I have a love-hate relationship with the descriptor of “black community” or “black people”. And it’s not because I don’t appreciate my heavily melinated skin or I am offended at the term. Its just that I think the term is incredibly flattening.
Jamaicans, Ghanaians, Trinidadians, Nigerians, Baijans, African Americans, African Canadians etc. are often times, in casual conversation anyways, spoken about as a monolith. This mean that the positive and negative cultural traits that Jamaicans possess will often times also be attributed to Ghanaians and vice versa because we share the same skin color. I realize that’s not fair- Filipinos don’t have to bare the cultural baggage of Chinese people and Indians don’t have to bare the cultural baggage of Tamils. Or perhaps they do? I don’t know. All I know is that I see the mass generalizing of Jamaicans, Ghanaians, African Americans, and Nigerians and other communities of African descent all the time.
For example, when people stereotype “black people” as not doing well in education they’re talking about all of us- regardless of the fact that African immigrants are the most educated immigrant group in the United States.
I think it’s unfair but I don’t think it will stop anytime soon. So what are we to do? I think Jamaican, Ghanaians, Nigerian and other communities should work together when it makes sense. Why not?
What is so distinct about Caribbean and African culture that we shouldn’t or can’t work together? Are we not linked together whether we like it or not?
The great thing is we do it at times. For example:
Don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying that there are not any differences among Africans, Caribbeans or African Americans. There are. I encourage you to read about the history of African Americans, African Nova Scotians, Haitians, Jamaicans, Nigerians, Afro-Brazilians etc. Nevertheless, I think its important to realize the big picture: which is that people of African descent around the world continue to be economically dominated whether they are in Canada, the United States, Tunisia, India, Israel, Brazil, and Jamaica etc.
Moreover, I can’t read an article about race without hearing reference to the “black community”. Are we truly the black community and if so where is this black community located?
1.a group of people living in the SAME place or having a particular characteristic in common.
"Rhode Island's Japanese community"
synonyms:group, body, set, circle, clique, faction; More
2.a feeling of fellowship with others, as a result of sharing common attitudes, interests, and goals.
"the sense of community that organized religion can provide"
Indian people have Brampton and Suri. Chinese people have Markham and Chinatown. Italians have Vaughn and Little Italy, Greek people have Danforth and Jewish people have Bathurst. Where are the tangible geographic spaces of the black community in the GTA?
We are more diverse in origin so I’ll ask again:
Where is little Ghana? Little Nigeria? Little Jamaica?
Where are the predominantly black neighborhoods that we DESIRE to live in when we graduate from College or University?
Where are our THRIVING neighborhoods that are economically ROBUST and centers of political and cultural solidarity?
I realize some of you are horrified at the thought of creating strong economic, social and political communities. What about multiculturalism you ask? What about diversity? Wouldn’t that be segregation?
I am currently researching Ethnic Enclaves for my Challenge and Change course. Enclaves are communities where there is a large concentration of one ethnic group. Think Brampton or Markham:
I found these facts interesting:
I’ve noticed there is a difference between what people say and what people actually do. Everyone talks about their love for diversity and multiculturalism but groups of people still make the decision to create strong and healthy communities among their ethnic and racial group. Even if you’re a person who values multiculturalism and diversity how can you do so from a lower economic playing field? I live in an Indian ethnic enclave trust me!
Finally, I think more than ever it is important to be honest with ourselves. Do we truly desire healthy, economically competitive communities? If not why? Are we willing to put in the work to do so? All our talk about “black lives matter”, being woke and “fighting the power” are truly moot if we can’t reasonably work together to economically empower the next generation like Jewish, Chinese, Indian and Anglo Saxons unapologetically do.
Until the ink drips,
FOR FURTHER KNOWLEDGE
"Christianity has done the most damage in our world", said my teacher when someone asked for her opinion on religions and their cultural impact on society. Taken aback by her statement, I challenged my teacher on her use of colonization and the crusades as examples of Christianity's destructiveness . This prompted her to rephrase her words, saying that, "people in the name of Christianity have done the most damage to the world".
My teacher' s words still ring in my ears not only because they were offensive to me, but because her words are simply not true.
