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…


Sense & Sensibilities

Sense & Sensibilities

By N Oji Mzilikazi

July 12, 2012

(Originally published in the Montreal Community Contact Volume 22, Number 13)

Ti m’ba r’oto ma so, o le panu mi de
Je’nwi temi o, o le panu mi de
Otito ko ro, o le panu mi de
Bo ti mi mo’le o, o le panu mi de
Otito ko ro o, omo araiye o fe
Be fe, befe o, mi a wi temi

(If I see the truth, I will say it, you can’t shut me up
Let me say mine, you can’t close my mouth
Truth is bitter, you can’t shut me up
You can imprison me, but you can’t close my mouth
The truth is bitter, the world hates it
Like it or not, I will say mine)

– “Je’nwi temi”

— Fela Kuti














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.

New Year Wish List For Our Community

New Year Wish List For Our Community

By N Oji Mzilikazi

(Originally published in Montreal Community Contact volume 20,#24)

December 16, 2010

Rebirth of a Central Organization:

Individual associations if island based or community oriented are limited issue organisations. Attending to the complex and multitudinous issues confronting/affecting our wide and diverse community limit their effectiveness and detract from their mandate. Furthermore, they have no real power to negotiate meaningfully with municipal authorities, the government and or private corporations. Therefore, it makes sense to have a strong central organisation.

The power of the collective ensures better access, better services and even better funding. Since blueprints already exist a la the Black Community Council of Quebec (BCCQ), my wish is for persons with influence and committed to community to initiate dialogue with others towards the rebuilding of a central organization.

A Report on Reports

In July 1992, the brightest minds from various organizations spent a weekend in Val Morin working out strategies and structure to best advance the interest of our community. Having obtained a copy of the document the conference produced, I can attest it is verily a blueprint for success, yet its implementation never materialised.

In September 2005, Premier Charest mandated public consultations and task forces on the state of the province’s racial, ethnic and religious minorities towards their betterment. I don’t know whom, or what organization took the lead on ours, “The Full Participation of Black Communities in Québec Society,” but something is amiss when given our present circumstance, none can say to Premier Charest, “You promised instant action on recommendations from those task forces but x, y, and z hasn’t been implemented.”

Far too many things have been done to improve our community and in the name of community for us to be still treading water. My wish is for concerned community members to rise up and demand accountability. Our stewards past and present owe explanations. It is not a witch-hunt. Sins will be forgiven. We are in need of information and clarity so our next leaders won’t be fumbling or look like bumbling idiots, or be treated with disrespect by the City and others. My wish is for those involved in the two aforementioned processes to come forth in this newspaper or in a forum and enlighten us.

New Leadership

My wish is 2011 will bring a recommitment to community by its long serving members as well as new faces to the fore. Our community is in need of the service of those who are financially astute, intellectually brilliant and committed to its rejuvenation. These emerging leaders must commit themselves to the promotion of education, technical certification, fiscal responsibility, and economic empowerment, and they must be the morally courageous, fearless, respectful and of the highest integrity. Leaders who understand that selfishness, negativity, hopelessness and evil prosper when people lose faith, and people lose faith when leadership falls short of ideological expectations, is morally compromised, duplicitous, arrogant, abusive, and self-serving.

Happy Holidays to one and all!