Aging in an Age of Innovative Technologies, Global Changes to the Economic Paradigm, and Quebec’s Uniqueness

 

By N Oji Mzilikazi

The full keynote address I delivered on Saturday 11 November at Montreal Caribbean Social Organization 40th Anniversary Celebration

Ms. Corbett, Thanks for the warm introduction.

Madame President, Guests of Honour, Ladies and Gentlemen,

Greetings in name of everything that’s Good, and a Pleasant Good Evening to one and all!

My name is N Oji Mzilikazi.  I am a board member for the Council for Black Aging Community of Montreal, whose office is in this very shopping plaza, opposite Super C.

I’ve put myself in a position this evening to undertake a duty, which I generally take great pains to avoid—that of giving a speech. And to know I must do so before the esteem members of the Montreal Caribbean Social Organization, and its friends and guests at its 40th anniversary grand celebration.

Allow me to explain: I was hanging out at the Office of the Council for Black Aging when Mr. Errol came in to inquire about a speaker for this very function. Without a second thought—and insanely arrogating unto myself the full authority of the Board and Association, I told Mr. Errol to consider it a done deal.

I never foresaw myself as the designated speaker. After all, the face of most organization is usually the Executive Director and/or the President of the Board. I am just a member of the board with no portfolio whatsoever and desirous of none. I’m contented to be ordinary. And so, for my brashness (I’m only kidding), I’m the one you’re saddled with, and the Council president, my president, Ms. Wilma Alleyne is seated at the head table to ensure I don’t bring the Council in disrepute. (Only Kidding.)

My task this evening is more than just delightful. It is an honour and a privilege to stand before you and with you.

I emigrated to Canada in June 1978. Since all I’ve ever known was songs of Black Power, Black empowerment, Black Liberation and songs of Freedom, and living in LaSalle, MSCO was the first Black organization I visited. Then, it was located behind the City and District Bank at the corner of Newman and Dollard.

Militant—in my mind, Revolutionary—in my mind, I didn’t want to align myself with or join any sort of social organization. Hence, I didn’t become a member of MSCO.

My next visit to MSCO, then located in the LaFleur shopping centre was sometime in the late 80’s or early 90s.  I was hired to Dj at a hip-hop/R&B New Years Eve dance by a promotor I knew quite well, and I did it as a favour.

My politics prevented me from partying in businesses located in basements, especially when the entrance and exit are the same. I equated that to acclimatization to the cargo hold of a slave ship, and I don’t cater, even if President Barack Obama would be there. That’s me, that my politics. No disrespect to any of our business located in basements because of economic factors and the like.

A little over two months ago I was introduced to Mrs. Doreen food service on a Friday in this very locale, and since then, I’ve stopped cooking on a Friday.

With that in mind, can I claim being an MCSO regular, an MCSO supporter?

I was thoroughly impressed the first time I walked through the door of this Association, and it is all because of the photographs and memorabilia on the wall.

One is hard-pressed to find in English-speaking, Black, West Indian, Caribbean organizations photographs of their progenitors, photographs of their Board members for any given year; in short no memorialization of those that built, served, sacrificed, contributed to an organization storied history; no memorialization of those upon whose shoulders we stand. Progeny is thus left to say my grandmother, my grandfather, my aunt, my uncle, my father, my mother served community, and there is no visual proof; no photographs or names engraved on plaques in tribute or as validation.

Madame President, your organization deserves a round of applause. Give yourself a round of applause.

I’ve been in Canada for 39 years. MCSO has been around for 40 Years. We have both experienced a world of things, and if you would allow me a bit of conceit, we have both aged gracefully. And this leads me to the subject this evening:

Aging in an Age of Innovative Technologies, Global Changes to the Economic Paradigm, and Quebec’s Uniqueness.

In December 2004, Statistics Canada released a report that stated, “Canada has changed from a high-fertility society where women had many children during their lives to a low-fertility society where women are having fewer children overall and at increasingly older ages.” And with the current birth rate, in 25 years, the population of seniors 65 and older could be more than double the number of children under 15.

In October 2005, Foreign Affairs Minister Pierre Pettigrew said that Canada’s population must rise to 40 million from its current 31, to compensate for an aging population and retiring baby boomers.

Days before Quebec’s 1995 Referendum, Lucien Bouchard, the leader of the Bloc Québécois stated, We’re one of the white races that has fewest children.” The implication: White francophone women must have more children if Quebec is to ever achieve its dream of sovereignty.

In 2001, Quebec recorded the lowest birth rate since 1910. (The low birthrate of white francophone women is at the heart of the fears of French language and French culture dying.) Per government reports, Quebec’s population is aging faster than the rest of North America.

What does a low birthrate have to do with aging?

Workers pay taxes. Taxes gave municipalities and governments the revenue they need to afford the wide range of public and social services and pay salaries. Without a replacement population to ensure a continued and sizeable tax-paying workforce, an aged population will burden our currently free health-care system. Health-care already takes a huge slice of the budget.

The maintenance and enjoyment of wealth necessitate having to feed as few mouths as possible; having fewer people using up resources. Consequently, the more affluent, developed and progressive a society, the fewer children it produces. Canada is an affluent nation.

Add to the mix, the availability of birth control and other non-reproductive technologies, abortion, sexual choice, the financial independence of women, female empowerment and freedom from domesticity, plus the decline of the Church in controlling lives and lifestyle, and it’s impossible to confine women to the home or demand they produce babies.

The Canadian birth rate is well below replacement levels. (Population projections show that by 2030, “net immigration may become the only source of population growth.”)

Per a 2010 Canadian Parliamentary report: “A birth rate that is below replacement level over the long term would make the government’s ‘current fiscal structure not sustainable.’ If it continues its downward trend, there would have to be a sharp rise in taxes and major cuts to government services.” (Major cuts could include pensions.)

The latest census data shows for the first time in Canadian history there are more people over the age of 65 than there are under the age of 15.

Compounding matters—the ability of Federal and provincial governments to continue to amply cater to the needs of our increasing aging population as well as maintain its current pension payouts, much more increase it, to keep pace with the cost of living—are the effects of globalization, outsourcing, computerization, automation, free trade and non-stop advances in innovative and information technologies and their industries.