I am not writing this to call out my teacher, demand an apology or to even discourage people from criticizing Christianity or the Bible. I’ve been in classrooms where the Bible has been ridiculed by peers and teachers alike. I have no desire to silence people who want to rip the Bible, the Gospel or things I hold dear apart, despite my urge to do so.
I think it’s important to maintain a society where topics can be discussed including hot button topics like race, religion and politics. Religion is controversial because it speaks to the core of who people are- worldview, values, identity beliefs and passions. These things make us human and are worth discussing.
I just hope the same respect will be given to me to respond, point people to resources and talk to people with different worldviews without receiving unnecessary attitude or smugness.
This conversation confirmed what I have always thought: Biblical Christianity has been distorted to a lot of people.
Even the simple question of what a Christian is can garner different answers. Is the nun who teaches her young First Nation students that they're inferior and contributes to their cultural genocide a Christian? Is the man who faithfully goes to Church, reads his Bible and happens to be a KKK member a Christian? Is it even possible to know what a true "Christian” is?
These are fair questions so I want you to journey with me as I address these questions throughout my blog series: The ABC''s of Christianity:
Until the ink drips,
“Black people have a culture that glorifies gang banging, fathers who are not involved and should work on improving their culture” said one of my peers as we wrapped up our heated conversation.
To be frank this comment pissed me off. I don’t seek external validation regarding “black culture” but I’m weary of people who ramble disparaging statistics about a subgroup of “black people” they don’t seem to care about.
There are generally 2 thought camps regarding the status of Black America in 2018:
As of now I think bias and preconceived notions affect how people navigate through society in 2018 and are barriers to people’s social upward mobility. Nevertheless strong families, working smart, money management, entrepreneurship and group economics are known to create healthy and robust communities.
Culture is defined as a set of shared values, practices, beliefs among a racial, religious or social group. I’ve been pondering about what culture means, its significance and how understanding it can help people.
People often say “Black culture”, “Black people”or “Black America” (I’ve done so several times in this article already) as it’s easy to make mass generalizations. There are pros and cons of doing so but for conversations like this they are lazy, unhelpful and dangerous.
Black culture or Black America is a misnomer. There’s Southern Black American culture which differs from the culture of Black communities on the West and East coast or in the Midwest. As well there’s a culture that comes with each socio-economic status.
Did you know there are actually 4 Black Americas according to Eugene Robinson, columnist for the Washington Post:
As well we can talk about reforming aspects of African-American culture without diminishing or hampering down on Black America or suggesting they are blameless and lack agency to help themselves. Black Americans have a lot to be proud of:
My parents are from Ghana and as a family we value working smart, intellectual curiosity and ambition. That’s my family’s culture. I’m sure there are Ghanaians who are lazy, skeptical and lack ambition.
So who has the monopoly on Ghana culture in that case?
Tupac and Michelle Obama are both prominent African Americans. Can we say one is a more authentic display of Black culture?
I have a friend who is Chinese Canadian who will be the first to graduate in his family because all his siblings dropped out of high school. Is that Chinese culture or his family’s culture?
Until the ink drips,
The annual celebration of Black History Month always involves conversations about our resilience, endurance and triumph in the face of racial terror and 2 horrific events: The Atlantic and Arab Slave Trade.
On one hand I know our history stretches back thousands of years from Ancient Kemet and Nubia (Egypt) to the empires of Mali and Timbuktu, Ghana, Great Zimbabwe to the African Moors. People of African descent are made in the image of God and have been instrumental throughout human evolution regardless of the dominant narrative that suggest thought, civilization and development started everywhere but Africa.
Nevertheless the legacy of the Atlantic Slave Trade (and Arab Slave Trade) has left a stain on our communities. And with this in mind I wanted to take time to recognize the events of the Atlantic and Arab slave trade. I wanted to honor the strength of Africans shipped across the Atlantic ocean, the endurance of all who survived the Middle Passage and the cultures that were formed namely African American, Caribbean and Latin American cultures.
“In everlasting memory of the anguish of our ancestors. May those who died rest in peace may those who return find their roots. May humanity never again perpetuate such injustice against humanity. We the living vow to uphold this!”
There is no way to describe the utter horror of the Slave trade. No words can capture the immeasurable pain that has been caused because of these two trades. There is no way to quantify the loss of life, culture and collective pride of African peoples throughout the world. The magnitude of the events can only be described as- Maafa- Swahili word for the “The Great Disaster”.
