Struggling Catholic

I have had this “piece” in my heart for a while now and feel the need to let it out of me.

I was raised Catholic and I am still a practicing albeit struggling one. In my adult life, I have had periods of active attendance and engagement in the Church juxtaposed with years of not stepping foot once in a Church.

I have arrived at the theory below.

Catholicism presents itself in the form of rituals and outwardly expressions. The concept of personal relationship with God is not one that I knew of until much later in life. My mom was staunch, very prayerful but not outwardly expressive but my dad on the other hand had a literal shrine in our living room which he prayed at his comings and goings: which could be several times a day sometimes.

The outward expression of faith, in my opinion, lent itself to two things: guilt and judgement. I felt judged for not genuflecting piously enough which in turn fed the Catholic guilt that made me feel forever inadequate.

Judgement is not reserved for oneself though; because there was an unspoken rule that the holier members of our Church were above petty sin. Their outward relationship with God was expected to translate to a private life that was a mirror image of their outward expressions.

The first time I openly judged a fellow Catholic was one Ohio priest who spoke at one of trump’s final 2016 rallies. I judged him for not seeing the candidate through my eyes as I erroneously assumed our faith to be homogenous.

My father was the next person that I judged because you see, unlike my mom, his private self was completely removed from the pious church elder. I couldn’t reconcile his actions from his faith and i took my disappointments in him directly to my faith.

Perhaps Catholicism should aim for the personal relationship with Christ that the protestant movement preaches. Perhaps the Church should acknowledge that we are all a work in progress and that our successes or failures in observing the rights of the church doesn’t in any way reflect God’s view of us.

I am still struggling and will perhaps be struggling my entire life but i am striving to walk the imperfect walk, focusing on God and not questioning how well others perform or do not perform their rights

p.s this has been sitting in my drafts for months- as I was afraid and ashamed to utter this thoughts out loud. Catholic guilt is a sin man (Nov 6, 2020)

Hope and change 2.0

As the world waits with baited breath for the US Presidential election results, there has been a lot of discussion and speculation about the outcome so far. Yes, it does appear that Joe Biden is going to squeak a win but he was supposed to have been a shoo in. Him, and the democrats in Senate and Congress, were supposed to have wiped the ground with their Republican opponents in a scorched earth scenario. Alas, it appears that not only may the Senate remain in Republican hands but Dems may end up losing some of their stronghold in Congress. Further to that, Uncle Joe’s win will come down to scrapping the bottom of the election barrels, of a Supreme Court fight, should his highly litigious and unwilling to concede opponent take it that far. I won’t spend any more time thinking or writing about the current occupant of 1600 Penn but rather his supporters.

You see, he didn’t vote for himself (although, given that he claims to be better at everything than everyone, I’m surprised he didn’t attempt to-sorry, I couldn’t resist that jibe). As I write, he holds 60 million plus individual votes, so that many humans, plus more yet to be counted, thought it best to re-elect him, despite all the dog whistles, lacklustre leadership (at best), school yard bully name calling etc. They thought nothing of his bluster and arrogance and enormous ability to lie, especially about issues that can be very easily verified. They have bought into his conspiracy theories, and creation of boogey-men a.k.a Democrats or swamp people lurking at every corner, and this mistrust is perhaps one of the reasons the pollsters, for the second election cycle, have come up short in their prediction. A friend of mine recently mentioned to me, twice in as many days that perhaps “we are the ones out of touch”; and the ‘we’ in this situation being people opposed to trump and more so trumpism.

The thing is, I have never claimed to be all knowing or completely justified in my views so I answered in the affirmative both times my friend made the assertion. Yes, it is possible there is a large portion of the electorate, at least 72 million+ in the US alone so far, who are just out of touch with reality and admitting that is the best step in healing and moving forward. However, I personally believe it is the trumpers who are determined to remain out of touch with the current and future realities and move back in time. To illustrate, earlier this year, my brother in law posted a call to vote on his FB page in support of the Biden/Harris ticket. He’s not usually very active on social media, so understandably, there were a lot of us chiming in with our thoughts and opinions. One lady chose to use her time to castigate him for imposing his socialist opinions on others, which took us all back because he had not held a gun to anyone’s head or condemned the “others” in any way. I was one of perhaps 3 or 4 commentors who engaged this lady, and I remember asking her something to do with her understanding of socialism as an economic system, in the hopes that we could have a good intelligent discussion. Her response threw us all for a loop: without missing a heartbeat, she directed her reply again to my brother in law, telling him how she had never shown any animosity to his wife and kids, and was happy to see them living their best life, despite the fact that she harboured reservations about race mixing. If yours eyes just nearly popped off their sockets dear reader, you are not alone. Not only was this beyond baffling, and a masterclass level digress from the issue on the table, but more so, it was so maddening that my blood is boiling just from the memory of how it felt in the moment.

