Rioting In Black and White

Rioting In Black and White

By N Oji Mzilikazi

(Originally published in Montreal Community Contact Volume 21, Number 19)

September 15, 2011

The recent riots in Britain, spurred by the police killing of Mark Duggan who was innocent of any wrongdoing at the time and their lie about an exchange of gunfire got me thinking, isn’t it about time Blacks start to imitate whites and riot just for fun or over entertainment?

A cursory look at the catalysts for Blacks rioting in Canada, Britain and the United States are injustices, often with police action setting the spark.

Cases in point: Four Miami-Dade County police officers were acquitted by an all-white jury in the December 17, 1979, beating death of ex-marine Arthur McDuffie. Liberty City, Miami’s largest Black neighbourhood erupted. The three-day riot resulted in 18 deaths, over 400 injured and more than $100 million in property damage.

The acquittal of Sgt. Stacey Koon, Officers Laurence Powell, Theodore Briseno and Timothy Wind of their March 3, 1991, beating of Rodney King by all-white jury led to April 1992 riots in Los Angeles. Fifty-three people died, a billion dollars worth of damage was done, and thousands were injured.

After the investigation, the Christopher Commission declared that the Los Angeles police Department (LAPD) was rife with racism and abuse.

Britain’s 1981 Brixton riot and the 1985 Handsworth riot in Birmingham as well as their stop-and-search laws that targeted Blacks were enshrined in song and poetry by many. (LKJ) Linton Kwesi Johnson “Di Great Insoreckshan” and “Sonny’s Letter,” and Steel Pulse “Handsworth Revolution” have achieved classic status.

Overwhelmingly, when whites’ riot, it’s not for change or over things that repress, oppress, exploit or discriminate against them in any shape or form. They’d riot because they live bored, pampered lives.

To deflect from the proclivity of whites to “riot for entertainment,” municipal authorities, the police and the media made a habit of blaming anarchists, hooligans and thugs.

Kingston, Ontario, Queen’s University 2005 homecoming festivities turned into what news agencies described as “an alcohol-fuelled riot.” Police officers were stoned with beer bottles; a car was set alight and so on. Racial slurs and racial invectives rained down on a Black police officer.

Repeated homecoming parties were so out of control, in 2008 the University decided to cancel homecoming for the next two years.

When the Canadiens won the 1986 Stanley Cup in Calgary, thousands of hockey fans went on a rampage through Montreal downtown. In the face of indiscriminate rioting and looting, Guy Descary, chairman of the MUC public security committee was quoted in the May 26, 1996, Gazette saying, “People were just having fun. They were enjoying themselves.”

On June 9, 1993, the Canadiens won their 24th Stanley Cup. In their enjoyment, parked cars were overturned and set on fire, bonfires were lit, 152 stores looted, 15 city buses and 47 police cars were destroyed.

Upon the Canadiens eliminating Boston Bruins in the 2008 Stanley Cup Playoffs, fans bent on having fun smashed store windows to loot, and set fires to police cruisers.

When the Canadiens defeated the Pittsburgh Penguins on May 12, 2010, thousands of hockey fans descended on Montreal downtown core. Despite the ensuing hooliganism, police characterized the reaction as tame compared to previous celebrations.

The Canucks loss to the Boston Bruins in Game 7 of the 2011 Stanley Cup Finals resulted in widespread rioting in downtown Vancouver. The Canucks loss to the New York Rangers in 1994 Game 7 Stanley Cup Finals also resulted in rioting. So it’s not as if the city/police couldn’t see it coming and be proactive.

Cellphone camera technology and CCTV cameras along with social media have made identifying rioters easier. Huge numbers of upstanding working, middle-class citizens, professionals, students and athletes were identified and charged in the recent riots in Vancouver and Britain as opposed to supposed thugs and miscreants.

While Vancouverites happily rioted over hockey, the October 2007 death of Polish immigrant Robert Dziekanski by the hands of the RCMP at the Vancouver International Airport was not a worthy cause worth rioting over.

In August 2008, Montreal North erupted in flames over Constable Jean-Loup Lapointe killing of Fredy Villaneuva, and the shootings of Denis Meas and Jeffrey Sagor-Météllus- all Hispanics. The rioting was summarily condemned. Anti-immigrant sentiments and racism against “visible minorities” were openly expressed.

The Boston Globe of July 6, 1995, carried the article, “Montreal police get reputation for violence.” That truism was reconfirmed in June 2011, when police shot and killed Mario Hamel, a mentally ill homeless man who was slitting roadside garbage bags with a knife.

Their wild volley of bullets also killed Patrick Limoges who was on his way to work.

Consider that in 2008, a still unnamed Montreal police officer ran into the gym across the street from a police station and terrorized everyone within. He destroyed fitness equipment, broke glass doors and mirrors, and fired eight bullets into the ceiling and walls.

In spite of the extreme danger posed by an out-of-control officer with a gun, the officers on the scene were gentle and protective of their own. They didn’t use deadly force. They used rubber bullets to subdue him.

How can a man with a knife die and one with a gun trained in its usage, and who used it live? Ergo, there is no justification for the deadly force that led to the deaths of Hamel and Limoges.

White Montrealers didn’t see their deaths as worth a riot. Anti-police protests drew a measly 200 persons.

While the senselessness of Duggan’s death as well as police attitudes resulted in riots spreading to other cities across Britain, the demographic moved beyond aggrieved Blacks. Huge numbers of whites participated.

Given the amount of white professionals and the like arrested, one must conclude that adventure, fun, and opportunism to get goods for free were motivators.

In spite of evidence to the contrary, Yahoo Canada sought to racialise the riots. The 4th story on its home page automatic image and synopsis of story slider of August 11, at 8h00 was “London police raid houses in riot crackdown.” The accompanying photo was that of an arrested Black male in the company of two officers.

On the other hand, its parent company, Yahoo.com story that same day and titled, “London police raiding houses over UK riots,” carried two photos. One was of riot police holding their shields and the other was that of a white guy and the caption- “Police officers question a man during a routine stop and search operation.”

Protectors of racial bias will resort to anything for justification. As way of explaining the overwhelming amount of whites who participated in the riots, historian and broadcaster David Starkey told his BBC audience that “the whites have become black.”

Clearly, he positioned Blacks as having the monopoly on rioting and looting and a corrupting influence.

December 16, 1773, is an important day in American history. Under the banner of “No taxation without representation,” white colonists dressed as Indians boarded three ships in Boston Harbour loaded with tea belonging to the British government and threw them overboard. The event is known as The Boston Tea Party.

For certainty, if Blacks had engaged in such sabotage, half of that tea would’ve made it back to shore and in their homes and shops. That’s how we do.

Based on historical evidence, whites have a penchant for destroying things for the sake of destroying, to punish or to keep prices high.

Thus unused clothing from megastores and brands that could go to charitable organizations, homeless shelters or the nation’s poor end up either shredded or defaced so unusable. It is not unusual for surplus food and produce to end up in landfills rather than the marketplace. That’s the politics of business.

Interestingly, despite representation, and taxation that benefits both the state and federal governments, Americans disgruntled by Obama’s presence in the White House took their bearings from that 1773 event, hence the Tea Party label.

They cannot reconcile having to respect the office of the president whilst feeling inherently superior to the holder of that office. (Any person of African descent in power positions can attest to having experienced white subordinates with lesser qualification doing their best to undermine them. I can.)

Given the tenor of the discourse, the Tea Party and Republicans would rather see America turn into a banana republic than Obama win another term. Chances are the next riot is going to be of angry white men seeking to uphold privilege.

