally benefit them, because and here is the rub, they have an organization or belong to one.

The interceptors’ motto is namely: “Where you tie your cow, it’s there it must graze.” And in the name of community or this and that organization they gorge on the little.

Many of us know these folks – by their record. They are frequently talked about by the disgruntled but never confronted, because of community non-assertiveness and lackadaisical attitudes to serious matters, and our penchant for “shytt talk” and prioritizing bacchanal.

Equally sabotaging and ensuring rot are the lackadaisical attitudes of organizational membership and their abrogation of responsibility. Once members believe everything starts and ends with the executive, and leave things up to them, a downhill slide is inevitable.

In the face of resources and opportunities to make gains, we are malnourished. And rather than deal with our self-oppression and lack of will, drive and ambition to build, grow and succeed, that is at the heart of our dysfunction, we blame others, as well as the lack of governmental funding.

Money cannot fix what ails us. Only new attitudes, new strategies, and trained leadership could, as well as ensure new monies are best spent.

As we step into the eat, drink, and partying that comes with this long Easter weekend, give some thought as to what you are willing to do to make the community rise.

To be continued

Happy Easter to all!

I’m Voting PQ. Our Community Should. Here’s Why

I’m Voting PQ. Our Community Should. Here’s Why

By N Oji Mzilikazi

Originally appeared in the Montreal Community Contact Volume 24, Number 07 April 3, 2014

Every man gotta right to decide his own destiny
And in this judgement there is no partiality
Brother, you’re right, you’re right
You’re right, you’re right, you’re so right!

— Zimbabwe

— Bob Marley

Even amidst anti-immigrant and anti-Black sentiments, I voted Yes, for the Parti Québécois (PQ) in the 1980 referendum. My rational was simple: Every man/every country has a right to determine its own destiny, and like in a healthy organization and healthy democracy, the majority vote wins the day.

Therefore, if the French Québécois majority want Sovereignty; separation from Canada, the establishment and maintenance of a linguistic majority population, a true francophone province where the French language, French culture, French-Canadian history and its French speaking citizens would never again be subjected to second class status and discriminated against, why should I, a member of a race with a shared history and collective memory of racial hatred and their attendant evils by white skin persons, irrespective of language, and one that is mindful of the effects of colonialism and oppression, oppose their desire for self-determination?

My “Yes” vote was also cast in solidarity with the majority population of South Africa that wanted to determine their destiny, the right to vote to topple the Apartheid and racist South African regime.

Surprisingly enough, whenever I brought up that if majority rule was to be a must in Québec, it should also be a must in South Africa, the resounding sentiment from white English and French co-workers was that “we,” in South Africa were not up to the task of self-rule.

I never saw Québec’s separation from the rest of Canada as the scary monster it is portrayed to be.

When colonial nations were seeking independence, the same arguments used against Québec were employed. Colonials were told that their economy and standard of living would experience a serious decline.

The threat to those seeking independence, those unwilling to accept exploitation and second/lower class status have always been white flight, the flight of capital, professionals and skilled labour. Nonetheless, colonials sought and gained independence, knowing it would exact a high price, bring on economic hardships.

The ascension of the PQ as the political force in the land, and the institutionalization of Bill 101 into law, making French both the language of work and play, resulted in a heavy migration of company head offices, businesses and professionals to Ontario. Québec has yet to recover from the economic flight that occurred prior to its first referendum, and even after its failure.

If a sovereign Québec was to take its citizens down the path that many Black and non-white nations have walked, so be it. Blacks have nothing to fear from an independent Quebec.

The history of Blacks in the New World is one of intimacy with displacement, separation from loved ones and family, segregation, marginalisation, institutional racism and discrimination, institutional police brutality, and struggle. Each one of us can write a book about our experience with the above.

Neither the Conservatives nor the Liberal Party [of Canada] has done much to alleviate the weight of racism and marginalization experienced by Blacks and Natives in Canada. On account of white skin, Québec’s francophones and anglophones are able to accommodate one another, and have separately and collectively discriminated against people of African descent.

As previous elections have shown, regardless as to which language group or party forms the Québec government, Black Québécois still face a multitude of hurdles — and despite French language proficiency.

On account of the status quo in regards to Blacks, Blacks do not have a bone in any dogfight between Canada and Québec, or the English and the French, and it is delusional to think otherwise. Furthermore, Blacks have the freedom to migrate to any one of Canada’s other provinces or to the Territories — even the USA.

To born and/or to live in Québec does not infer having to economically suffocate here, something beyond the pale of unilingual French Québécois.

Here we are in 2014, and the PQ’s sovereignist agenda and Charter of values are being used to create needless election and moral panic.

Québec has historically been a tough and demanding place to live, so huge numbers of people were never willing to stay here for long. Known as the Capital of New France, its population in 1642 was less than 200 persons, and were mostly men.

To spur its economic development and to make this inhospitable clime a home, the male inhabitants were given gifts of land, livestock, and money. A special tax was imposed on bachelors to make that lifestyle undesirable.

Known as the “King’s Girls” (In 1660 Louis XIV became King of France), female orphans in France, along with the poor and women of ill repute were sent to Québec to become wives of the settlers. Later on French peasant families with roots in farming and fishing relocated to New France. And it is from that foundation the upper class of Québec’s francophone society was born.

When sovereigntists invoke the term “pure laine” or “pure wool,” as a celebration of the depth of French ancestry, as well as to discriminate against old-stock anglos and “visible minorities,” know that there is nothing truly “pure” and noble about their roots.

That being said, there is absolutely nothing wrong with Pauline Marois and the PQ pursuing Sovereignty. If it should lead to an economic flight, unlike the 80s, Blacks would be in the position to capitalize. It would be a buyer’s market. Blacks would be able to purchase houses and property way below market prices.

My Haitian brethren and sistren would finally be able to move out from RDP/Montreal North, buy homes in Westmount, Outremont, and downtown, and I might be able to purchase the Black Study Center building for a song and a dance.

Citizenship is more than people living together in the same country. Citizenship implies shared values, and the commonality of interests that bound us to one another.

Citizenship involves protection of the rights of everyone. And to that end, there must be no ambiguity concerning the rights of the individual and the laws of the land. No citizen should be deemed more equal than another or treated as if they are.

The laws of the land must stand supreme if all are to benefit from equal justice, and more importantly, religious beliefs/religiosity ought not to be a component of the law.

Religions are inherently bias and sexist; they entitle believers to discriminate against anyone who do not subscribe to the creed or uphold the values of the religion, and none of the world’s major religions perceive women to be equal to males or confer equal rights to women.

Thus, there is a morning prayer Jewish males say upon rising, thanking God for not making them a woman, Islamic fundamentalists unleashing terror on Muslim girls going to school and anyone aiding and abetting their education, and honor killings.

Furthermore, religion is very anti-intellectual, and has a backward and troglodytic view of many things. The blind faith religious beliefs demands make myths unadulterated truth, and puts unlimited power in the hands of religious leaders. And when they are zealots, non-believers pay the price.

Religion is at the root of a great many of the world’s evils and problems. Religion has killed millions and continues to do so. Religions have oppressed millions and continue to do so.

The proposed Charter of Rights that eliminates external emblems of religiosity in the public sector mightn’t be perfect, but it’s a step in the right direction. Secularism is the way to go. Let religion be the preserve of homes, temples, churches, synagogues, and mosques.

Come April 7, 2014, I’m voting PQ, so should you!

Religious beliefs and religious preferences must always come second to Human Rights.