So, my dear friend, yes we may be out of touch, but it is only with the past. There are lots of people in the West today: US, Canada, parts of Europe, Australia etc who are still living in the past. Their governments, afraid of going extinct due to people choosing to either not have children or not to have enough to replace or grow their population, had the foresight to open doors to foreigners, as a source of labour. In the case of the US, some of the “foreigners” in question were brought in chains, kicking and screaming and in the last 60 or so years, have attained the right to be fully functioning members of  society and not just the help. At the same time, borders have been opened to allow even more racially ambiguous individuals in acceptance of the inevitability of unification of all men, leading to a present and future America and Canada that doesn’t look anything like it did that many years ago.

You know what, to an extent, I do understand where these people are coming from. I was born and raised in a monolithic society where everyone looked just like me. Whenever we encountered mixed race or other races of people, we treated them according to whatever myth or stereotype we had heard about them, never making an effort to know them as individuals. My country, thank God, never went through any attempt at racial or tribal cleansing in my lifetime but there were those countries who bought into the threat of ‘others” so much so that killing or eliminating them was the only way to “maintain their purity”. Hence the genocide in Rwanda, the “Ghana must go” push by Nigerians and the still recurring violence against (African) foreigners in South Africa. Were you to ask any of these groups about how trumpism, they would perhaps condemn it in no uncertain terms, blind to their own prejudices.

I recently read somewhere about how important the SA Truth and Reconciliation committee post election was in allowing for a peaceful transition. Any counselor or psychologist will tell you that openly admitting to a feeling, having it acknowledged not necessarily as true but as valid, followed by genuine discussion on the way forward is crucial to emotional health. The US did not do that when it overturned its policies against black people, seemingly overnight and there are still scores who felt that the decision was imposed on them and was not one they would have preferred. Canada went through a truth and reconciliation process between 2008 and 2015 with its indigenous citizens; a noble idea whose devil is in the details of implementing the findings.

I am not out of touch; I completely understand where I stand and respect the desire for some to only see people like me on National Geographic channels or worse still in aprons or with hoes. But that world they desire can not be, mostly because machines have replaced human labour in most spheres of life. More importantly, while one leader may promise to return them to such a time, doing so would be to their detriment in various ways, prime of which is potential loss of life from environmental pollution (coal anyone?), and loss of investment opportunities by organizations that value that diversity of race= diversity of thought=diversity of opportunities= diversity of creativity =, = , =.

The lady on the FB page, whom we all roundly condemned, is living in a bubble, which she falsely believes is protecting her but were she to step out of it, would realize there is a lot of life to be lived, when one minds their own business and perhaps as her Bible thumping upbringing taught her: asked “what would Jesus do”.

The irony of it is that she, like a lot of others “blood and soil” patriots are at the very most, 2nd generation citizens. Their grandparents escaped to freedom in North America from countries where they were “other’d” for whatever reason; as is the case with their dear leader. Uncle Joe Biden is a decent human being, but even he can not lead the reconciliation and honest discussions that are required to move the country outside of its current deadlock. I am the forever optimist but i do believe we need to do, more than say in order to see the future that was dreamed of by our forebearers.

What losing my mind taught me

On the 16th of May, the year of our Lord 2020, I woke up with a pounding headache, and completely unaware of where I was. According to my husband, I kept asking about our oldest daughter (who moved out in Jan of this same year) and repeating the same question almost as soon as it was answered. He thought I was fooling around so he started making fun of me. Irritated, I walked next door to my son’s room and peppered him with the same question. He was quite alarmed by it all and either of his own accord, or my suggestion, he called 9-1-1. The paramedics came in, checked my vitals which were normal but still wanted to take me to the hospital for further observation. Apparently, I refused to accompany them on account of a) not wanting my son to be worried b) not wanting to pay ambulance fees (this second point makes me chuckle that even in my madness, I am still cheap 😊 )

My husband eventually convinced me to go to the ER, and due to covid, he dropped me off at the entrance and left me there for several hours while they checked me for stroke and concluded that I wasn’t experiencing one. While doing an CT scan, they accidentally scanned my chest, where they found clots in my lungs- complete happenstance (or was it??). I was immediately started on blood thinners, and sent on my merry way. Official diagnosis: TGA (Transient Global Amnesia) a.k.a something happened to my brain causing temporary amnesia but not much is known about the “something”. It apparently is only supposed to occur once in a life time and more often than not in older population, which at 43 I apparently does not include my demographic. I was foggy for a day or two after that but eventually recovered my prior memories but none of the duration of the episode.