Why Emancipation Observances Matter

Why Emancipation Observances Matter

By N Oji Mzilikazi

(Originally published in Montreal Community Contact Volume 21, Number 18)

 

September 1, 2011

Two things: At an Emancipation event, a fellow attendee remarked that he was tired of “all the slavery days” recollection.” He felt they weren’t necessary to our moving forward. Secondly, I was asked about my preoccupation with Emancipation and why should its observation matter.

Emancipation matters because it marked a decisive legislative, political and social shift in the lives of Blacks. It was the taking up one’s bed to walk.

After centuries of being considered non-human by whites, and treated as such, Emancipation represented reclaiming one’s humanity, one’s dignity, and freedom to be whatever – the freedom to achieve. Without its passing, chances are people of African descent might today be still trapped in chattel slavery.

A people with no knowledge and sense of its past, and of itself, will be a people without memory, identity, and the cultural imperatives to determine its success. They would be ill-equipped to defend themselves intellectually or physically as well as say, “Never Again!

The past shapes the present and determines the future. Unless understood and addressed, the historical will always influence the cultural and social reality. Thus we speak of institutionalized racism- structures that perpetuate the inequities and injustices of our racial past and contribute to failure as a legacy.

Studying and understanding the past; the history, errors, misjudgements, accidents, unforeseen and unintended consequences, lies, defeats, battles, struggles, successes and its assorted characters allow a people/person to be conscious, vigilant, mindful of repeating the same mistakes and better informed in the charting of their future.

And that applies to our personal relationships as well.

There is no lack of motivation, intellectual brilliance and talent in Black communities. What there is is our youth beset by a slew of powerful societal forces including the lack of opportunities that contribute to their erosion of faith, possibilities of achievement, and attraction to gangs.

Sages have long detailed, “As a man thinks, so he is. As he continues to think, so he remains. As we think today, so we are tomorrow, and whatever you believe you are that you are.”

Thus I see slavery and Emancipation observances as a starting point for mental, psychological and educational recalibration. Revitalizing nectar in our struggles against historical, institutional, and extremely deep-rooted cultural forces that continue their negatively impact on the race.

We know that the education system is failing young Black males across many areas and levels. Unemployment rates are high, incarceration rates are escalating, and there are destructive pressures in the community that undermine male aspirations.

We know young Black males face a dearth of role models, and their perceptions of masculine identity, respect and pride are warped to say the least. While hands wring, we remain short on answers. I believe revisiting Black History will return the power of pride and person.

Consider the Jews. All are aware of the narrative of their enslavement in Egypt. The Exodus narrative is the foundation to Jewish faith, identity, political formulation and nationalism. But according to Genesis 41:43 and Genesis 46:27, Egypt saved the Jews not once, but twice.

The Biblical telling is that 70 hungry and starving souls from the House of Jacob went into Egypt, and when they left 400 years later under Moses, and with so much gold that they built a golden calf, they were in the thousands.

One cannot spend 400 years in a country and not be influenced by its traditions, educational, political and social culture.

70 multiplying into thousands make the Jews a people who came of age under the tutelage of Egypt. Yet, every year when Jews celebrate Passover, the holiest day in the Jewish calendar, they vilify Egypt over their enslavement.

On the other hand, numerous others including members our race would much prefer people of African descent forget about enslavement, slavery days and reparations.

Annually, Canada commemorates Remembrance Day. Remembrance Day is more than paying tribute to the soldiers who fell to preserve our freedoms. It psychologically reminds the society that the sacrifice of one’s life for country is the ultimate demand of citizenship. That perhaps one day each would be called upon to fulfill that unspoken oath.

There is no day of remembrance or memorial for the untold millions of Africans who through enslavement or not, contributed towards the building of our nation/other nations. There is no day of remembrance or memorial for the untold millions of Africans who died on route to the New World.

Emancipation observances are our Days of Remembrance. It is letting our ancestors know they are not forgotten. It is acknowledgement of our debt to them, honouring their denied humanity. It is symbolic of racial commitment, empowering and moving the race forward.

My hope is we can move Emancipation forward to the point where people of African descent would gladly take time off from work for its commemoration.

Emancipation 2011: On Blacks Being A Cursed Race

Emancipation 2011: On Blacks Being A Cursed Race

By N Oji Mzilikazi

(Originally published in Montreal Community Contact Volume 21, Number 17)

August 18, 2011

For as long as I can remember, the trials and tribulations of people of African descent; our victimisation, failures, messing-up, misdeeds, missing out on opportunities, manifestations of self-hate et al, was credited to Blacks being biblically cursed.

And we ourselves were never ashamed to voice that opinion.

Internalization of that blasphemous credo is at the heart of our psychological and racial incapacitation, the all too common culture of diminished expectations, our dysfunction, disunity, educational and economical poverty, impotence, lack of inner conviction, will-power and belief in us as a people, our abilities and in our potential.

Consequently, we function as one cursed.

When one consider that after forty-eight years of Independence, Trinidad and Tobago recruited a white Canadian and not a Black “foreigner” to be their chief of police, it exposed the scars of disfigurement in our supposed maturity and enlightenment.

Greater absurdity is seen in the recently commissioned Bill Johnson Opinion Poll, which showed that 60 per cent of Jamaicans believe the country would be better off under British rule.

What a shame the blood of Jamaica’s intellectuals, freedom fighters and martyrs has been subjected to such fickleness born out of multi-level ignorance, and the powerlessness of small economies to effectively deal with the economic turbulence that’s affecting the world.

Since the Bible is said to be the source of our curse, it makes sense ascertaining its veracity.

While the Old Testament deals primarily with Jewish history, in it there are passages that give glimpses of Africa. And more often than not, they are of strength, power and nobility.

The very first/second page of the Bible- Genesis 2:10-13 states that the river that went out of the Garden of Eden encompassed the whole land of Ethiopia. For surety, such a thing infers a blessing and not a curse.

The majority of ills that plague Africa have their roots in European colonisation and their machinations to extract its vast and rich natural resources along with gold and diamonds.

Numbers 12:1-10 records that Aaron, the high priest, Moses right-hand man and elder brother, and Miriam, their sister, was so displeased over Moses’ marrying an Ethiopian that they “bad-talked” her. Incensed over their bias and Moses choice of mate, God afflicted Miriam with leprosy.

(So it’s not today people don’t like Blacks. Anti-Black racism did start yesterday, if you get my drift.)

If there was a curse on Blacks, God wouldn’t have punished not just one of his supposedly chosen people, but the leader of the Israelites sister, over a Black woman.

II Chronicles 14:9 shows the aggression and militancy of Ethiopia. It tells of Ethiopians waging war against Judah, “And came out against them Zerah the Ethiopian with a host of a thousand, thousand and three hundred chariots.”

Nahum 3:9 states, “Ethiopia and Egypt were her strength, and it was infinite.”

Amos 9:7 reads “Are ye not as children of the Ethiopians unto me, O children of Israel? Saith the lord.”

Such a phrasing infers equality, so where did this curse of Blacks come from?

There is no supporting evidence, archaeological or otherwise to the claim that the Jews built the pyramids. Still, it is commonly believed and accepted that they did.

For reasons unknown, early Jewish Talmudic/rabbinical scholars erroneously positioned the mark of Cain as well as the Curse of Ham as applicable to Blacks.

Since Christianity arose out of Judaism, a lot of Jewish beliefs made the transition as well. Noah’s curse was thus used to legitimize and justify the enslavement of Africans, the rape of Africa and subsequent dehumanization of Africans.