For all their advantages, they are not job creators. They do not spread wealth or support social mobility. (Just look at the devastating impact of Whats app, Facetime and email on the postal service.) They made numerous long-established occupations and skilled trades obsolete, closed factories, laid off million of workers, created widespread employment unavailability/job shortages, and are directly responsible for impoverishing communities, the increase in poverty, homelessness, people on welfare, the increase in drug usage/drug addiction, gravitation to crime, social systems under siege, youths unable to envision a bright future, and government cutbacks; towns, cities and municipalities no longer having a large tax base of workers—adequate financial resources to deliver as well as adequately service the basic needs of the population.

Work enriches both people and society. Work alleviates poverty and is the first step towards prosperity. Work puts time to beneficial use. In doing so, work minimizes criminal pursuit, and by extension, contribute to social stability.

Work; being employed, bestows a positive outlook on life. Work allows one to plan a course and dream of brighter, better and bigger things. Work inspires, engenders self-esteem, the sense of pride, and the sense of worth and accomplishment.

Despite the upsides to work, business do not care about the human condition, their employees’ financial obligations or aspirations, or the negative ramifications of their policies. Business is all about maximum profitability.

To that end, business is continuously looking for new ways to hire labour cheaply, cut expenses, increase profits for themselves and their shareholders, limit legal accountability as well as limit corporate responsibility.

Manufacturing jobs are labour intensive. For decades, factory work/manufacturing jobs was the source of stable employment. They allowed school dropouts and the poorly educated to earn a living, provide for family, own a home, open their own businesses, also ascend to middle-class status. And even though automations, technological advancements and computerization forced reductions to the workforce, manufacturing was still labour intensive; still employed vast numbers of workers.

Blinded by tunnel-vision pursuit of mind-boggling profits, western business elites closed factories and companies, and outsourced—apportioned entire industries and thousands of jobs to countries with less-developed economies and an abundant supply of cheap labour.

In those markets, there are no unions, no minimum wage scale, no employment, health or insurance benefits, and very weak to no worker and environmental protection laws. Monthly salaries do not come close to the daily wage paid to an employee in a rich nation like ours.

Since competitiveness determines success in the global marketplace, outsourcing cannot be reversed. Besides the prohibitive outlay of capital necessary to return those jobs, western nations cannot compete with the cheapness of labour in outsourced markets and the cheapness to which life is held in those countries. As such, industries and jobs exported to Asia, Southeast Asia and other less-developed nations are permanently lost, regardless of the rhetoric from the likes of Donald Trump about “bringing jobs back.”

The unavailability of jobs and competition over jobs have undermined worker protections, benefits, job security, the power of unions, and cheapen the price of labour. Workers can no longer afford to tell an employer to F–off, and easily find a new job. Workers must contend with having to work and produce more for a lesser salary and with less to no benefits.

And so, technology, advancements in information, automated systems, automation and its role in the loss of skilled, as well as labour intensive jobs, a global marketplace, the inter-relatedness, co-dependency of economies alongside competitive pressures from globalization have irreversibly changed the economic paradigm.

Historical forces of power, racist ideologies, white supremacist education, racist attitudes and practices, and racial, economic and social exclusion accounts for Aboriginals and people of African descent as the premier impoverish and discriminated ethnicities in Canada. As noted in a 2011 report by the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives and the Wellesley Institute,a ‘colour code’ is keeping visible minorities out of good jobs in the Canadian labour market.”

Things are worse off for Blacks in Quebec regardless of French language proficiency, having French as their mother tongue or being born in the province. For, for all the language and culture wars between Quebec’s white francophones and white anglophones, they are able to accommodate one another, unite to oppose and oppress non-whites—and separately and collectively discriminate against Aboriginals and people of African descent.

A 2010 McGill University study, based on a comparison of the 1996 and 2006 census results, found things have gotten worse for Montreal’s Black community: “University-educated blacks had 10.9 per cent unemployment, which was on par with jobless numbers among non-black dropouts.”

What does it say about the society when a white high school dropout is on the same level as a Black person with a university degree; when educated Blacks and uneducated whites are equal in employment opportunities?

Since we as Afro-Canadians, Black Canadians, Black Quebecers, West Indians, Caribbean people, Black people and overall people of African descent  live in an overwhelmingly white society of two linguistically and culturally different founding and competing colonialists; the English and the French, and whose economic, cultural, social policies and institutional practices are geared towards them, and by extension sustaining exclusion, discrimination, racism and white supremacy, the slightest social or economic earthquake devastates the community regardless as to how educated or gainfully employed members are.

Economics is at the heart of racism. Cheap labour and the exploitation of people and resources are intrinsic to capitalism. Keeping folks’ underemployed, poor, educationally bankrupt, financially illiterate, politically excluded and socially segregated, and more-importantly, self-assisting in their own self-defacement and dehumanization, when combined with an absence of visionary leadership ensure an unending pool of two-legged beasts of burden.

Here we are celebrating MCSO’s 40th Anniversary, all put together; well-dressed, money in our pockets and purses, radiant, beautiful, handsome, sexy, educated, brilliant, confident, and quite the professional, and being complemented by others, and quite possibly angry or worried because our life sucks, underemployment and the lack of financial knowledge have us unprepared in retirement,  our loved one is in a nursing home or we face going to nursing homes that do not address our needs, especially culinary. Mannish water, cow foot soup, ackee and saltfish, palau, roti and patties are non-existent—and no one knows it but you.

Only you know what you had to do, what you had to put up with or what was done to you to get to here—where you are. Who knows what you would’ve been, what you could’ve accomplished if hurt and pain didn’t befriend you, if you weren’t betrayed by those who were supposed to love and protect you, or abused and exploited by those who claimed they loved you?

Who knows what you and I, our community could’ve accomplished if racism and discrimination didn’t plant their boots on our face, and there was visionary leadership?

The aged and aging in our community face many challenges. Many, in their younger days, found themselves trapped in dead-end and low-paying jobs without any benefits whatsoever, especially if without papers. Equal numbers were “paid under the table” by employers looking to get over by not giving the government their due. Only to realise that upon turning 60, they have no Quebec pension to collect and must wait until age 65 to collect Federal.