To be honest I don’t know how people of African descent should process this piece of our history. I don’t know if we should listen to external and internal voices that tell us to just get over it or disconnect from it because it’s extremely painful or to use it as an excuse not to be competitive today. I haven’t figured it out.
As of now I approach this history by learning about what made Africans vulnerable to exploitation- namely tribalism, pride and our inability to see the bigger picture. As a result I reject petty diaspora beefs such as Jamaicans vs Ghanaians or Nigerians vs Ghanaians or Africans vs African Americans etc. in favor of global solidarity. It’s also been helpful for me to recognize the distance between then and now. The world is trudging forward- in order words “it’s a new day and it’s a new dawn” and it’s important for us to learn the skills necessary to be competitive for TODAY.
There is some level of shame (whether it be internal and external) that comes with being a person of African descent. Sometimes alone in the silence there’s a quiet voice that makes me think Africans are weak for being enslaved and colonized. As a result, I think it’s important to learn about our resistance. Learn about the Haitian Revolution, the Jamaican Maroons, Nat Turner and African abolitionist and resistance to the slave trades and colonialism on the continent.
I’ll leave you with this quote:
“History, despite its wrenching pain, cannot be unlived, but if faced with courage, need not be lived again-Maya Angelou
Until the ink drips,
I spent the winter break reading the biography of Malcolm X. Malcolm X was a towering intellectual, eloquent speaker and remains one of the most polarizing figures in human history. The novel is a collaboration between Malcolm X and journalist Alex Haley which chronicles his troubled childhood, time spent as a criminal in the streets of Detroit, incarceration, his eventual conversion to the Nation of Islam and his evolution as a thought leader for Black America and the world.
Even after Malcolm X’s passing he continues to be lauded as an anti-white, black supremacist who should not be celebrated. I think this is a simple and inaccurate characterization of Malcolm X. We are privileged to have the accounts of his life from his perspective and so there is no reason for the level of misinformation that exists today about Malcolm X. Moreover, this narrative fails to honor his complexity and the psychological effects of white supremacy on African people in the U.S and around the world.
I enjoyed reading this novel because I was able to witness his humanity as his views about himself, history and his community evolved throughout his short but impactful life.
He began as a self-hating man who straightened his hair and exclusively dated white women into a militant man who had a keen disdain for “white people” and finally to the best version of himself. He moves away from generalizing all “white people” as “white devils” but recognizes the global plight of Africans around the world, the importance of global solidarity and the need for people of African descent to address their unique issues such as self-hate, distrust, ignorance and healing before pursuing reconciliation with other communities. His main beliefs can be described here:
Malcolm X joins a long line of people of African descent who have challenged our understandings of justice and freedom while enriching our understandings of who we are as people.
This is essential reading for everyone especially young black men and women. Take a look for yourselves (or you can cheat by watching the movie).
Until the ink drips,
Today marks the annual celebration of Black History Month where we honour the innumerable contributions of people of African descent to Science, Math, Literature, Athletics and ingenuity. As well as their role in shaping our understandings of justice, freedom and dignity, values we all hold dear.
The cultures, experiences and contributions of people of African descent are much too vast and rich to be relegated to 1 month. Nevertheless, I don’t see Black History Month as a stumbling block but as a stepping stone to learn, understand and cherish the contributions of African peoples to Canada and the world, all year round.
I honour the legacy of scholar Dr Carter G Woodson, who was instrumental in the creation of what we now know as “Black History Month”. Dr. Woodson and others like him took it upon themselves to combat the deliberate erasure of Africans from the history books and incite pride into a people rightly deserving of it. For that we are thankful.
I challenge you to understand the human story through the lense of Africans which includes African Americans, African Canadians, Caribbeans, Afro Latinos and beyond.
In the words of Dr. Martin Luther King:
Be proud of [y]our heritage. We don’t have anything to be ashamed of. Somebody told a lie one day. They couched it in language. They made everything black ugly and evil. Look in your dictionary and see the synonyms of the word black. It’s always something degrading, low and sinister. Look at the word white. It’s always something pure, high, clean. Well I want to get the language right tonight. I want to get the language so right that everybody here will cry out, Yes! I’m Black. I’m proud of it. I’m black and beautiful.