Genesis 4:15 is clear. The mark of Cain is so that no one would kill him, for “vengeance shall be taken sevenfold” on the person that does. If Blacks bear the mark of Cain, then where is that promised vengeance?

While Genesis 9: 25 records Noah in his rage cursing Canaan, the son of Ham, and prophesying that he shall be a servant of servants unto his brethren, the land of Canaan deemed the promise land of the Jews is not in Africa.

Genesis 12:5-7 “The Canaanite was then in the land and the Lord appeared unto Abram and said, unto thy seed will I gave this land.”

The Middle-East conflict surrounding Israel is primarily among other things, their claims to Canaan.

Cush was one of Ham sons. Cush gave birth to Nimrod. And according to Genesis 10:10, Babel was the beginning of his Kingdom. I’d like to think most adults are familiar with the story of the Tower of Babel. Babel is not in Africa.

History tells of the Sudanese Kingdom of Cush (1000BC-350AD) that conquered Egypt, ruling as its 25th dynasty. Since one of Ham sons was Cush, one could think it was an accidental mix-up. But then, though Ham is the father of Canaan, his children are also the Jebusite, Amorite, Hivite and Arkite- peoples that cannot be historically traced back to Africa.

From where I sit, the African Cush was deliberately used and inferred to further support there being a curse upon Blacks.

While Zephaniah 2:9 states, “Ye Ethiopians also, ye shall be slain by my sword.” And Isaiah 20:3-5 tells of Isaiah walking naked and barefoot upon Egypt and Ethiopia, and that the King of Assyria shall carry away Ethiopians and Egyptians captives; “young and old, naked and barefoot, even with their buttocks uncovered,” they in no way shape or form infer a curse.

Furthermore, Assyria was a kingdom in Iraq, so there is no correlation to European enslavement of Africans.

Contrary to what is advocated and believed, there is no biblical evidence of a curse placed on Blacks.

Such was the belief that Blacks were the descendants of Ham/Canaan, that in 1903, the British offered Jews a parcel of land in British East Africa (in what is today Kenya) to be their homeland.

In 2005, Four Haitians won a Québec Human Rights Tribunal decision against Centre Maraicher Eugene Guinois Jr. Inc., Québec’s largest lettuce producing company.

In nothing other than damage control for their multi-million dollar business, the Gazette despatched reporter Jeff Heinrich to their farm to state their case.

In Heinrich’s June 6th column, he stated that the Guinoises are defiant, Eugene the clan patriarch is prone to make off-colour jokes and he calls Blacks the descendants of Cain.

In July 2009, Israeli television Channel 9 convened a panel to discuss if the Torah ever revoked the curse of Ham. For based upon the curse, Obama’s ascension to the White House was akin to a slave becoming a king, and the “supposed reason” many Jews do not like and trust Obama.

As demonstrated, the ideology of Blacks being cursed still has traction with a great many. When people feel that way about us, it would be delusional to believe they would ever have our interest at heart.

In E.V. Rieu’s translation of Homer’s “Iliad,” there is a line that says, “Zeus left for Ocean Stream to join the worthy Ethiopians at a banquet and all the gods went with him.”

Even if one considers the Iliad solely as an imaginary work or a compilation of myths, the acknowledgment of Ethiopia in that vein is verily a peep into the esteem into which Africa was held.

If Africans were inconsequential as history has repainted the race, why then would the chief God of the Greeks take his entire cabinet to visit the Ethiopians?

According to Greek and Roman epics surrounding the Trojan War, Troy called upon Ethiopia to help them repel the Greeks. Memnon, described as black as ebony and an African warrior-king, brought endless troops to defend Troy.

Memnon met his end at the hand of Achilles.

Virgil, Ovid, Strabo and Hesiod are just a few of the well-known poets/literary writers of the ancient world who spoke effusively of Memnon.

Those that define you will confine you. When exploitation of a people/person is the goal, anything that aids in the process like brute force, isolation, drug addiction or denying access to education are employed.

Africa was never cursed nor the intellectually and culturally dark continent it has historically been portrayed it to be. Its only curse, and that of people of African descent, is in our inability to recognise that there is no curse and act accordingly.

To Be Continued.

Emancipation 2011: Renewed Songs of Liberation

Emancipation 2011: Renewed Songs of Liberation

By N Oji Mzilikazi

(Originally published in Montreal Community Contact Volume 21, Number 16)

August 4, 2011

Since December 2009, the United Nations General Assembly declared 2011 as the International Year for People of African Descent. Yet leadership didn’t see it fit to capitalize, plan special events for this year or even gear regular events like Black History Month or Emancipation celebrations towards it.

Not even our literary organization, poets/authors, playwrights or the Black Theatre Workshop saw it fit to produce works or a play in its observance. Talk about political somnambulism.

Emancipation celebration is relegated to a Montreal City Hall affair where cliquish and impotent Black leadership will sit passively and be lectured by the mealy mouth and forked-tongue politician, who by virtue of his father surviving 30 months in Auschwitz theoretically empathize but in practice regurgitate City Hall’s racial profiling status quo, and stay silent on its obstruction to bringing cases of racial profiling before the courts and penchant for fighting judgements against police officers.

Bright and early Emancipation morning – August 1st, I opened a bottle of Chivas Regal, poured drinks for my ancestors-the spirits, observed silence, genuflected and glorified as much revolutionary heroes as I could remember, then threw flowers into the St Lawrence Seaway in LaSalle while reciting The Last Poets, “For The Millions,” part of which goes:

For the millions of Africans chained to the slave ships/

For the millions of scars on their backs and face, by the bullwhip/

For the millions who jumped overboard/

For the blood that poured/

On the shores of North America, South America, Central America, and Europe/

And each ripple in the ocean is a grave/

For an African who refused to be a slave/

For the millions/

For the millions who cut the cane, picked the cotton/

Whose names have been forgotten/

Whose flesh has rotten with the trees they hung us from/

Cut out our tongues/ Cut off our hands if we play the drums/

For the millions…

Next year please God, I will invite others to join me in that type of Emancipation observation.

I couldn’t help but remember the betrayers, those who sold the race out for “roti and rum,” and those who sold their souls and community for a bowl of government porridge.

I paid homage to those who refuse to lose; the nameless and faceless who continue to fight, strive and build so children not yet born would be able to take their place and stand upright in the sunlight.

For what it’s worth, I prayed the Most High will continue to give them strength, bless and shine his grace and face upon them.

Years of governmental/municipal administrations funding or sponsoring events relating to Black History Month and Emancipation have not resulted or contributed towards the breakdown of racism or racial barriers in the society.

People of African descent face not just more of the same hurdles, but additional racism from other ethnics- latter day immigrants.

The economics of the times has reduced the size of the pie. Our efforts to eat are thus made more difficult, and it has nothing to do with not being qualified.

Many among us are. Our problems are exacerbated by our proclivity to disregard studying the politics and rules of the game- both written and unwritten, understanding how the system works and operates, and the unwillingness to recognise each other as brothers and sisters and to build alliances.

It is of cardinal importance to know the rules of every game. When you know the rules of the game your fouls can then be deliberate rather than originating out of ignorance which in no way shape or form mitigates. As goes the clichéd expressions: “Ignorance of the law is no excuse,” “If you don’t know ask somebody.”

Others don’t care about our different hues, different views or if we came here by boat or birth. Being a person of African descent pretty much ensures we are thrown into the same pool regardless of our educational level or social status.

Statistics Canada June 2011 report on hate crime is clear. Blacks continued to be the most commonly targeted racial group. Blacks account for about 38 per cent of all incidents. But who cares? Certainly not John Public, our Federal and Provincial governments, municipal administrations and more importantly we ourselves.