Ignorance as to the benefits of paying into the system as well as permanently struggling business have some of our entrepreneurs in the same boat when it comes to Quebec pension. Vast periods of unemployment have others in the same jar; entitled to little or no Quebec pension.

Many in our community worked hard, made the requisite sacrifice so their children can exceed and excel; have an education, attend university and with gainful employment, acquire the best things in life. Quebec couldn’t facilitate their dreams. They had to migrate to greener pastures. Parents now live alone and must contend with infrequent visits as aches, pains, arthritis, high-blood pressure, diabetes etc cetra advance their aging.

There are many seniors in our community; single mothers and battle-scarred grandmothers who paid their dues and who deserve being served but are under stress, in distress as they are forced into service; forced to drag tired bones to parent angry, manipulative, technically savvy, indiscipline, self-absorbed, troubled, damaged grandchildren/siblings; children orphaned by neglect, abuse, mental illness, drugs or incarceration and who need respite.

Aging in this age of innovative technologies, global changes to the economic paradigm, and Quebec’s uniqueness is fraught with complexities. The Council for Black Aging Community of Montreal exists to assist seniors in navigating this minefield.

The Council advocate for elders, provide information on the wide range of subjects that affect the elderly, encourages elders to maintain their autonomy and independence for as long as possible at home, interpret legislation from all levels of government that affect elders, and respects the wishes, decisions and confidentiality of your information.

The Council organizes activities to maintain as well as improve quality of life, activities that foster socialization, prevent social isolation, have seminars, conferences and workshops, plus lectures by health professionals, do call-ins to persons that are shut in, and perform friendly visits.

The Council for Black Aging is partnered with many associations. Madame President, I believe it would be mutable beneficial for the Montreal Caribbean Social Organization to partner with the Council.

Before I take my seat, I would like us all to raise a glass to the health and continued growth of MCSO.

Thank You

 

 

 

 

 

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 NCC Saga: “Rallye and Petition”

The NCC Saga: “Rallye and Petition”

By N Oji Mzilikazi

April 28, 2014

A “Rallye and Petition” email from an ad-hoc group of concerned citizens interested in preserving the Negro Community Centre (NCC) building in Little Burgundy, and soliciting input and support for a monster rally on Saturday May 24, 2014, is currently in circulation.

As much as I would like to see the NCC preserved, I find the desire and intent to make the NCC a cause célèbre to mobilise the community around to be ill-conceived, a knee-jerk reaction, and misdirected.

Are we never going to accept ownership for our self-oppression through organizational infighting, incompetence, sins of omission and commission, and our penchant to recruit, empower, and recycle egotistical, selfish, poorly-educated, visionless, and untrained soldier-leaders to lead troops on the front line of a war in which Blacks are attacked on all fronts, and we are perennially victims?

No wonder we overwhelmingly die from self-inflicted wounds.

There were no calls for a rally or petition when Centraide withdrew its funding from the NCC over issues of accountability and transparency. There were no calls for a rally or petition when the door of the NCC was locked in 1989. But now that bricks are on the street…

It is not the first time in the history of the NCC a wall buckled. This collapse points to underlying structural issues with the building. Furthermore, in accordance with the law of use and disuse, buildings and houses rot and crumble when empty. 20 plus years of abandonment must prompt decay.

A more detailed inspection has to take place. Any which way, the collapse drastically increased the price tag to renovate.

Given that our newly elected mayor voiced that the state of the City finances warrants austerity, the only way the City might contemplate bailing the NCC out is if the community can raise at least $500, 000 on its own strength.

Better than a massive rally is contemplation of how the community could raise at least half a million dollars, and an action plan to do so. Then we can approach the 3 levels of government saying this is what we have, we’d like them to at least double if not match it — and the NCC can be reborn, rise like the mythological phoenix.

Dr. Clarence Bayne, the long-serving president of the Black Studies Centre (BSC) has been quite vociferous in the emails exchange in regards to the NCC. Since Bayne has the BSC building up for sale, and it could fetch at least $500,000, it makes sense for the ad-hoc group to ask him to make the Black Study Centre part of the Negro Community Centre. Invest the monies from the sale of the BSC into the NCC.

That is social pragmatism, a phrase Bayne enjoys throwing out, and at the same time Black empowerment, we doing for self.

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.

The August 14, 2007, Gazette informed thata $2.5-million grant from the city of Montreal was recently approved to renovate, restore, and reopen the NCC.

The article stated: “A new board (under the presidency of Shirley Gyles) started working to reopen the NCC in 2004. They presented a feasibility study to the city of Montreal and got their grant. They are hoping to get the rest of their $6.5-million budget from the provincial and federal governments.” And all went quiet until a wall collapsed on April 13.

Rather than demand the resignation of Shirley Gyles and the entire NCC board over them being asleep at the wheel, 2007 to 2014 without progress reports, fund-raising activities, and keeping the restoration of the NCC front and centre, commentators in the email want to make Gyles and company a part of the equation.

I’m sorry; Gyles can bring nothing to the table.

Didn’t none of them read the April 14 Gazette article in which reporter René Bruemmer stated about Gyles: “She was at a loss about what to do next.”

You mean to tell me that in the face of that “disaster,” Gyles couldn’t take the time out to consult with anyone and craft a well thought out and solid statement inferring that the Board still has things lockdown, instead of appearing clueless?

Hasn’t she never seen CEOs and “big boys” on tv engaging in crisis management or executing a mea culpa?

To add insult to injury, Bruemmer’s article contains the following: “We were not all slaves,” she said, a hint of anger in her tone. There were a lot of educated blacks who came here and did good things. Not just musicians and tap dancing.” How ignorant is that?

Slavery legally ended for those in Europe, North America, and the West indies approximately 150 years ago. Apart from continental Africans, all Blacks in those lands native-born or otherwise came out of the cauldron and legacies of colonialism and slavery – that has us still traumatised, mentally enslaved, suspicious and distrustful of one another, given to undermining one another rather than unite in pursuit of organizational growth and success. Thus we create and recreate weak organizational structures that accounts for our stagnation and deterioration.