First forward to Sept 2nd the same year of our Lord 2020 and I woke up unaware of myself or my surroundings again #theylied. For some reason, I still kept asking for my oldest daughter, who thankfully came home a few days after the episode and eased my mind. I have less details about this second one, perhaps because my family is getting tiredness of the madness: pun totally intended hahaha. The fog lasted a good two weeks after this second episode, and as I write (close to 3 weeks later), I still have pockets of my memories since the episode that are all but gone. Incidentally, my older memories resumed perfectly and as usual the day of is gone.

I’ve never been the smartest person in the room, or the prettiest, I’ve been the tallest sometimes and on some days depending on my mood, either the loudest or quietest: in other words I am your typical average person. That didn’t stop my mind from dreaming up an alternative life where I am “somebody”. Some of this head in the clouds behaviour was encouraged by my dad when I was young, most of it from all the books I’ve read over the years and every heroine I have idolized in them. Most of my dreams have to do with public service either in the legal or administrative capacities as I am strong believer in changing society one dusty Government file at a time. I have made circuitous attempts to achieve these goals, while balancing the mom and wife life and in all cases fallen flat. BUT, I always had the dream, and as someone always willing and capable to read and advance my knowledge, I figured it was only a matter of time before I brought it to fruition. Until now

In history, books and movies etc, there is the concept of “the masses”. These nameless, faceless group that plays as a backdrop to the main storyline. Sometimes, they are in servitude of the lead character, sometimes they select the lead either in election or by chanting their name in the streets. Sometimes, as in my beloved “GoT”, they are massacred by flying dragons, with nary a mention of the families who go on to curse day the dragon was hatched. They are very important, especially in determining the popularity, or lack of thereof, of the main protagonist but lack individual recognition. Excellence demands rising above that group enough to stand out in whatever capacity and many self-help books have been written about avoiding this grey existence. One may even argue it has fueled the rise of internet and social media stars, who create their own “masses” in the form of likes and followers and chart their own stories of excellence to avoid being seen as failures.

I am not a failure though: I have three beautiful, smart, thoughtful children whom I have raised against all odds. With their dad, whom 25 years later, I still think is pretty hot and I have grown to tolerate if not out rightly appreciate his quarks ; many though they may be 😊. To these 4 humans, and my 4 siblings, and my mom and perhaps my dad, I am not a “mass” but an individual with a plotline to match or even beat many Russian tragedies. Yet to the world, and perhaps finally to my own realization, I am part of the masses. This doesn’t make me feel sad, or want to somehow change the trajectory of my life so far, but infact makes me content. Losing my mind allowed me to see that the thing that I valued the most, which is my ability to learn and retain knowledge, was not mine to lay claim to. I am ok seeing my children and husband thrive and if their path raises them from the masses, I pray to be around to cheer and maybe get a cameo appearance as “woman in the back fainting at the sight of the hero/heroine”.

of death and taxes

It is said those are the two things we can’t avoid in life but as all the rich have shown us, one can buy their way out of tax obligations but when death comes knocking; none can escape.

So I write today with heavy sadness at the news of the passing of Chadwick Boseman. In life, as in death, he lived a quiet existence, only speaking through his art; and what artistic talent that was!

That he went through filming and press for Jackie, Marshall and the Juggernaut that was Black Panther, whilst battling colon cancer and not once playing the victim is testament to his true character and strength.

Watching him in interviews, especially for Black Panther, i saw an ethereal quality about him; he just felt like a god among men. He never carried himself with airs over his successes and his humility felt genuine. This was not a man who chose to be a star but one that allowed God to use him as a vessel and took his calling with honour.

His mention of how an unknown benefactor paid for an advanced acting course in the UK, only for him to later find out it had been Denzel Washington is serendipitous and from my point off view clear proof of divine intervention.

I listened to a commencement address he gave to Howard University; his alma mater. Among other things, he told the graduates to find a passion and a calling because unlike careers, those can be carried across different ‘jobs’. What words of wisdom from someone so young.

The world is much better for his having been in it and I pray with all my heart that his family finds peace and healing through this very difficult time.

Rest in eternal peace Chadwick- until we meet again.