If that wasn’t the case, past leadership would’ve made sure resources and personnel were in place to document all cases of racial hate and racial bias. (The 24-hr phone line to report those incidents as well as those of police abuse would still be up and running.)

Our august organizations would’ve formed alliances with those in other provinces to combat the constant nature and surge of anti-Black racism, and be in the governments’ face for meaningful action to take place.

Instead, racial hate against Blacks is taken for granted and no one except its victims gets hot under the collar. In feeling they have no Black organization to turn to and be their advocate, victims feel betrayed.

Jews have succeeded in making hate against them the most grievous of sin. Consequently, Municipal and or Federal/Provincial government officials will always wade in to prove they are a friend of the community.

In August 2010, Public Safety Minister Vic Toews pledged almost $90,000 to six Toronto Jewish groups to combat hate crimes.

Look at the political landscape both here and in America. The election of Obama to the White House created an upswing in anti-Black sentiment.

U.S. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), response to the debt crisis was, “My first choice was to do something important for the country. But my second obligation is to my party” and prevent the president getting reelected.”

The sole goal of the Republican Party and Tea baggers is to destroy Obama’s presidency. We as a people stand alone and it would be delusional to think otherwise. It is imperative we politically organize.

The commonality of shared experience and being stereotyped demand bonds of unity. It’s the only way to effectively confront any and all who seek to negate our humanity as well as to excise self-oppressing and self-defeating behaviours.

Would that when we encounter each other we acknowledge the other. We do say “bonjour” to strangers- from bus drivers to salespersons. You don’t have to verbally say hi. You can simply make eye-contact and nod your head. That which separates us is not greater than that which unites.

Would that when sisters take public transport they stop being afraid to sit next to the brothers. So what if the brother is going to try and chat you up? Have you lost the verbal skill of thrust and parry that deflects and deflates unwanted lyrics?

Sitting next to others whose body language is they wished you sat elsewhere is worse than the chat from a brother. Furthermore, a brother will quicker come to your rescue than anyone else.

Knowing how others feel about being next to you and fear of the brothers, have you running to sit in single seats. While you might be mentally comfortable in your aloneness, as strangers in a strange land faced with common obstacles being strangers to each other speaks to a self-hate. Isn’t it time we break down the artificial divide?

All around us other ethnics are building or serving monopolies. (Seems to me there is at least one Asian business in place at every metro station. We would be foolish to think individual entrepreneurship is at work.) Still we continue being careless with our money or give little thought as to converting our dollars into a weapon.

Money is not just something to spend. Money is a tool. Money is a weapon. Money has the power to institute change. Given the well-documented high level of consumerism by Blacks, if we make our money our politics we can enrich the community, force change and take a huge bite out of racism and discrimination.

For starters, support community businesses. Understand that their higher cost is not price gouging but rather a reflection of the higher price they pay for their goods. We cannot hit up Black businesses for donations etc. when we aren’t contributors to their financial success. One cannot withdraw money from the bank without first making a deposit.

At the same time Black owned business have to make sure their employees do not display aggressive and nasty attitudes. Good service attracts repeated business and new customers. Unsatisfactory service does the opposite.

Do not shop in places where salespersons do not care to serve us or pretend we are invisible. Avoid doing business with large chains that do not hire us. Seek out Black salespersons or other ethnics. Chances are their salary is tied to commissions. Giving them your business might just allow them to receive a better salary.

Right Market, Wrong Vendor

Right Market, Wrong Vendor

By N Oji Mzilikazi

(Originally published in Montreal Community Contact Volume 21, Number 15)

July 21, 2011

I can assure you dear reader that whatever fruits and provisions I have for sale is A-grade; is inspected and vetted so its consumption can be enjoyable.

I don’t know who among you have diabetes or high blood pressure so their fat, salt and sugar content are extremely low, thereby allowing you to season them to your taste and delight. But like anything else, there are those who will experience indigestion. They cannot handle “hard food.”

In this edition, Dr. Clarence Bayne took umbrage with some of my statements on community and leadership, and given their age, it is plain to see my words was stuck in his craw for a very long time.

Rather than display the intellectual acumen that goes with his learned status and logically dissect any one of my statements to prove my ineptitude and wrong-headedness, he launched a personal attack, exhibited the default position of a “standard seven” mentality.

I don’t know when Dr. Bayne achieved certification as a psychologist, but congratulations are in order. He diagnosed me as being “a turned off youth who did not benefit from a social and emotional development.”

What does the nature of one’s upbringing has to do with my condemnation of bankrupt leadership and calls for the transformational leadership, accountability of stewardship and transparency?

In impugning such an upbringing, as if it invalidates intelligence and voice, Dr. Bayne reveals his predilection to elitism and disdain to the environment so many of our people have, and unfortunately continue to  be socialised into, and to those folks themselves- people who are the salt of the earth and whom are always targeted for help.

While Dr. Bayne tags my space as of damned souls, he had no problems mining the same in his Aug. 26, 2010, column, “A Deeper Look At The Perils Of Our Community.” He says, “We drink the poison of serpents and kiss the hoof of the Golden Calf,” closes with “We are in the trap,” yet has the nerve to accuse me of “an out of body poetic rant.”

I have no time for obfuscation, intellectual masturbation, being disingenuous or sweet talk. I have no personal axe to grind in this space. The hydra-headed issues confronting our community preclude me from engaging in such pettiness. Extended months, possibly years of Winter is coming and our community is ill prepared for that “banga season.”

In this the United Nations designated “International Year for People of African Descent,” attacks against the race continue unabated, and not just in terms of racial profiling or exclusion.

The Los Angeles Times (07/08/11) carried the story of Michele Bachmann signing a pact that says among other things, African American children were better off during slavery than they are under the Obama administration. Bachmann is a Republican candidate running for the party’s presidential nominee.

Psychology Today had no qualms publishing (05/15/11) evolutionary psychologist Satoshi Kanazawa piece of scientific racism, “Why Are Black Women Less Physically Attractive Than Other Women?

The economic fortunes of Blacks continue to take a battering. Employment shortages make the race the last hired and first fired. Our businesses are hurting and we continue with the self-infliction of wounds.

I’m about engaged citizenship, community economical and political empowerment, racial elevation, pro-activeness, constructive critical thinking, analysis of the ways the community has been an enemy of itself, with the hope my musings and perchance elucidation would prompt new blood to step into the breach and provide the much needed bold and visionary leadership.

All the promoters of fetes at the recently concluded Carifiesta/Jamaica Day clash of festivities ended up with gaping holes in their pockets. Yet Dr. Bayne would rather I not assign blame to leadership and “those that have tried but fallen short of my standards.”

My standards are not arbitrary Dr. Bayne, but in line with the values espoused by civil society. Need I remind you of the parable of the ten virgins? Just as there is no room for the foolish, accolades are only meted out to those that achieve, not to those that tried.

How long have we been here? While each new wave of immigrants to Canada goes through a generation or two of discrimination, difficulties, issues of language, adjustment and social reorganization, they have all been able to extricate themselves and prosper. So, why are we still stuck in a time warp? I cannot award points for trying.

While we are here today not on our own strength, but on the backs of many who came before us, where are our griots, our authors, historians and filmmakers? Are there no cultural imperatives to document our stories so children not yet born can easily revisit our past?

In 2009, KOLA literary magazine celebrated their 20th-anniversary. The issue they produced I wouldn’t take for free, much more buy. It was poorly laid out, and in this day and age when desktop publishing makes it easy for one to put out a quality product. Up to now KOLA does not even have a website, so what does that say about its growth.