Gyles articulation reeks of island tribalism/intra-racial discrimination, personal insecurity and self-hate.

When the white racial superiority belief package and baggage that extols the homogeneous and evil nature of Blacks pretty much consigns people of African descent to the back of the bus and the hold of the ship, self-hating Blacks love to differentiate and engage in discourse as to who came here by birth, and who arrived by boat, as well as jockey as to who is a superior Black.

The again, conflict between native born Blacks and Black West Indian immigrants to Canada has long plagued the NCC. And in many cases, the parents or grandparents of native born Black Canadians were West Indian immigrants themselves.

A commentator made the point that Reverend Gray and Dr. Dorothy Williams are perhaps the best political spokespersons for the group. I disagree. They already had their bite on the apple, give someone new the opportunity to step forth and lead.

Given it was under Williams’ watch the NCC was locked shut, is it wise to have her as a spokesperson? Surely with her insight and knowledge she could function more effectively as a strategist, consultant and resource person.

It was under Gray’s watch the 40-year-old NDG Black Community Association (NDGBCA) closed its doors. Yet, Gray had no qualms stating to CBC Daybreak (April 14), and posted on line, on CBC website that: “We can no longer sit by and let our community institutions crumble and collapse.” How ironic.

Gray told Daybreak: “Montreal’s black community lacked the financial infrastructure to see the project realized.” But it was under Gray’s watch that the CDNBCA became NDGBCA fiduciary -the Côtes-des-Neiges Black Community Association (CDNBCA) had to step in and assist the NDGBCA in setting up a management and financial structure to ensure the sustainability of the NDGBCA. And Gray dares to utter the word finance.

Gray was also part of the NCC rebuilding process in the early 2000s. He was the chair of the NCC Board. Gray’s baggage is too much. Having him as a spokesperson is definitely problematic.

Pointed out was: “Unless we present a united front, the people in power will view us as divided and this will hurt our appeal.”

The people in power have long known Montreal Black English speaking community to be divided, impotent and given to infighting.

Three years ago there was no Carifiesta. While infighting between two competing groups is said to be the cause, Everiste Blaize, the president of CCFA that puts on Carifiesta explained: At the suggestion of City Hall, CCFA called upon a group of community elders to go to City Hall to lobby on their behalf. The elders then decided they were best suited to run the carnival, and threw their hat in the ring.

Three groups vying for the carnival resulted in its suspension. Blaize identified Dr. Clarence Bayne as one of elders that went to City Hall.

For the past couple years, the Jamaica Association has been celebrating Jamaica Day on the same day as Carifiesta. Given that both festivities more or less tap into the same pool of people for support, and the music for each is remarkably different, doing so ensures that our food vendors and party promoters have one day and not two days to “eat ah food.”

Jamaica Day falling on Carifiesta hurts the community economically. It denies our businesspersons, entrepreneurs and hustlers the chance to turn a profit. Furthermore, Brand Jamaica is too big to have to feed off Carifiesta, but no one at the Jamaica Association is listening to sound arguments as to why they should return to having their own day.

Just as we in the community have the inside story on our exemplars who are divisive, shady, “smart man/smart woman,” and who wear masks of integrity, competence and so on, but are far from, so do the people in power.

On account of community pettiness, infighting, and lack of strong and visionary leadership, and the record of past and current leadership, those in power are never going to truly extend a helping hand to our community, or seek to empower it.

Thus, our concerns are never taken seriously or acted upon. As a result, our members continue to be discriminated against, marginalised, not treated fairly by officers of the law and the courts, and find themselves beached on the lowest rungs of the economic ladder.

We do not need to present a mythical united front to get the NCC back up and running. What we need to do is to clean house, bring in new leadership — fresh voices, and a fresh voice (preferably female) that understands Black empowermentto articulate community needs, demands, and positions, and a game plan/business plan that has been analysed to death to ensure it is truly solid. Anything less and the NCC would never rise.

Emancipation 2013: Beyond Rumshop Politics

EMANCIPATION 2013: BEYOND RUMSHOP POLITICS

By N Oji Mzilikazi

Originally published in the Montreal Community Contact Volume 23, Number 15 July 25, 2013    

Apart from those that make a living from pimping community, one would be hard-pressed to find anyone who can say they are happy with the state of Montreal’s English speaking West Indian/Caribbean community, and Montreal Black community.

Yet, outside of living room and rumshop discourses, there are no animated and raised voices in protests, perceptible disgust in what passes for community and organizational leadership.

There is no revolt; people demanding better service, a better product and refusing to buy shoddy goods. People willing to hold promoters, community stewards and community leadership accountable, shame and take to task all those that sow divisiveness, engage in skullduggery and “smartman” politics, and/or invoke and use community interests for personal gain.

And though unchecked “ship” continues to erode and destroy all that was previously built by resistance to institutional racism and legalised discrimination, blood, sweat, sacrifice, and community dollars, our interests seems to be about staying friends with everyone and not influencing, working towards or demanding change.

Still, in the spirit of righteous indignation, we quickly got angry over the Zimmerman not guilty verdict.

Healthy and progressive societies are self-critical. Pursuers of achievement and success use criticism as a tool for introspection and retrospection, to spur growth and shore up weaknesses. Not us.

We’ve been socialised to interpret criticism – the critiquing of policies and actions – not personalities, as badmouthing and personal attacks. And that childishness manifest in us “toting” feelings; vex and not talking to this one, not supporting that one, forever seeking ways to pay them back, putting whatever dirty laundry they believe they have on the person out in the streets, using comedy – jokes, “fatigue” and “picong” to verbally abuse and humiliate, and throw words at a person rather than discuss the disagreement. In the extreme we form new and competing organizations.

I belong to an All Fours Club that was formed in 1994. The recently departed Johnny Cool was one of its founders.

One of our presidents suffered from prime ministeritis and presidentitis. It’s the syndrome of persons in power who believe they are most capable leader. They must be in charge. They know what is best for everyone, and can trample on the constitution if it gets in his/her way. He was deservedly taken to task.

