Thursday, March 02, 2006

Black History Month

Last year, last February to be exact I really, really wanted to do a black history month post. It wasn't my wish to drop any serious black history info though moreso it was just more of a why black history month type of post but I figured maybe it would be misconstrued and I shelved it. However this year is another year.

No I'm not questioning the need for having a month where the history of black folks is celebrated here in North America (that would be another post), my issue is more like is Black history month as it stands actually serving the purpose for which it was created. Are we really receiving a better understanding, shining the spotlight or gaining knowledge on black issues, history etc during this month.

To me the answer is no. Black history month has gotten all ho hum. The thrill is indeed gone.....well at least up here in the T-dot.

And since I cant speak for the U.S experience my frame of reference has to be the one in which I'm situated ..... Canada namely the T-dot and I'd say Black history month needs to be revamped or something up in this here place because its sorely lacking these days.

Now I'm not sure how black history month is going/went in the U.S but I think maybe one of the issues with it here in Canada is that its an idea which just hasn't been transferred well. And one of the reasons for that is that while it may be true to some extent that all blacks are alike, or at least that's how we are perceived, we have a whole lot of differences that are just not taken into account in this whole black history month thing.

I read skimmed this article in the Toronto Star on Saturday and it sort of agreed with my take on black folk here in Toronto.

I mean lets face it Canada is not the U.S. There is more of a bonding, a common history to the majority of blacks in the U.S. Even with the many immigrants that country has had over the years one must realize that the US started with an already large black population due to slavery. Plus over there, folks just get assimilated, everyone stands for the red, white and blue.

Here in Canada its just not the same. First of all we started with a smaller 'indigenous' black community (by that I mean those who were brought here as slaves). Differences tend to stand out more. We can be black but we're also Ghanaian, or Scotian or Bajan or Trini or Somalian (and of course if any of us ever screw up we all immediately become Jamaican) most of us are either direct immigrants or first and second generation Canadians. We live here but are we really all about the Maple Leaf like those in the US are about the Stars and Stripes?

Image hosting by PhotobucketNo. We (the blacks in Canada) generally have a stronger link to the history of our home countries, (and don't be fooled into thinking all of our home countries are alike because they may be an island in the Caribbean or on the African continent they are not) the history of the Norman Manleys, Errol Barrows, Eric Williamses (and I'm not talking about the disgruntled Raptors player), Jomo Kenyattas than we do to that of the Abrahams and Mary Ann Shadds.

What I'm saying is that in Canada it seems as if the differences seem to mean as much as the similarities to us black folks. We are all black but somehow that banner doesn't encompass us all as easily as it does in the US. Well until it comes to dealing with "the man" or "the system" and the like because then all differences aside we are all black.

Attempts are made during black history month to get into the history of black Canadians and to 'big up' the achievements of contemporary blacks but they don't seem to have any punch, just a bunch of fizzle. Take for instance the annual black history month poster. Great idea to showcase a few of our community's finest but does this really work. The poster just sits there, no real explanation. No one really highlights the contributions of those individuals, sometimes its difficult for me to even figure out who they are.

Anyway I still think Black history month is necessary in North America if done correctly to at least give some of the black youth a sense of worth. Its a bit different for persons like me who grew up with black leaders, lawyers, doctors, police and the like in the Caribbean. I already know that we can achieve anything, sky's the limit, never had issues with identity or self worth but this generation growing up in Canada well they do need some help.

Yes I believe every day should be a black history day but if we're celebrating an official month I think more effort has to be put into really putting together something to make the kids proud of what their ancestors achieved. Maybe we need to incorporate some of those black figures from the countries of our ancestors into the celebration and show what we are truly capable of achieving.

Maybe we just need to promote this black history month thing more. I really don't know.


Miz JJ said...

I went to the opening of Black History Month in my city and the event was amazing. Although it was poorly attended by black people. There are black people where I live, but why weren't they there?!? It was such a good event. Maybe lack of promotion is a factor.

Ironman said...

Keep it strong. Unfortunately to today's youth Black History Month means nothing to them. It's sad

Abeni said...

I find Black History month to be rather low keyed this time.I can't remember seeing anything much on tv or maybe I just missed it.

Dr. D. said...

Jdid, I have to underscore your point that growing up (and still living) in the Caribbean where people of all shades can excel, we do not seem to have the 'issues' that many migrant or second generation black people living abroad have. Having never been to Canada, I can only go off of what I have heard and read about it.

However, having lived in England for a year, I can state categorically that in the year I was there, I never met a black British born doctor. And as light skinned as I may be, many were surprised to learn that A. I am a Jamaican. B. I am a DOCTOR!? ALL the doctors that I met there who were non-white, were either of Asian, Caribbean or African descent. My impression was that if one is not careful, the 'First World' can mentally enslave non- whites to becoming second class citizens....whether or not they display ability. I think this may be less so in the USA, where I feel that by education, it may be easier for people of colour to improve themselves socially.

Anyhow, these are just my observations, I could be wrong. I will end by saying that as Caribbean people, no matter where in the world we may decide to live, we should always strive for excellence.

Radmila said...

"(and of course if any of us ever screw up we all immediately become Jamaican)"

That would be funny, if it weren't so true.

Tamalele said...

Jdid, I think I understand your comment and if I do then I can only partly agree with it. I love the fact that blacks in Canada like whites in Canada come from different countries and speak different languages. And to Dr.D's point, I find that the immigrants black or white that I know who are successful have maintained their cultural identity and embraced the best of Canada or the US.

I have to admit I rarely make the Black history month events but I am glad that many colleagues and neighbours do because it means that they learn something about the various black cultures.

When I have children I will drag them to every event especially the ones that are different from South American or Caribbean traditions.

Maybe Black History month is something you enjoy most when you are learning from it. Or if you are in it for the jam maybe you have outgrown the festivities.

Dr. D. said...

"And to Dr.D's point, I find that the immigrants black or white that I know who are successful have maintained their cultural identity and embraced the best of Canada or the US."

I certainly do not disagree with Tamalele's point. But I might add that I feel education is what has accounted for that.

brooklyn babe said...

Something about that first in the air.

Amadeo said...

The only thing I did for black history month was make a bet about Shani Davis...

Lene said...

its so true. canadians know nothing about black canadians. they think mlk single handedly fought whitey in the civil rights movement.

Stunner said...

When i say this article, i was saying to myself that yuh late mi yute!

Black history month isn't much of a big deal in Jamaica...maybe because it's a mostly black nation. But the local TV stations show quiet a few movies about slavery, which just makes me upset. They should try to focus on the accomplishments of black people and anger me with the injustice that our forefathers endured.

obifromsouthlondon said...

excellent post man, excellent. touches the issues we face here. quote of the month?

and of course if any of us ever screw up we all immediately become Jamaican

classic truth

Honest said...

Great post..I'm first generation American and I always think "what about us immigrant blacks" because it really is different. I can appreciate and share a solidarity for the achievments of black americans but I also want to highlight or at least showcase the achievements of other black people throughout the world.

Guyana-Gyal said...

I was thinking a lot about this 'roots' bizniz this weekend when I went to a trade fair from India.

Nothing like music to pull folks together. I think Black History Month should be big and should be highlighted.

It really is important to tap into your roots and feel a sense of 'togetherness', pulling together, helping each other out.