I’ve been a member of an All-Fours Club for the past six years. (I dropped out for two.) Its constitution was ignored (actually never made available). Rules magically appeared. Meetings were rare. One had to ask for a receipt. Financial statements were never made available, not even when there was an AGM.

We went out of town to play, hosted teams from out of town, and when we meet on Friday nights we have fun, and that, it appears, was all that matters. Why stay? To keep them honest and force a change in the culture.

That sort of self-sabotage and obliviousness to structures are played out in many of our organizations, hence my tone. My extrapolations are rooted in evidence and facts.

In February 2000, or thereabouts, Mayor Pierre Bourque and a delegation attended carnival in Trinidad and Tobago, ostensibly to get a feel so Carifiesta could be better appreciated, and quite possible properly funded. He then lost the election making it impossible for his administration to do anything for Carifiesta.

On account of the lack of vision, the Carifiesta leadership didn’t view the ex-mayor as an asset, someone on intimate terms with City Hall’s bureaucracy and who could advocate for them with the new management. They could’ve recruited him to be an advisor or a governor, as is possible under their Constitution.  There was absolutely no capitalization on his trip to Trinbago.

When we look at what Carifiesta has become, the blame must fall on its leadership and history of infighting. Still, Ruthven Licorish had no shame stating the City of Montreal sounded the death knell of Carifiesta.

It is under the present cadre of leadership watch including you Dr Bayne, that long established institutions like the Negro Community Center in Little Burgundy, the BCCQ and the Union United Church among others closed their doors. Yet, you sanctimoniously bristle over my comments.

Ownership imbues one with a sense of pride and accomplishment. Ownership of land and property empowers. We continue being witnesses to Israel and Palestinians locked in a deathly struggle over land.

While owners have the right to do what they want with their property, when ownership is tied to legacy and racial pride, selling such a property is looked upon as a betrayal of sorts. Case in point: Motown and B.E.T.

In this very paper Dr. Bayne, you threw out selling the Black Study Centre. “Rent rather than tie up scare resources in the maintaining of a physical building” you wrote. I won’t be mad at you. It has been a “white elephant” these umpteen years, so why not turn a failure into a profit.

Quo Vadis Carifiesta?

Quo Vadis Carifiesta?

By N Oji Mzilikazi

 

(Originally published in Montreal Community Contact Volume 21, Number 14)

July 7, 2011

On March 13, 2011, the City of Montreal handed the Carifiesta Carnival Parade mandate to the CCFA- Caribbean Cultural Festivities Association, rather than the MCDF- Montreal Carnival Development Foundation, ending the wrangling that resulted in its cancellation of the 2010 Parade.

Carnival was back on. The Community was happy as pappy. Die-hard revellers couldn’t wait to get on “wotless”– shake off Winter’s dreariness, as well as the drudgery, privations and frustrations that qualify the lives of many in our Community.

Carifiesta, for all its marginalization by the City of Montreal, reconnection to West Indian cultural patrimony, expressions of ingenuity and creativity, freedom from a certain amount of constraints like body image as an example, was catharsis; therapy.

In addition, Carifiesta is a revenue generating machine for the City. Something that the City, judging from its history with the festival does not care about, and to which successive Carnival administrations have failed to advance and exploit in order for the festival to obtain substantial increase in its funding, present a superb product, and have the respect it deserves.

There was no Montreal International Jazz Festival, Montreal Gay Parade or even a Canada Day Parade in Montreal when Carifiesta was launched.

July 9th, 2011 marks Carifiesta’s thirty-seventh (37) birthday, yet the festival continues to be a top spinning in mud.

While expectations are that the new management of CCFA will get the job done, the scars of ineptitude and lack of vision by past Carnival organisers are so deep that CCFA faces a steep uphill climb. That is further compounded as the City feels it is doing our Community a favour in allowing us Carifiesta.

CCFA is on probation with this parade. They must do it right; have it running smoothly, and by inference, present a quality product in spite of the short notice (three and a half months) and consistent annual low funding- 30,000$.

Defenders of the paltry sum points to the hidden expense of security, clean-up and the loss of parking revenue on the route and so on, which run into hundreds of thousands of dollars as mitigating, but it’s all b.s.

The City has no problem bearing those same costs for the St. Patrick’s Day Parade, Gay Parade and so on. Additionally, it has no problem with the loss of parking revenue when it shuts down certain areas to traffic for playoff hockey or to facilitate pedestrian traffic in certain areas for the entire summer.

Nonetheless, it is that “hidden cost” Montreal City Hall Councillor Marcel Tremblay, the brother of our mayor Gerald Tremblay used in 2005, as an excuse to question the relevance of Carifiesta, as detailed in “Fail or Prevail? The Choice Is Yours” in the previous Community Contact.

The City also demanded that the CCFA inform both residents and businesses along the parade route of the parade. This was a first. Anyhow it’s sliced; it cuts into the operational budget of the CCFA both in terms of manpower and finance, and given its budget…

Such a demand shows the contempt to which the City holds Carifiesta. By virtue of its office, the City has the machinery and money to make light work of that task. It’s akin to CCFA telling businesses, “Be prepared for an infusion of cash from Blacks,” but without reciprocity. The politics and attitude of City Hall to Carifiesta is obvious to the discerning.

Regardless as to what part of the world they are held, Carnivals are a tourist attraction and a generator of huge revenues. City administrations/government and businesses gladly invest for the economic benefits to merchants, restaurateurs and hoteliers among others and themselves is worth it.

According to our very own Quebec Winter Carnival website, its 2009 operating budget was $8.6 million and it resulted in “direct economic repercussions of $48 million.”

In 2005, the Ontario government invested $400,000 in Caribana and the City of Toronto $384,000. In 2009, the Federal government invested $415,000 into Caribana. The Ipsos Reid Economic Impact Study of Caribana 2009, released in April 2010, revealed it injected $438 million into Ontario’s economy.

The City of Montreal 30,000$ must be seen in the light of stinginess, and they not giving a damn about the festivity. Perchance because it emanates from Black hands and they believe they don’t need it because their economic cup floweth over from the City’s International Jazz Festival.

There was a time when the Carifiesta parade brought close to a million visitors to Montreal. People came from American cities like New York, Washington, Virginia, Boston, Philadelphia, and Buffalo, as well as from the Caribbean for the occasion. With Ottawa and Toronto just down the 401, thousands upon thousands of Ontarians with or without West Indian or Montreal roots descended upon our fair city.

Since the hotels downtown were filled by tourists coming for the jazz festival, all the motels on Rue St. Jacques were filled by Black tourists coming to town for the carnival.

Until its demolition and replacement with a Canadian Tire outlet, all the rooms in Belvedere Motel on Rue St. Jacques were annually reserved for the carnival weekend by Hawks International, a social club whose headquarters is in New York.

Montreal has no Black area or a Black neighbourhood. The Carifiesta Parade is not held in the vicinity where there are Black, Caribbean/West Indian or African merchants. White businesses remain the primary beneficiary of the expenditure of Blacks during Carifiesta. No merchant along the parade route is ever going to refuse a dollar from the Black consumer. Yet, as referenced in the last issue, Councillor Marcel Tremblay had no qualms stating, “No one wants us.”

Encounter with a racist mindset is not foreign to the black experience. People of African descent have long recognised that some would prefer us to disappear than embrace us. However, the State has a moral authority to be fair to its citizenry irrespective to skin pigmentation, religion or sexual orientation.