Rather than be contrite and willing to make amends, he resigned to form a new All Fours club. On account of the clannish relationships people foster in organizations, the club secretary, treasurer and a couple of his flatterers and toadies left ours to join his.

The person in question has a history of breaking away from existing organisations to form his own, to be unchallenged and in control of the hustle. Why “hustle”? Anything that doesn’t think about sustainable initiatives, envision and have long term objectives, or care for structure, accountability, transparency, is a hustle. And so his organisations have died ignominiously.

In the spirit of hustle, there are persons who formed organisations to be their personal fiefdom. And in being its president and/or chair, and having family members on its executive or board, they mistakenly believe they’re exempt from openness and having to explain or defend acts and action.

Nonetheless, when they put out a weak product, it’s the community – not them, that reaps the bad name, is charged with incompetence. And every time the community is sullied, brought into disrepute, it makes it harder for others to trust us, and be willing to invest in us – and growth is stymied.

Without growth and models of success, our children and grandchildren will be burden with the weight of low/diminished expectations, which in the long run engender a criminal mindset.

We all have a stake in organisational outcomes. Yet our many organisations refuse to talk to one another.

In every issue of this newspaper, you’d see entertainment events colliding and competing with each other, and not that we have the numbers to support them all. How hard is it for organisations (even street promoters) to have an entertainment mafia, to have a sit down and divvy up dates on the calendar so their respective events have a greater stab at success?

Though democracy and capitalism advocates free agency and a free market, and we are born self-centered and egoistic, our operating businesses after starting four hundred yards and four hundred years behind others necessitate a different approach, a more co-operative one, if we have to catch-up, much more exceed.

Plus, if you look at the world, corporations and big business have established monopolies; made mom and pop operations obsolete. Yet we don’t want to align ourselves with and/or work with others, or support one another.

How difficult it is for our organisations to subscribe to each other’s events, reciprocally buy at least five (5) tickets in support? A 5-member alliance of organisations thus has a built in sale of 20 tickets.

As much as we wrap ourselves in our island flags, talk about big island, small islanders, who is from the mainland, who is “country bookie,” and who is the best and the worst, island identity isn’t doing “ship” for us here. The majority population and others, see us through the lens of blackness and homogeneity, and all that goes with it.

Power respects power. Economic success lends itself to accessing power. When we support other organisations, we break down inherited and cultural island and ethnic antagonisms – impediments to community success. Where there is a will, there is a way.

David Austin, in his recent book, “Fear of a Black Nation,” published an excerpt from an August 15, 1968, RCMP memo, showing its fear, concern that “Negroes in Canada” were collaborating with “Negro Black nationalist in the United States and abroad.” Abroad — as from the West Indies/Caribbean.

There is strength in alliances and unified objectives. Politicians, business people, and strong communities intimately know that success is dependent on their ability to marry their interests. They don’t have to like, much more love each to do so, and they do not pursue their interests to the detriment of the other. Isn’t it time we do the same?

Emancipation Day: August 1, 2013

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

Jamaica can boast of having produced many outstanding citizens – citizens of the world – people of stature who left indelible footprints in the Diaspora, as well as in history. Jamaica can boast of leaders and leadership in Black pride, Black empowerment and – putting up resistance.

Jamaica has been a cradle and crucible that forges and nurtures the fierce and independent spirit of warriors. Jamaican born Dutty Boukman led the 1791 slave revolt in Haiti against France.

In 1796, at the end of the Second Maroon War in Jamaica – a war between runaway slaves and the British; 586 Maroon men, women and children were deported from Jamaica and transported to Halifax, Nova Scotia.

The British mistakenly believed the snow of Canada and their direct control and supervision of the Maroons would force capitulation. Refusing to bend the knee, many of the Maroons were eventually returned – shipped to Africa.

Jamaicans are fiercely patriotic – never afraid to wave and wear their flag. Anecdotal evidence suggests Jamaicans are rarely prepared to take “ship” or what they perceive as “ship” from anyone, even when deserving of said “ship.”

Jamaicans are bold – aren’t afraid to assert themselves. Consequently, Brand Jamaica is established everywhere Jamaicans reside.

The establishment, entrenchment of Brand Jamaica in Montreal was so strong, that “Jamaicans” became the stereotype – collective term applied by the wider society to all West Indian/Caribbean Blacks. Needless to say, the ignoring of the diversity of the Caribbean collective was maddening to West Indians from other islands.

As a street deejay back in the 80s, I’ve experienced J’can youths coming to hip-hop/R&B dances and threatening us deejays with damage to the sound system if we didn’t play reggae. Some of them would go so far as to show the gun in their waist and threaten “lickshot.”

One night in 1992, I was awakened sometime after 1a.m., by a phone call. (Late night calls were always a source of fear – bad news from back “home.”) The call was local, threatening. The caller – a known community personality, someone with whom I had broken bread, and also contributed to – assisted with a ground-breaking project at the time.

He told me he heard I was printing a letter critical of him in Upfront, a music magazine I published, and I shouldn’t. He knew gunmen in Toronto. The caller was Jamaican.

On account of the aforementioned revolutionary spirit, boldness and power of Brand Jamaica, I was taken by surprised when the Jamaican Association didn’t “put up resistance” as Jamaicans are wont to, and Carifiesta and Jamaica Day shared the same date last year.

Assured it was accidental, I didn’t sharpen my pencil. The 2012 reoccurrence had my fingers itching. But due to continued contentiousness over a previous Carifiesta article, I didn’t want to start more fires.

Then, in the June 28 issue of Community Contact, there was Mr. Noel Alexander, the president of Jamaica Association of Montreal saying “that after 30 years of struggle our community is no further ahead. We have lost a lot of credibility, due to a lack of leadership”

Mr. Alexander, as the public voice of the Montreal Jamaican community, you epitomize what it is to be Jamaican to the Bone. I respect that. Admittedly, there were times I couldn’t help but shake my head in disbelief over your disinclination to step into the breach and be a community statesman of note. Especially when perception from the wider community is that you are a Black leader and not a Jamaican Community leader.

Other ethnicities as well as members of the majority society do not care about the tribal interests, intra-racial or tribal differences, roots, politics or social standing of people of African descent. Racism resulted in physiognomy and varied gradations of skin tone qualifying us as belonging to same biologically homogenous pool.

