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When Did I Become Black?

Written by Kharl Daley

As a young boy growing up in Jamaica, I never encountered prejudice or discrimination as related to racism. In fact, our (Jamaican) motto is “Out of many one people.”

At an early age, I was fully aware of the struggles of my fore parents in their fight against slavery and colonialism. I was also equally aware of their quest for self-determination, self-reliance and self-government.

In school, I learned about the great Coromanti Warrior Tacky, the Maroon rebellion commanded by Nanny and Cudjoe, the slave trade, slave Uprisings and Emancipation.

As I grew older, I became musically enthralled with the vocals of Bob Marley and his cry for universal love and oneness of humanity. Likewise, with even a greater passion, the demands for equal rights and justice by Peter Tosh made me conscious of the reality and condition of the world.

The lyrics of Burning Spear giving thanks to great men who have been fighting for our rights, Garnet Silk’s greetings to Mama Africa and countless others arouse my interest in the struggles, oppression and injustices experienced by the black race at home and abroad.

As my youthful days slipped by, I learned about the apartheid system of South Africa, I read extensively the philosophies and opinions of Marcus Garvey. I researched the Civil Rights Movement and studied the basis of Black Power and Black Identity through the preaching of Malik El Shabazz better known as Malcolm X and in later years supported the aims and objectives of the Black Panther movement.

Upon immigrating to Canada, I became acquainted with the taunting, biting sound and meaning to the word “Nigger” It was not long thereafter I realize that the fatal shots from a police pistol always seemed destined for a defenseless blackman. I began to see that where-ever black folks gather if even for social purposes, they are “assuredly a problem,” to police.

Did I become black upon entering Canadian department Stores while store clerks put me under meticulous scrutiny as a detective would with a suspected would be robber? Did I become black when all my applications never “supposedly” met the requirements of the employers, yet met those of low paying agencies for the same job?

Did I grow up to become black after seeing documentaries on the life of Huey Newton, Nelson Mandela, Steve Bieko, Patrice Lumumba, Jomo Kenyata and Medgar Evers? Did I grow up to be black watching movies such as, “A Time to Kill”, “To Kill a Mocking Bird”, ” Cry Freedom”, The Underground Railroad”, ” Amistad”, ” Roots”, or “Black Like Me”?

Whether I grew up black or grew up to become black, one thing is certain, my experiences and knowledge have made me aware that although I am “Out of many people,” I am different, I am black.

About the author

Kharl Daley