Rather than making “no one wants us” a card of trumps, so the City was doing the Community a favour, the councillor, as representing City Hall, ought to oppose any who seek to exclude Blacks from participating fully in the society. After all, Blacks have been in Quebec since 1406. Once again, leadership failed to put a knife to such a deserving throat.

On July 25, 2005, Mayor Gerald Tremblay and his wife Suzanne snipped the ribbon to kick off the Gay Pride Parade. In blessing the event, the mayor sported a VIQ badge – “Very Important Queer badge.” I can’t ever remember him showing any such solidarity or love to Carifiesta.

While St. Patrick’s Day Parade is the oldest street parade in the province, and is culturally important to the Irish, it does not bring tourism to the city or pump additional revenue into its coffers the way Carifiesta does.

Every major city has more or less their St. Patrick’s Day Parade. As such, that of Montreal depends entirely on the support from locals. Sure, its spectators are going to indulge in a couple of pints and Irish pubs are going to make some extra cash, but it’s a pittance compared to the overall boost to the economy that Carifiesta brings.

So in spite of Carifiesta outstripping St. Patrick’s Day in terms of financial contribution to the economy and attendance, there is a great divide in the way both festivals are treated by City Hall.

For starters, the Irish are given royal treatment. The City of Montreal paints its main thoroughfare green for their parade while Carifiesta’s route is on one side-street or another.

The City never saw fit to gage the economic impact of Carifiesta because they do not care for it. Sadly, the failure of leadership to make the economic impact of Carifiesta matter, to solicit corporate/private sector sponsorship, seek funding from Quebec’s Tourist Ministry as it brings tourists to the province, and to sell Carifiesta as part of the tapestry that makes citizens with Caribbean roots proud to be Quebecers and Canadians, have us in the current mess.

Carifiesta has within itself the potential to become a cultural and economic powerhouse for the Community. CCFA can only take us out of this morass if they’re willing to hire a worthy development consultant, or have a consultation committee to engage in brainstorming, strategic planning, to advise, inform and formulate sound business policies, and is given 100 per cent community support.

I have long been an advocate of rebooting Carifiesta to make it better and financially viable as evidenced by the Community Contact Volume 1, Number 11 May 1993, article, “Plain Talk Bad Manners: Suspend Carifete.”

In the article I decried the 35,000$ funding, felt that the two months notice given for its staging by the City was an insult. It undermined having a professionally executed and successful festival, and described the Carifete Committee as co-conspirators to ensure we remain an invisible minority.

The 2010 suspension of Carifiesta and the court case between CCFA and MCDF placed retooling the festival in limbo. It’s a shame that after three decades Carifiesta is still in diapers. My hope is that the CCFA does not turn out to be “old wine in new bottles,” but who we were waiting on.

It pains to see Carifiesta and Jamaica Day on the same day. But as Ms. Emmanuella Borgella, CCFA’s vice-president explained, the organisation was first given July 2nd, and then the City changed it to the 9th. In the spirit of cooperation they were cross-promoting Jamaica Day as well- attend Carifiesta then go to Jamaica Day. That being said, Happy Carnival!

Fail or Prevail? The Choice Is Yours

Fail or Prevail? The Choice Is Yours

By N Oji Mzilikazi

(Originally published in Montreal Community Contact Volume 21, Number 13)

June 23, 2011


Sometimes I feel like
Throwing my hands up in the air
Sometimes I feel like saying
Lord I just don’t care
But you’ve got the love I need
To see me through.

The Source ft. Candi Staton – You Got The Love

Lately, I’ve been encountering folks close to the edge, verily on the verge of losing faith. I’m talking about ordinary people contended to be merely the Indians as opposed to being chiefs. They aren’t heroes. Don’t even want to be.

In fact, they’ll be the first to hightail it if or when things get outta hand. They are the people who go say dey eh see, but is the first ones to talk ’bout what dey aint see. Dey so mauvais-langue, sometimes ah man does have to ask dem if dey have court clothes. Whey yuh go do? Yuh cah get vex with dem. Actually yuh could, but I cah get vex. Dem is my people.

Dey happy to be rum-shop politicians. A lil drink in their head, and they can analyse and solve all the problems in the world. As de old folks does say, “Sense make before book.” “If yuh give Jim he gym boots and Jack he jacket, yuh must give Bagwansingh he bag.” So while no big highfalutin words does come out ah deh mouth, just plenty cuss, one has to respect the sense dey does make when dey making sense. And right now dey making plenty sense.

They feel betrayed, and by everybody. They expect their betters – those who went to “grammar” school and “big” school and have title and position to their name would do a better job in protecting and serving the community.

As much as I try to explain to them, that as ideal as those things are, the bottom line is reality and human nature can play havoc with principles, honour and integrity. People are by nature selfish and greedy, and when the complexity and politics of leadership meets greed, ideological backwardness and political blindness, pure ineffectiveness and commess is the result, dey doh get it.

I can empathise with them. God knows I’ve been down the road of frustration and bitterness over community apathy and traitorous leadership many times. Have thrown my hands up, but lucky me, blind faith in faith and a cultivated philosophical foundation have repeatedly pulled me away from the brink of darkness and despair.

Still, that “saving grace” didn’t mollify the sense that “we still eh ready yet.” Consider Jamaica Day, Carifiesta and our Steelband festival all on the same day this year, and both Jamaica Day and the pan jamboree in Parc Jean Drapeau.

On Wednesday, July 13, 2005, I watched Montreal City Hall Councillor Marcel Tremblay, the mayor’s brother on the evening news.  He stated that the $200,000 spent on Carifiesta in terms of police security, securing the parade route, clean up and so on was not worth the five hours of parade.

Continuing, he suggested moving the parade to Parc Jean Drapeau on Ile St Helene. And as if he was doing our community a favour with the proposal, he said that nobody, not even the Old Port wanted the 40,000 (Black) people that the parade attracts.

It is not today City Hall has plans about finding ways and means to contain its Black/West Indian citizens. Look at “Trinidad Day” at Angrignon Park. For the past few years, fencing have attendees kettled like cattle, so in the event of anything, the venue can be sealed shut with everyone inside. Drinking alcohol is restricted to the bar area.

There is no kettling at the Jazz Festival. One could walk anywhere on site with their alcohol. Parc Jean Drapeau affords kittling in that there is only way in and out of Ile St Helene. Its metro can be shut down to avoid ‘escape.”

Beyond that, except for Les Fêtes Créoles Internationales de Montréal, and Festival International du Merengue de Montréal at Parc Jean Drapeau, all Caribbean/Black festival at the 2005 Intercultural Festival was a flop, both in terms of attendance and community business. I’m talking about Jamaica Day, Barbados Day, the two-day Soca festival, and the Eastern Caribbean Day. So what would propel Jamaica Day to return to that site?

For as long as I can remember, the Steel Band Festival was held in Émilie Gamelin Park aka Berri Square. The beauty of the location is that passersby, both on foot or in their cars who had no inkling of what was taking place would find themselves dawn to the beautiful music. By moving it to Parc Jean Drapeau, only steel pan enthusiasts would go to the venue. So what would propel its organisers to accept that location? Factor in Carifiesta is on the same day.

Fans of Carifiesta are also fans of reggae and Jamaica Day. Carifiesta and Jamaica Day also allow community party promoters and community businesses to make money on both days. A small Black community, major soca and reggae activities on the same day… what a bam bam!

Is leadership so thankful for the $2 City Hall sends their way, they are afraid to say no, mount logical, moral and perhaps legal arguments and objections?

To be continued.