Your record shows a protectiveness of the image of your tribe to all else. As a result, there were times I found your statements and decisions myopic, tribal and troubling. Having Jamaica Day on Carifiesta this year was shameful to say the least.

And just as shameful as in 2005 when you accepted June 25, to celebrated Jamaica Day at Parc Jean Drapeau. It was a bust. Then you got on your knees to seek funding and a location for a do over.

City Hall’s summer “du Monde” plans for ethnic/cultural communities – launched in 2005 has its merits. Lest we forget, it is on the back of Montreal Black community other ethnic communities stand.

It is activism from Black Canadians, Black immigrants and Black foreign students – It is Black activism; putting up resistance to racism – institutional and otherwise that is responsible for “visible minorities” able to enjoy a better life in Montreal.

The Civil Rights Movement in America and Black Liberation ideologies were the catalyst for the nationalism of French Quebeckers – their struggle against Anglophone cultural and economic power, the English language and assertions of a Québécois’ identity – that discriminates against Blacks.

One month after the Sir George Williams 1969 Affair – started by Blacks putting up resistance, a crowd estimated at 15,000 Quebeckers staged a demonstration demanding French unilingualism – the end of English as Quebec’s preferred language.

In spite of the government passing Bill 78, ordering students back to school, and the economic toll in millions; students continued their daily and nightly protest.

Yet, defenders of “Thank you City Hall for the crumbs” have the nerve to bristle at my take on issues and tell me, I don’t understand the politiciking involved. What I don’t understand – refuse to reconcile myself with is moral, intellectual, and community cowardice.

Given the shared history, migratory patterns of West Indians relative to other islands, interconnectedness by way of relatives, sexual relations and culture; many of the people attracted to Carnival, Carifiesta, and soca are also attracted to reggae. Fans of soca get down to reggae and vice versa.

The clash of Carifiesta and Jamaica Day betrays the lack of decisive, strong and visionary leadership. It makes us look weak and stupid. It constricts. It divides the community. It dilutes our power. It unnecessarily increases the competition for the promoters of reggae and soca dances to “eat ah food.” Only the promoter with a true megastar – regardless of genre, is guaranteed to eat.

Jamaica Day 2012 is in essence the Jamaican Montreal Community celebrating Jamaica’s 50th Anniversary of Independence. That day should be Jamaica and Jamaica alone – so friends of Jamaica (many of them fans of Carifiesta) could celebrate with the Jamaican community.

Furthermore, Brand Jamaica is so powerful – and such a well-known brand, it doesn’t need to feed on the carcass of Carifiesta. Acceptance of Jamaica Day on Carifiesta reflects poor leadership, and undermines the proud spirit that is Jamaica.

Last year, Jamaica Day ate well off Carifiesta – coming off its 2010 suspension. Short-sightedness to the wider implications; you decided to go with the “winning for Jamaica Day and Jamaica Association” formula. Actions like those have us contributing to our own impotence.

Carifiesta 2012 was the best in years. It can only get better. For the sake of cultural respect, solidarity and support, Montreal Jamaican Association must eschew celebrating Jamaica Day on the same day as Carifiesta.

Mr. Alexander, you’ve been at the helm of the Jamaican Association for 28 years. That makes your comments about the “lack of leadership and the loss of credibility” – though true, hypocritical and disingenuous. It also points to your complicity in our paralysis.

Clearly, if you had trained persons in the ways of leadership and encouraged them to take up its mantle, you wouldn’t still be wearing the title of president or wish “some of those young people make their way to the organization and offer their skills and time to help.”

Fossilized leadership accounts for the stagnation in the community, and both our talented young and those needing guidance disconnected, turned off and tuned out.

Far too long, far too many people in the community have been holding down the same positions – and without taking “refresher courses” to be better at what they do. Stuck on yesterday’s paradigm and rhetoric, they repeat the “same ole,” and contribute to community impotence. Rather than apologize for their shortcomings and culpability in our dysfunction, they deceitfully articulate as if blameless.

Look at the rot that permeates long-running dictatorships in Africa. Robert Mugabe went from hero status to Zimbabwe’s blight. The Arab Spring was people rising up against dynasty rule. Dynasty rule and the complacency it engenders mark our community’s many organizations.

Healthy organizations and healthy governments have term limits. Term limits forces stewards to be at their best; to try and accomplish things in the time they have. It gives leaders waiting in the wings a chance to shine, as well as bring forth new leaders. Also, pumps fresh blood into the demanding veins that qualifies stewardship.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Feeding Goldfish

Feeding Goldfish

By N Oji Mzilikazi

May 3, 2012

(Originally published in the Montreal Community Contact Volume 22, Number 08)

Racism and the failure of community to be empowered economically and politically have people of African descent forever fighting against perceptions of unworthiness and incompetence, as well as being devalued or under-valued.

That sense of “cheapness” to our being alongside the paralysis engendered by resignation to the “awesomeness” of institutional obstacles, and unwillingness to die fighting against said obstacles, have resulted in the frequent selling of our birthright for roti, rum, a bowl of porridge or opting for a hustling culture.

Outside of the narco-industry, hustling does not lend itself to repeat customers, building capital or providing for tomorrow. It is an ideology of trying to make a quick buck here and there, getting over, lying and cheating – all for sustenance for the moment. Hustling is the antithesis of building a sound and strong business or a business having depth.

That sense of “cheapness” to our being has us oblivious to the excellence of our own, prone to devalue our labourers, as well as the product and services of our businesses and entrepreneurs. As if fearful they might get “rich” at our expense, we loathe paying them what they’re worth or the standard rate or appropriate compensation, even when they produce or deliver excellence in what they do at a reduced fee.

Without any point of reference, we lament or complain of us being too expensive, gladly pay cash to outsiders – others, even taking abuse from them in the process, while approaching our own with bad attitudes – ready to be disrespectful or with credit in mind or wanting “something off.”

The trick bag of being devalued or under-valued has led to many Black professionals leery of socializing with fellow Blacks as well as disinclined to do business with their own. They don’t want to deal with the disrespect and unnecessary hassle. Also, it has forced many Black owned businesses and Black entrepreneurs into adopting adaptive pricing to survive.

