As I hurried into Sheridan Mall, escaping the chilly Toronto autumn wind, there a youngster of African Canadian progeny stood, decked in a Boy Scout uniform at the entrance to the Zeller’s Department Store. Below his chest, dangles a small rectangular box held in position by a strap that hangs from around his neck. Inside, there are stockpiles of red poppies, those of which are mentioned in Canadian Poet John McCrae’s war tribute poem, “In Flanders Field.”
To what was assuredly a well memorized phrase, the lad stepped forward in military posture, then greeted me, “Good Morning Sir!” said he, “Would you be kind enough to honor ” Our “ Canadian Veterans with a small donation and wear a poppy in glory of their memory?” In a mean gaze and a sarcastic tone, I responded sharply, “Whose memory may I ask?” His brain instantaneously seemed frozen. Clearly, he was puzzled and had become speechless.
It was thought provoking as to whether he knew that the poppies are commemorative symbols to a remembrance of dead white soldiers during the Boer War and World War 1, in which John McCrae served as a medical officer.
Decades ago, Stephen Biko a South African Journalist in the struggles against the Apartheid regime penned these words, “The most potent weapon in the hands of the oppressor is the mind of the oppressed.” Now it was transparent of how compelling a little lack of knowledge can be, for here it was in my presence outweighing millions of tons of historical documental evidence.
Oh how humiliating and embarrassing it is, when for one what seems a polite gesture of soliciting funds for a perceived noble cause, is nothing but empty platitudes and a direct insult to others. Besieging my charity was tantamount to a Jew begging on behalf of a Nazi Memorial Front. No sheep in its right mind would honor the victory of a fox over wolf; save to say that there would be only one less predator.
I immediately ambush his thoughts, launching precise attacks on the parapet of ignorance that had encompassed him, pounding him into submission and successfully taking him captive with the facts of the past and the realities of the present. Later, he was released on his own recognizance, under the condition that he returns the box at once and head straight to the library to research the history of Africans and their descendants in North America and to read up on the Tuskegee Airmen.
Now it’s February, the time to regenerate and preserve the legacy of Dr. Carter Woodson and his goal in the introduction of Negro History Week since 1926, which became recognized decades later as Black History Month. The words of Dr. Carter Woodson are an immeasurable inspiration as herewith quoted, “If a race has no history, if it has no worthwhile tradition, it becomes a negligible factor in the thought of the world, and it stands in danger of being exterminated.”
Black History Months past, Black People in North America and now all over the world, pay homage and honor to those who fought and resisted the system of slavery, colonialism, racism, segregation, apartheid, lynching, oppression and injustices for the freedom we now experience today. African American/Canadian heritage is celebrated along with its culture, literary achievements and accomplishments in the development of science, agriculture, governance, technology, sports and all other facets of life towards human growth and prosperity.
It is the time when we re-visit the past, scrutinize the present and make the necessary changes to provide the guide by which future generations will carry on the work of our ancestors with even greater courage, fortitude and zest. Black History Month promotes a sense of pride, a sense of belonging and a sense of love.
To date, there is seemingly an endless wave of gun violence, drug users, school drop-outs, and killings among black youths all over North America and in particular Toronto, while all other nationalities/races vegetate, flourish and harmonize in our midst. The focus of our history is what happens today and so, radical changes must now be diligently implemented in order to reinforce the values and moralities of our elders’ struggles.
Black History Month 2006 must be the starting point to challenge the social decorum of black youths with our own combative intellect and power, rather than waiting on some “charitable white folks” to be vocal against our indigence and social ills. The lesson to learn is for all of us who possesses the strength and expertise to implement the strategies. Parenting, poverty, homelessness, illiteracy, unemployment and lawlessness must be addressed if we want the wording on the pages of ‘our’ story to change.
The destructive course now on which our story as a people is charted, can ultimately be altered in the simple message of Bob Marley ‘s words in song, paraphrased now as, “Afro Americans/Canadians Unite…Unite for the benefit of our people…Unite for it is later than we think.”
Up you mighty race! You can accomplish what you will,” the solemn philosophies and opinions of Marcus Garvey, must be attained, “By any means necessary,” the teachings of Malcolm X. Solidarity and unity among us must be through “The groundings of my brothers,” the doctrines of Walter Rodney and “Revolutionary Suicide” the fury of Huey P. Newton must ultimately bond us as fellow comrades in “arms”.
Let us chant the lyrics of reggae’s musical lecturer Cocoa Tea, “Too much brutality, living in misery something will have to be done, so many innocent people dying by the gun.” Hasta la Victoria siempre! Until victory always…Zeen
For a listing of featured Black History Month events, activities and television shows during the month of February 2006, please check our Feedback & Announcements Forum . Please feel free to add your city’s own celebrations as well.