Cannibalization In Maturity

Cannibalization In Maturity

By N Oji Mzilikazi

(Originally published in Montreal Community Contact Volume 21, Number 12)

June 10, 2011

The sage Lao Tzu declared, “When things reach maturity, they decay of themselves. Thus a fruit ripen on a vine or tree will fall, ostensibly to die. History proves Lao Tzu’s observation to be true. Civilization, empires and societies attained a level of greatness, and poof! In one fell swoop or agonizing crawl they were no more; consigned to the dustbins of olden times and workplace for archaeologist.

The biblical Tower of Babel tells of man, clearly in a technological or advanced state building a structure to reach God. For such impertinence, God confounds man. Lost was the commonality of language and singleness of purpose. Individualism took root, and the selfishness and self-centeredness associated with that state resulted in everyone speaking a different language, leaving the ambitious project incomplete.

That biblical tale encapsulates the devolution that takes place upon reaching the pinnacle of evolution- the cannibalization that occurs in maturity. A dance that continues to be played out in a multitude of ways, and which oftentimes escapes our observation.

Consider a person coming from nothing, and who though hard work, perseverance or luck was able to build something of worth. Decades later, inheritors who never knew a day of hard work or the meaning of privations are in charge. Ignorant or uncaring about the sacrifices it took to establish their inheritance, their attitudes and values wrecks and destroys what their forbearers clawed, struggled and fought for to build and defend.

Better yet, consider the many in our community who came here as immigrants or whose parents and or family members pooled their meagre resources, took bank loans, borrowed from friends to send them abroad to study or for a better life.

Years later, they are established and or enjoying relatively comfortable living. Caught up in life’s ease, either they or their children failed to transmit their knowledge and values that got them to where they are. The end result is their children or grandchildren being handicapped, underperforming and underachieving, and having no concept of honour, loyalty, fealty, duty to family and community.

I once read that to indulge in a life of pleasure/debauchery, and to avoid serving in the army, the sons of Roman nobles would have their right thumbs amputated. The inability to hold a sword or use the bow and arrow meant in the face of barbarians, they couldn’t contribute to any defence whatsoever. They were thus liability and subject to be easy casualties.

Technology has made life and living so much easier that ease could be equated to being a deadly disease, and our “advanced” society casualties.

Cooking as in preparing food from scratch is increasing becoming a dying skill. We eat frozen, out of a box, in restaurants and at fast food joints; their commercially and chemically laced food changing our metabolism, damaging and destabilising our bodies. Then there is wonderment about the huge increase in obesity rates. To obfuscate, scientists indebted to Big Pharma and the food industry points to the existence of a “fat gene.”

To display cultural sophistication, many who grew up with knowledge of “bush”/aryurvedic medicine traded it in for scientific remedies. Yet, with 100 different things on pharmacy shelves for the common cold they complain about their inefficacy. They are quick to recount how back home they could’ve used this herb or that concoction and in no time the cold was gone, or they would make a poultice for this or that. Meanwhile, they aren’t interested in passing their knowledge down.

For all the pleasure derived from watching television, playing video games on mobile devices and the like, the boon of the Internet, computer technology and social media, we have become more sedentary and socially inept. The engaging nature of the technology has us sitting in a chair for hours and with a huge “do not disturb” body language sign. The lack of activity and simple exercise like walking facilitates poor health and obesity.

While the facelessness of the web affords talkativeness with anyone in any part of the world, lost is the ease of face to face or group interaction, as well as participation in same. We can now work at home, study at home, form friendships online, meet, date and marry someone from an online encounter, even be murdered through it.

Corporate greed in exploiting natural resources and dismissive attitudes to environmental economics have brought us to the brink of a far-reaching ecological crisis. We now have threats to biodiversity, species on the verge of being extinct, and bodies of water we cannot drink, fish in or swim. With overpopulation overtaxing land, marine resources and electricity, the threat of serious food shortages and power outages hang like the Sword of Damocles.

Chemicals, pathogens and contaminants in the food supply have resulted in hormone disrupting toxins in our bodies, the birth of new illnesses and diseases. Even as genetic research shows so much promise, solution, cures, and the only thing left to clone are humans, global warming and ice caps melting portends new dangers. Throw in the ongoing threat of terrorism and war, and mankind is on the verge of reset.

Thomas Mulcair & The Exercise of Racism

Thomas Mulcair & The Exercise of Racism

By N Oji Mzilikazi

(Originally published in Montreal Community Contact Volume 21, Number 11, under the title “The Exercise Of Racism And Its Impact.)

May 26, 2011

On the heels of the best ever showing of the NDP, Thomas Mulcair, its deputy leader, stated on national television that he didn’t believe photos of a dead bin Laden existed. To hear such absolute nonsense falling from the lips of an experienced politician, former cabinet minister and a lawyer none the less, had to be a calculated power play; a step in supplanting Jack Layton as party’s leader.

When it comes to politics, its politricks include politicians making use of any opportunities to get their name in print, score points, and articulating positions they do not necessarily hold to be true, but which will find traction with the public or deliver votes.

Case in point: Ken Melman who ran President Bush 2004 re-election campaign, was the chairman of the Republican National Committee, and pushed the Bush administration’s drive for a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage. In August 2010, he revealed he is gay and was working in support of same-sex marriage.

Mulcair had to be cognizant that the outlandishness of his assertion will be newsworthy, reported abroad, and since the NDP was now Canada’s official opposition party, voila!  Reversal to his political invisibility.

The insinuation from this political nobody was that President Obama was a liar, and he had the nerve to qualify his statement with, I don’t think from what I’ve heard…” What loop is he in? What connection could he possibly have in the Obama administration to know otherwise?

His statement was demeaning and disrespectful; especially considering the United States is Canada’s best friend, trading partner and closest ally. It is not something someone with leadership aspirations says about a “friend” or to sustain a valued relationship.

It was just as insulting as when Francoise Ducros, a senior aide of Prime Minister Jean Chretien referred to US President Bush in November 2002, as a moron, and when in November 2004, MP Carolyn Parrish stamped on an effigy of Bush on, “This Hour Has 22 Minutes” comedy show.

Mulcair deserves demotion, but this is Canada. Our talent pool is so limited that every Jack and Jill can easily win Juno and Gemini Awards or get their star on Canada’s Walk of Fame.

In view of former Quebec premier, Honoré Mercier being Mulcair’s great-great grandfather and the NDP in Quebec gaining 58 new seats, Layton dare not and will not demote him. The party needs all their “stars.”

The passiveness of the mainstream press in regard to Mulcair’s statement ought to be noted. There was no real pressing.

What made Mulcair’s statement so unpalatable, was just a week prior, Obama had shut up Donald Trump and the “birthers” with the release of his full birth certificate. Their lie was finally put to rest, and here was one of our future political stars essentially pissing on Obama. I doubt he would’ve responded that way if Hillary or McClain was in the Oval Office.

Let us not fool ourselves. Race as a principle of ascription is well-entrenched. Being to the right of race and political populism are intricately entwined. Dumping on Blacks for political gain is common place. White privilege and white power are jealously guarded.

When Obama was considering a run at the White House, The Wall Street Journal’s John Fund, declared (12/18/06), the hype surround Obama is worthy of “Hollywood, not for the serous business of running a country in troubled and dangerous times.” Therefore he should practice “statesmanship in the face of enormous temptation,” and not run just yet for the presidency. He should devote himself “to listening, learning and becoming the most effective senator for Illinois.”