The adaptive pricing – lowering rates/prices is then interpreted as if one’s products and services are worth less, and by extension the person is worth less, irrespective to skill, experience, qualification, quality of work and dependability. There can be no personal elevation if relegated to being a bottom-end worker, and the race cannot advance economically if its members exist as bottom-feeders.

Moving upwards and forward demand our businesses and entrepreneurs offer and provide quality product and quality service at competitive prices, as well as committed to professionalism and excellence.

While charging too-much or too-little come with respective handicaps, let a realistic assessment of one’s worth pursuant to quality product, quality service, professionalism, and commitment to excellence be one’s guide.

Moving upwards and forward demand community members supporting our businesses, paying the extra dollar if they have too, and demanding professionalism and quality service from our businessmen and businesswomen.

Communities grow and prosper when its members recycle its dollars. Access to money allows a community to engage in legal challenges, fight injustice and discrimination, and pursue cases of racial discrimination.

Can we realistically expect others to fight our battles, have our interests at heart, support our businesses or support our initiatives when we ourselves are uncaring? We need to consciously support our businesses and entrepreneurs and be enthusiastic about them making money. Their enrichment is also community success. Up you mighty people, you can!

CCFA, You Made A Boo Boo

CCFA, You Made A Boo Boo

By N Oji Mzilikazi

April 19, 2012

(Originally published in the Montreal Community Contact Volume 22, Number 07)

Dear CCFA, Mr. President, Members of the Executive,

With all due respect, it is with a heavy heart I pen this. I had so much hope for you moving this thing that we love; this thing call Carifiesta forward. Your acceptance of the City’s shortened route is a betrayal of the community, and a betrayal of the very spirit of Carnival. It can in no way shape or form be justified.

I know you inherited an extremely weak organization; one whose past leadership failed to show direction, had no vision, no business acumen to make Carifiesta financially viable, and more importantly, no political groundings to deal with the City in an effective manner. They simply saw themselves as staging a “Jump up,” with no understanding of its deeper significance.

They didn’t see Carifiesta as politically, racially, and socially empowering. They didn’t see Carifiesta as an emotional release, therapy, stress reliever and a respite from the frustrations of winter, life, and the multitude of varied obstacles many in our community encounter and experience daily, including police heavy-handedness and racial profiling.

All they saw were wine and jam: hips, pelvis bouncing, wining, rolling in unison, genitalia thrown front, back, side and center, and rude girls in glory – showing off their perfected control of their middle section.

They didn’t see the Parade as saying to the wider society and the political structure, “Look at our numbers. We exist, we are here, we count, we vote, we pay taxes, and this is home.” Their approach to the City was like that of a beggar asking for change. I don’t want you falling into the same mindset.

They forgot that back in the day, whenever the West Indies, India and Pakistan played cricket against England and Australia, the game was transformed from bat and ball to that intellectual and racial strength.

Cricket represented white hegemony. Defeating those nations was to score a victory over former colonial masters and representations of white supremacy. It psychologically established equality of non-white humanity. Psychologically, Carifiesta is the reign of “outsiders.” People whose skin colour and physiognomy oft invoke negative reactions, bias and discrimination.

Carifiesta is our community striking a blow against white cultural hegemony. It is our way of “mashing” up Babylon.

They forgot that up until 1962, Canada’s Federal Immigration Act kept Blacks out. That Canada has never been welcoming to Blacks. They forgot we live in Quebec, whose people for the most part were victimized by the English and made to feel inferior, so the ascension of the PQ made French liberation; French empowerment and French language domination priority one, two, three, four.

It would be stupid of us to believe the City administration, Francophone bureaucrats and functionaries, or the people of Quebec are willingly going to care about us – our community, like us, respect us, or be magnanimous towards us.

We have to make them respect us. We must force them to recognize if not care for us. And how do we do that? By affirming our rights as citizens, fighting for said rights, getting involved in the political process, holding strong positions in regards to our welfare, owning businesses, building institutions, moving away from island tribalism, displaying effective management and leadership skills, and with transparency and accountability our measuring scale.

Every time we don’t function according to sound principles, one of our businesses fail, or we mismanage an organization, it says, “we ent ready yet – we cannot swim with the sharks, and the esteem of the community takes a nosedive.

Just this March, the City dropped a letter of eviction on Notre-Dame-de-Grace Black Community Association with a 60 day notice to vacate the premises.  The NDGBCA has been delivering services to the Black residents of NDG since 1972. While one could advance the City’s action demonstrates it doesn’t give a hoot about those serviced by the NDGBCA, it isn’t the City’s fault the stewards in the organization took the NDGBCA into that abyss.

And be rest assured, none of those stewards, some who deliberately acted inappropriately to get over, are losing sleep over that situation. Who among leadership is going to man up, call names and demand accountability – hold those stewards accountable? Are we going to continue to let mismanagement slide – go unpunished as in not being publicly embarrassed?

Power respects power. Every time we – our community accept less much less will be given. Has Jamaica Day grown since being kicked out the Park, and municipal legislation pass forbidding such gatherings in city parks? Every time Carifiesta is chipped away; so is the community’s respect.

Organizations/leadership must realize their thing is part of a bigger thing, not something that exists in isolation, and repercussions to poor decisions affects all.

In complaining about the difficulty in obtaining funding for Carifiesta some years ago, Ms. Sandra Dass was quoted in a newspaper saying, We need to move ourselves away from the Jazz Festival to show Carifiesta can stand out on its own.”

The Jazz Festival wasn’t even conceptualised when Carifiesta was launched. The Jazz Festival is blessed because it’s money-making machinery, not to mention it’s from white hands. The Jazz festival overwhelmingly brings Black Americans to make its coin.

Carifiesta is from our hands – West Indian hands/Black hands/Indian hands/community hands. And though it generates revenue for the city, and has the potential to be money-making machinery as well, the City has always treated Carifiesta as a disliked stepchild. Past leadership did nothing to change that perception.

Our community pay taxes. Taxes that contributes to the City’s functioning. The City investing in Carifiesta must be positioned as them giving back. Once we feel the City is doing us a favour, and we approach them in that manner we disadvantage ourselves.