Happy Black History Month Family :)
“This is precisely the time when artists go to work. There is no time for despair, no place for self-pity, no need for silence, no room for fear. That is how civilizations heal”.
The words of Nobel Prize winner Toni Morrison could not be more relevant for today. The graphic deaths of Black men at the hands of police officers and election of Donald Trump among many other things has created a tense social climate.
Nevertheless, this is precisely the time when artists rise to the occasion to paint their canvases, find their voices and create masterpieces over a backdrop of division, fear and grief.
Jovan Mackenzy is a 31-year old hip hop artist who hails from Duval Florida who has answered the call of the artist with his latest album “Crooked 10”. Mackenzy doesn’t shy away from his Christian faith and describes his purpose as glorifying Jesus Christ and magnifying the voice of people living in the inner-city.
As a Christian who navigates the world as a black women and is grappling with my racial identity I found “Crooked 10” to be a breath of fresh air. It dealt with complex issues such as fatherlessness, police brutality and community violence etc. without oversimplifying them. I think it’s easy to adopt very stringent views regarding racial issues. Either as a leftist who regards ALL issues affecting the black community as the result of the “system” or chattel slavery with no accountability on the part of people, or a right-leaning conservative who sees African Americans as victims of their own debased culture.
None of these views do the Black American community justice and are a disservice to the collective upliftment of the community. We must acknowledge the legacy of chattel slavery, Jim Crow and racial terror on Black America today, while recognizing the tremendous resilience, ingenuity and capability African Americans have to reform their culture in order to make them competitive for the 21st century.
Crooked 10 recognizes the duality of these issues by highlighting police brutality in songs such as “Blue Lights” while calling out the gun violence on the South Side of Chicago. Mackenzy takes it further by recognizing the scars fatherlessness has created in our communities in his song “Ripple Effect”. He does well to honor the life of Aiden Michael McClendon, a young boy whose life was tragically cut short after being hit by bullets in a drive by shooting in Jacksonville Florida by condemning community violence.
The world needs to hear the voices of inner city men and women.
Enough reading. Take a listen for yourselves: https://itunes.apple.com/album/id1311943698?ls=1&app=itunes
Until the ink drips,
I was born in the year 2000 and that makes me a "millennial". From our love for technology, thirst for social justice and equality I would say we have a lot of positive qualities to offer the world.
As someone who enjoys listening to political and cultural commentary I've noticed "millennials" are often described as overly sensitive by political pundits such as Ben Shapiro and Jordan Peterson.
I often go back and forth between whether this is true or not. I know what it feels like to be emotionally attached to an opinion and feel like my identity is under attack. On the other hand, wisdom informs that, referring to an opposing view as "stupid " or "uneducated" doesn't make my opinion any more valid. My goal is not to see debate as a mental flexing of the muscles but to exchange ideas.
Nevertheless, I've realized it’s normal to get offended. It's normal to be passionate about certain topics, especially if you see it as apart of your identity such as "race" or "gender" or "sexuality". However, I'd encourage people to push past their initial offence.
We all need to think critically about our views and have the ability to argue them logically. I'm not asking you to be an emotionless robot who spits out facts on command but I'm pleading with you to research both sides of an argument inorder to logically craft responses to opinions you disagree with.
In other words, I'm daring you to argue. And to argue well.
Until the ink drips,
I’m on a journey to figure out my cultural identity. I've embraced the Akan principle of "Sankofa" – “it is not taboo to fetch what is at risk of being left behind.” In other words, I want to go back and get it. I've started with Ancient African history and as Robin Walker says “it’s a history people of African descent can be objectively proud of”’. From the Nile valley civilizations of Egypt and Nubia, the construction of the pyramids that cannot be replicated by modern-day technology, the West African empire of Songhai, from the richest man who ever lived ( modern net worth of 400 billion) Emperor Mansa Musa, who ruled the Mali empire that was characterized by the relative high status of women. This is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to African history.
As well as the Dogon people of Mali, with their discovery of Sirus B and vast knowledge of astronomy that has baffled NASA or the heavy influence of West and central Africans on Pablo Picasso's Cubism Art.
