Liberation Education: Community Building Funds

Liberation Education: Community Building Funds

By N Oji Mzilikazi

(Originally published in Montreal Community Contact Volume 21, Number 22)

 October 27, 2011

From the frequency of directional mis-steps, blurred vision and jaundiced view of self that inflict damage and limit community growth; I cannot help but ask myself if our guiding lights are afflicted with conjunctival hyperaemia.

Then again, I wonder if what they really need is something for “dey back.” Something to slug off tiredness, give them a lil’ pep in their step, more bounce to the ounce, a lil’ stamina and strength to handle the heavy lifting their office demands.

For “Chinaman” and “Black Stone” to work, one has to already have “blood flow.” I would’ve loved to suggest a raw egg concoction for seven days then a purge, but you can’t trust eggs. Viagra? I don’t know who among them have health issues. I wouldn’t like anyone to “come” and “go” at the same time.

While I trust Bois-bande and Yohimbe, it would be a shame if after using; they decide to change careers to be an “iron man” in Salah’s Steelband. I’ll play it safe and go with the trusted Multivol 12 Mineral and Vitamin Tonic- the one with Vitamin E, not Iron. Iron can cause constipation, and return them to sluggishness.

I recently questioned a gentleman about the failure of the literary organisation to which he belongs having an online presence, and their overall lack of presence. I believe their archive is valuable, a resource that ought to be accessible. They have been around for 20 plus years.

He explained the organization found a submitted price of $2000 for a website prohibitive, even though a member was willing to donate $500 to the project. I was flabbergasted. The fee wasn’t really expensive.  Given the profile of the players in that organization, raising that paltry sum to expand their brand, to be a player in the global marketplace ought to be child’s play.

The disservice in such an organization not having a website far outweighs whatever “hole in the pocket” the expense leaves.  And to know this year is the United Nations designated Year of People of African Descent.

I hung up the phone feeling those people had lost the strength to fight. They were just a bunch of tired old men who by virtue of letters to their name, and past accomplishment were caught up in the elitism of cliquishness, so contented to sit idly by and lament over our lost youths. Is Multivol fuh dem!

In August the Imani Family and Full Gospel Church led by Reverend Daryl Gray launched a campaign fund to acquire their place of worship. Their target – $400, 000.

This month the Union United Church in Little Burgundy launched their campaign fund. They need $6 million for its restoration. Gray was once the head honcho of that United Church.

While I’m all for ownership, the Black Church has ceased to be a motivator  and driving force in the community, or given to political activism.

Its demographics are much older people who tend to drag their young children or grandchildren with them. Some who once lived the life; were in the game and in recognition of mortality want to make their soul right with the Lord. Not that there is anything wrong with that.

But we have like two lost generations; Black males in the main, 14 to 30 that are clueless, have no sense of self, identity, morality, understand cause and effect or care for education, are attached to a culture rife with negatives and inherently self-destructive. They need intervention, need saving, and they never go to church.

Would owning a church re-establish the moral, spiritual and religious codes of conduct so lacking in our children? Get our children back into the classroom, engender studiousness? Revitalise the spirit of the community? Bring people back into the houses of worship so their spirit and soul could be fed?

Given the current state of the community and the partisan nature of Christian denominations- each sect having their own dogma, interpretation of the Bible and not given to associating with others; who is going to be served from a church owning their building? Is this where our community dollars ought to go?

While Union United has had a storied past; serving the community since 1907, its glory days is long gone. Furthermore, although founded by 14 Black families, it belongs to the United Church organization. No amount of community dollars pumped into it will make it Black-owned.

25 plus years ago there was enough open space for Union to expand its structure and or build a parking lot for its parishioners. It didn’t. Its board of directors and guiding pastor(s) lacked foresight and visions for growth. Condos/apartment blocks went up in the open space next to the church. Increased were their parking woes.

To the Church saying the building no longer meets the congregation’s needs, I could only shake my head. On the other hand, Montreal Sikhs built a massive temple in LaSalle to serve not just its present community, but future one as well, and with ample parking.

It is straight up negligence that allowed the Church to decay to the point that it had to be deconsecrated. They could’ve embarked on aggressive funding when its problems first reared its head.

Didn’t none who served get Proverbs 6: 6-8?  “Go to the ant, thou sluggard; consider her ways, and be wise: Which having no guide, overseer, or ruler, provided her meat in the summer, and gathereth her food in the harvest.”

At what point do we stop funding dysfunction and incompetence? I say let the Church stay in its current digs and build a new history.

I’d much rather see a Capital Campaign Fund for ownership of a Black Caribbean/West Indian Cultural Centre. Its very nature negates partisanship. One can be Episcopalian, Methodist, Muslim, Baptist, atheist, or other and able to use it.

Imagine a Black Cultural Centre with guest rooms and service to accommodate artistes and performers our promoters bring from abroad or from other provinces. A building housing a library, a 300 to 500 seat auditorium, space for exhibitions, expositions, literary readings, functions including wedding receptions, birthday parties and anniversary celebrations, and of course with ample parking.

There was a lot of infighting, and it took twenty-one years, but in November 2005 the Montreal Chinese Community was blessed with its Cultural Centre. The three-storied complex cost $7.2 million.

Funds came from the City of Montreal, the Canada-Québec Infrastructure Works Program and from the Federal Heritage Department. One could look at it as a taxpayer-funded enterprise. Surely a Black Cultural Centre should be able to obtain funding from those bodies as well.

In 2002 George Gyrovatka paid $1 for a 99-year lease on a Parks Canada Property to build a Czech Cultural Centre. The property is located next to the Lachine canal. Gyrovatka is the director of the non-profit Czech Cultural Centre Inc.

Bear in mind that the Czech government has some 19 cultural centres in cities like London, Paris, and New York- places with a huge Czech population. Published statistics place the Canadian Czech population at 60,000, with 5,000 residing in Montreal.  Yet in the name of so few, Gyrovatka came up with a fantastic plan.

Gyrovatka’s Czech Cultural Centre was not affiliated with those of the Czech government so it was going to be privately funded. Its slated design was a four-story building with 36 rooms for visiting artists, rooms that could be rented out for meetings, a canal-side restaurant and a rooftop sports club that would be open to the general public. Upon completion it will have 70 permanent jobs. That is vision in action.

In July 2007 after two years of painstaking work, the $40-million Hindu temple, the BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir was unveiled in Toronto. Made of marble, every stone in its construction was hand-carved in India. Vision and self-industriousness allowed the Hindu community to raise funds for a magnificent structure that makes Hindus all over the world proud.

The Black presence in Canada predates that of many other ethnicities. Yet we don’t have institutions that testify to that. Granted we have faced tons of obstacles, but a united vision allows us to face them gallantly. Individually a person might falter, be injured or even be fatally wounded, but the will of the collective can only be denied for so long.

Our community has numbers. All we need is vision, leadership commitment, a concrete plan and unbending will. Don’t get me wrong. There have been strong organizations, persons and groups with clear vision. We have had buildings, and then… Who is going to step to the plate? Up you mighty race you can!