In the same article, Dass opined, “We’re overshadowed right now but I can see Carifiesta being moved to later in the summer.”

When our officials can hold such a view, it’s easy to see why the City would keep us away from “clashing” with the Jazz Festival or Canada Day. Carifiesta is not in competition with the Jazz Festival nor does it target the same demographics – a point we’ve failed to establish with the City.

Without a model of strength, Mr. President, there was nothing for you to draw on. Hence I didn’t pound you last year for accepting to stage Carifiesta on the same day as Jamaica Day, (A house divided falls.) And for giving out flyers to homeowners and businesses along the parade route, at the behest of the City when its postal workers are paid to deliver mail.

I don’t know if you sought advice on this. I don’t know if anyone whispered in your ear or if you believe this was the best option. Any which way, it was ill-conceived, bad advice, and showed no understanding of the dynamics at play.

Even if something doesn’t make dollars, it should at least make sense. Why would any masquerader want to pay upwards of a $100 for 20 minutes on the road, especially in these economic times?  How long does it take to build a truck; make it road worthy, safe and to set up its music – an hour, two, three? Is the man hours needed to prepare those trucks for a 20 minute parade worth it?

Carnival is parade. Parade is display. Display requires room. Carnival is Spirit. Spirit takes time to heat and manifest itself. Carnival is physical exercise for both revellers and spectators. They walk, dance and wine. Spectators wine to the side.

Carnival is parade down the streets; the longer the better. To quote Lord Kitchener, “The road make to walk on Carnival Day.” The route as agreed upon by CCFA and the City takes the road away from the people? The proposed cool down at Parc Drapeau is foolishness with a capital “F.”

Drapeau has long proven to psychologically be too far for our people. Our events there usually flop. More importantly, how could we cool down on a Sunday when we never got a chance to boil on Saturday, much less heat up given the shortness of the route?

It have a lot of people here who does talk bout culture, and feel them is entitled to run tings, and when dey can’t get dey own way, dey does do like lil children and pick up dere marbles and run home. They ent lending their strength and connection to see the same culture dey say dey love grow.

Last year, I listened to a live interview of our very own Mr. Henry Antoine on Trinidad & Tobago’s Wack Radio. Callers from Montreal and the United States pointed out they were saddened he wasn’t running things here, the Carnival wouldn’t be the same without him, and he is the only man who could run it. A woman wrote in the Wack Shoutbox that she wasn’t going to be bringing no mas in 2011 since Antoine was out. She go be doing a kiddies thing in she area.

Mr. President, there are people out there who want to see you fail, and ah really doh think its personal. Though some ah de old timers ent bring no band last year, Carifiesta still come off. This year boy, yuh in rel doo doo. Ah cah vote fuh dat, but ah ent want yuh to fail.

Mr. President, your position calls for a heavyweight. A person, who knows the intricacies of the ring, is astute, mentally agile and could hit hard. I am not questioning if you made weight or if you’re boxing in the right class, but this here move has you out-manoeuvered, out-boxed and outclassed.

Business capitalizes on opportunities. Business targets special days and holidays for then, consumers readily part with their dollars. Party promoters look for the most opportune time to throw a fete – to have a greater pool of people from which to draw attendees. The Carnivals of Toronto, New York and Miami are huge because they occur on a long weekend.

There was a time when Carifiesta drew upwards of 100, 000 people.  Its administrators never sought to find out or tabulate its financial spin-off to the city of Montreal. Hard numbers would’ve made it possible to impress the City as to why its funding ought to be increased.

The failure of past carnival administrations to look upon Carifiesta as a business, apply principles of business towards it, as well as them being competent are major contributors in its decline.

Mr. President, if you could recall, when I attended the post-mortem of Carifesta 2011 last July or August, I suggested that since Canada Day 2012 falls on a Sunday, CCFA should have the Parade on the Saturday – operate like business and capitalize on the long weekend.

In the spirit of short-sightedness, my view wasn’t entertained. Someone mentioned the police wouldn’t want to put down two sets of barricades for both parades. Putting down barricades one week and then the next on two different routes incur a greater cost than doing so consecutively. The mere entertaining of what the police are going to think shows we do not think of exercising strength or power in the pursuit of goals to empower our community.

Mr. President, your boo boo can be used to our advantage. Put Carifiesta in the Canada Day Parade – use the long weekend of July 1st to stage Carifiesta. We go bring up the rear. You don’t need the City’s permission to participate in the Canada Day Parade.

The Canada Day Parade in Montreal was started by a West Indian – an Indo-Trinidadian. Carifiesta in the Canada Day Parade exposes Carifiesta to a new audience, and that ought to bode well for future Carifiesta parades.

City Hall and Federal politicians have always stayed away from the Montreal Canada Day Parade. Dey doh want to offend the francophone majority, plus for de most part, dem is Quebecois. Hence, Canada Day has had no political support in Montreal.

Though our community has known victimization from both French and English, our language based culture makes Canada Day something to celebrate.

Carifiesta in Canada Day saves the City upwards of the $200,000 that is claimed allocated to provide security, other amenities and the after-parade clean-up.

Given that all our people who went down the 401 usually return on long weekends to see family, Carifiesta in the Canada Day parade would more than likely have an attendance that hasn’t been seen in years. More importantly, party promoters will get a chance to eat a food. Last year all went hungry.

And I want you to tax promoters. Hit them up for five (5) per cent of their profits – to go into the Carifiesta Fund. For far too long promoters have been eating off Carifiesta and not giving back. Explain to them that a healthy Carifiesta translates into profits for them; and a financial contribution from them goes towards producing and having a better product. How could anyone argue with that? We must do for self before we ask others to do for us.

Mr. President, go back to the City. Tell them de people say no to Carifiesta on July 7 – that the shortened route defeats the whole purpose of having a parade. Tell them Carifiesta is going to join the Canada Day Parade this year, and allyuh work out allyuh money business. And if yuh want moral support, ah go go with yuh and yuh people to the City Hall. Don’t forget to inform the Canada Parade folks that Carifiesta will be joining them this year.

Peace!