I'm ashamed to say but I did not accept this history easily. I initially thought we were telling ourselves of these civilizations to make ourselves feel better. It did not help that the education system did not validate this information. Nevertheless, there is significant evidence from scholars such as Dr. Henry Lois Gates and Cheikh Anta Diop that verify this information.
I'm not one to blow the trumpet on prejudice and conspiracy but there is a putrid racism that has permeated the supposedly objective fields of Biology, Anthropology and History, especially throughout the 19th and 20th century. Which continues to distort the history of Africa in the eyes of the world and people of African descent.
In 1871, German geographer, Karl Gottlieb Mauch "discovered" the stone ruins of the Ancient city of Great Zimbabwe. He thought the ruins were the remnants of the Biblical city of Ophir, described as the origin of the gold given by the Queen of Sheba (Ethiopian woman) to King Solomon. He refused to believe the city could be built by the local people even though further research suggested the structures were indeed developed by local Africans.
Or in recent years, when former French president, Nicholas Sarkozy said
"The tragedy of Africa is that the African has not fully entered into history ... They have never really launched themselves into the future...The African peasant only knew the eternal renewal of time, marked by the endless repetition of the same gestures and the same words… In this realm of fancy ... there is neither room for human endeavor nor the idea of progress.”
This was one of the leaders of the free world. By western standards he's an educated man but was confident when spouting this type of nonsense.
How are Africans supposed to get the due credit of civilizations when the people that validate that information have often not valued their intellect or humanity?
History is powerful. It gives us something to latch onto and something to be proud of. So where does that leave us?
We have been greatly sinned against but we are not victims. Our ancestors traversed some of the most turbulent waters humans have endured but did not give up. It's our job to take the narrative into our own hands. It's our duty to study, grapple with and pass the information on to our peers. As Jamaican- Pan Africanist said "A people without the knowledge of their past history, origin and culture is like a tree without roots.”
We are complex yet simple . We are great yet flawed. We are joyful yet burdened. We are people of African descent and our understanding of what that means, makes us better human beings and contributors to humanity.
I've loved history since I was 10 years old. The thought of understanding current events as result of having a grasp on previous events encourages me to study history so I can comprehend the world around me. I know I am a nerd :).
As well, I think understanding historical events can help address contemporary issues that affect communities across the African diaspora.
I have tremendous respect and reverence for people of the diaspora. African Nova Scotians, African Americans, Caribbeans and Afro Latinos have gifted the world with so much.
From pursuing academic excellence through inventions such as the modern day Lawn Mower (John Albert Burr) , the Gas Mask (Garrett Morgan) , Traffic Light (Garrett Morgan), Modern Blood Bank (Charles Drew), treatment of Glaucoma (Percy Julian), pioneering Open Heart surgery (Daniel Hale Williams), patenting the modern Home Security System (Marie Van Britton), the Automatic Gear Shift (Richard Spikes), Caller ID (Dr. Shirley Jackson) and calculating by hand the complex equations that allowed space travel (Katherine Johnson, Dorothy Vaughan and Mary Jackson) etc.
To birthing music genres like Gospel music, Jazz, Rock n' roll, Soul music, R&B, Hip- Hop music, Blues, Samba and Reggae as well as pursuing athletic excellence by setting records in Track and Field , Baseball, Basketball etc. All the while emerging from and actively resisting (search Haitian revolution and Jamaican Maroons), the worst form of slavery the world has ever seen, Chattel Slavery, and the racial terror that followed such as Jim Crow in the United States of America.
Furthermore, Enslaved Africans preserved parts of their culture (search Africanisms) as seen through the Akan influence on the language of Patois, the Yoruba influence on Samba music in Brazil, as well as Yoruba spirituality that is still practiced in Cuba and the " The Charleston Dance" which was heavily influenced by enslaved Kongas who brought the Juba dance over etc.
Africans Americans, Caribbeans and Afro Latinos have a rich and distinct culture that is just as valid as my Asante- Ghanaian culture. I will continue to reject the lie that my distant relatives don't have a "real culture". Nevertheless, I recognize the Arab and The "Maafa" - translated The great disaster (Swahili word for the Atlantic Slave trade ), was the greatest forced migration in human history which deserves a lament for lost traditions, names, languages, culture and history.