When Claudel Toussaint, Haitian, the chairman of the PQ committee on ethno-cultural relations was nominated to contest the 2001 provincial by-election in the Mercier riding, Gazette columnist, Don Macpherson did a piece (02/07/01) calling him “PQ’s token ethnic.” When Yolande James was elected in Neligan riding, he described her as being Premier Charest hand puppet. (09/22/04)

“Token ethnic” and “hand puppet” are negatively charged words that eliminate persons taking into account worthiness and qualifications. They conjure the sense of charity when in fact those persons could represent voting blocks and be a boon to a political party or organization. Considering the dearth of people of African descent in Canadian politics, Macpherson’s articles cannot but be interpreted as…

The 2007 provincial elections forced Charest to trim his administration. He dropped Lawrence Bergman and Geoffrey Kelley, and appointed Yolande James, Minister of Immigration and Cultural Communities. As if the sky was falling and a deluge of blackness threatened to overwhelm the Liberal Party, the racists were aghast.

The loss of Bergman and Kelley were positioned as a blow to the English community, and James appointment characterized as a betrayal to Anglophones. Allen Nutik, Jewish, declared the cabinet’s makeup was insulting to English-speaking voters, all “our” cabinet ministers were fired, and James is very young, a neophyte.

He launched Affiliation Quebec- a new political party for those dissatisfied (read angry white males) with the Liberal Party.

The Suburban and The Chronicle newspapers were awash with articles critical of James [Not Appearing In The Community Contact Published Article: and lamenting no Jews in cabinet.

So what if no Jew is on the Cabinet? The Jewish community has always been well represented at both the federal and provincial levels. It’s not the end of their world if one of their MNAs is without a portfolio. Must Charest keep salt on the table even if it has lost its savour?]

James is English, therefore Anglophone. As a cabinet minister, none could make the case that the Anglophone community, an ethnic or visible or a cultural community wasn’t being served. The hullabaloo about no Anglo minister was simply code.

[Not Appearing In The Community Contact Published Article: The unspoken is that with a Jewish person in the cabinet, the government gets one person wearing both a kippa and a hat; someone having their heart in the Jewish community and who could double as an English rights advocate.  Jews have been politically successful simultaneously wearing both head gears. James didn’t bring that duality.]

Racists are skilled at slight-of-hand. Thus, from the attack on James, being Anglophone, and a minister who is Anglophone was reserved for white males and synonymous with being an English rights advocate.  (It is to be noted that Macpherson continued to attack James in the Gazette at every opportunity.)

As long as the Caribbean/West Indian/Black/African Community continues to engage in somnambulism, it will continue being victimized, its interests seen of no importance, and the backs of our exemplars will not be guarded.

What does it takes to recognize we have no friends; that we stand alone?

Provincial and municipal elections aren’t too far off. In four years there will be federal elections. Political activism is needed now.

To Be Continued.

Canada Election Lessons For Blacks

Canada Election Lessons For Blacks

By N Oji Mzilikazi

(Originally published in Montreal Community Contact volume 21, #10)

May 12, 2011

America with a 12 per cent Black population elected Barack Obama a mixed-race/Black person as its president, showing among other things, unification under the Democratic Party ideology.

Here in Quebec, the Quebec Hellenic Congress sent a letter counselling its members who traditionally vote Liberal, not to vote for the Liberal Party in the Montreal riding of Laval-les-Îles because their candidate is not of Greek origin. They were further advised to support another candidate.

In other words, the politics of ethnicity trumped the political manifesto of the Liberal Party. The candidate in question, Karine Joizil, is Black- of Haitian descent, female, and a lawyer.

According to the Montreal Gazette, (May 2, 2011) the president of the Quebec Hellenic Congress said their stance was neither personal against Joizel, nor were they against the Liberals. They were against the decision to nominate her and how it was made.  Regardless as to his telling, their obscene and offensive position was about exploiting ethnicity and by extension race for political gain.

I’m not mad at them though. They are about community self-interest, something people of African descent and the Caribbean community ought to take note.

The response I’d like to see from Black leadership is a call to make our dollars our politics, and boycott all things Greek, especially their restaurants. It can be explained as nothing personal, just an effort towards recycling our dollars in our community.

Furthermore, in July 2006, Casa Grecque was fined $1million for tax fraud. 28 of 60 franchises pled guilty to filing false tax statements to the federal and provincial governments. Since taxes go towards paying for services and the like, responsible citizens ought not support business known to engage in tax fraud.

Whether Blacks do or don’t do, have a university education or not, the exercise of racism exists. People actively discriminate and practice racial inequality. Therefore, it behoves leadership to advocate our self-empowerment and to make sure our interests are always on the table.

Lest we forget: In July 2007, one week after the Federal Liberal Party leader, Stéphane Dion, nominated Jocelyn Coulon as its candidate from the upcoming by-election in Montreal’s Outremont riding, B’Nai Brith Canada asked him to remove Coulon because of his stance on Israel. Outremont is a Liberal stronghold with a Jewish population.

According to the 2001 Federal Census, Jews make up about 10 per cent of the Outremont riding. Consequently, B’Nai Brith request is akin to saying that the only person deserving of representing the area is one who has the interest of the 10 per cent, and it’s not in regards to Canadian needs and issues, but that of Israel.

In 2004, former Montreal MP, Yvon Charbonneau, was appointed Canada’s ambassador to UNESCO. The Conservative Party called upon the government to reconsider the decision for, “Charbonneau’s criticism of Israel in the past has offended many Canadians.” (Montreal Gazette, October 7, 2004)

Earlier this month, the City University of New York decided to bestow an honorary degree on Tony Kushner, a Jewish playwright. The honorary degree was vetoed by a pro-Israeli activist and trustee of the University, who accused Kushner of being anti-Israel. (UK Guardian, May 6, 2011)

As repeatedly played out in Canada, America and elsewhere, politicians (and others) are positioned to “eat the bread the devil kneads” if they don’t have the right Jewish/Israeli vision. All due to the power of their organisations, political machinery and financial investments towards ensuring their interests takes precedence.

On the other hand, people of African descent are always quick to show how nice and accommodating they are to others, and are unwilling to close ranks to advance community interests.

Despite the fact that the Black community has always been looked upon as dangerous, dysfunctional, given pariah status and left alone to fend for itself, leadership and prominent citizens act as if the race is going to get a better grades, and they increased political capital for showing how committed or supportive they are to the cause of others.

In December 2005, Representatives of the Black Coalition of Quebec, the Muslim Council of Montreal and the Indian community joined forces to denounce the kidnapping of four humanitarian workers in Iraq, and to criticize the backlash on Muslims for the acts of their fanatics.

Where were those organizations when Black Montrealers were being victimized and vilified prior to 9/11? Up until 9/11, the Muslim community, although comprised of Blacks as well, was invisible, identified and benefited from intelligent, hard working, peaceful and successful immigrant status.

In fact, Quebec was happy to bring in French speaking Muslim immigrants to boost its francophone population. Given all that has taken place with the Black community since that show of unity, I have yet to see reciprocity from the others whose cause Dan Phillip and the Black Coalition supported.

Palestinian and Jewish Unity, a Montreal-based human rights group launched a boycott of an Israeli made brand of shoes sold at a particular retailer. In January 2011, Marlene Jennings, Liberal MP for Notre Dame de Grâce-Lachine, and the first Black woman from Quebec to sit in the House of Commons as an MP, made it a point to go to the store to buy a pair of shoes, as is her right.

Conversely, I’ve never seen the distinguished MP, convene anything specifically towards Black community empowerment, and can’t remember the last time she lent her voice to any of our issues. Interestingly, after 14 years she lost her seat to a lesser known rival.

To Be Continued.