Artistic protest

In my school years, back in the old motherland, the teachers made no secret of the fact that the only students worth their time and effort were the future doctors, engineers and potentially wealthy lawyers. The irony of the fact that they were none of those professions was lost on them, as they pushed us to master theorems and formulas that have since been made obsolete by technology and other advancements.

I wasn’t daft in those courses, but I struggled with Physics so badly that both the teacher and I couldn’t wait for my second year in high school, when I was able to say goodbye to velocities and swinging pendulums for good- the man was at his wits end with me and I can’t say I blamed him.

I digress though because this post is not about my struggles in the sciences, but rather of the relative importance of arts over sciences in real life. The art of speaking for instance (which landed me on the noise-maker’s list one too many times) is a skill that has won more wars than the science of shooting bullets. Whether in the form of diplomacy, or a political leader that knows how to create just the right emotions in people using simple words, this has been a skill that should have been taught and developed more, especially in conjunction with its cousin, “listening”. Nelson Mandela is known more for his oratory skills than for what he created in a lab. So are MLK, JFK and more recently BO (sorry Barrack, your initials don’t lend themselves well to abbreviation). They stirred emotions that resulted in the kind of monumental change that may take another Einstein to produce in scientific terms and in most cases, we are the better for it.

However, the art forms that have me even more enthralled are music and drama. Listening to Bob Marley’s music, such as his songs “war”, “redemption song” etc. speaks so clearly to cultural and societal realities than any economist ever could. He was not beholden to prior ideologies when he stated that “until the philosophy which holds one race superior and another inferior, is finally, and permanently, eradicated and abandoned, everywhere is war”, which was a call to colonized African countries to keep fighting for their freedoms then, just as much as it speaks to current efforts by the Black Lives Matter movement.

And who can forget Nina Simone, singing about Governor Wallace’s madness in real time, at such a time when black bodies could disappear without anyone as much as blinking an eye. Even in times when such musicians did not drive change directly, they inspired others by creating rallying cries that could reach more masses than the leaders’ words.

Who can forget Tupac: the one true prophet of my generation (in my humble and completely biased opinion). I still get goosebumps when I listen to  “changes” because the underlying feeling then, is one that so many today still feel: “is life worth living should I blast myself?” may sound morbid but it’s an honest question against the backdrop of issues like police brutality for the simple act of “existing while black”. In the same song, he castigated drug dealers who sold to children or used children as potters, an observation that carried more weight coming from an “insider” in the community and I’d like to believe that he may have saved a child’s life.

John Lennon’s “imagine” is perhaps an antidote to the hopelessness that Tupac felt because he creates an image of a time where we do not use god (small g intentional) to justify hate, or a time when we are no longer valued on the basis of possessions, or things but as human beings. Period.

There are so many such lyrical prophets across all musical genres but what I find interesting is that the most gifted ones died way too young, often times under a gunman’s hand or under suspicious circumstances.

Case in point, Hachalu Hundessa from Ethopia was murdered recenty, and while I don’t know his music, his story is no different from all other artists who knowingly or accidentally drove social change. Something about their messages drives those opposed to their ideals so mad that silencing them becomes the only way “out”. And yet that does not in any way diminish their music or art, infact it often amplifies it. I mourn with Ethiopian music lovers for the loss of their poet but also know that in death, Mr. Hundessa has created a generation of believers, perhaps even more than he would have in life; heck I am seeking out his music now, even though I don’t understand the lyrics.

So yes, as a mother raised on the “science is better” mantra, I do have to fight the nagging voice that wants to look down on the arts, which should rightfully be viewed as equal to sciences in terms of real change (yes science, we know penicillin was a life changer thanks to you- no shade intended at all)

 As a maturing mother though, I pray that I’ll allow my children to use their voice in whichever way God meant for it to be used. I want to give them the platform they need to hit people’s consciousness with their art because “one good thing about music, is when it hits you, you feel no pain”.

 RIP Bob Marley, RIP Tupac, RIP Nina Simone, RIP Hachalu Hundessa

Dogs….Racism

Growing up, a dog was not man’s (or in my case girl’s) best friend. Dogs were unpaid members of the household that were expected to guard and protect even to the death, but not be seen especially in front of company. Dogs in our neighbourhood were the poor man’s substitute for a watchman; a job that they did perhaps a lot better than their paid human counterparts.

They were given tough sounding names: simba was popular, so was kojak and our own life saver was named Tiger and fierce he sure was. To this day, I do not recall what breed our tiger was, only that like most other guard dogs, he was big and fierce and brown. This was a typical look, with slight coat various in shades of black and brown but nobody had time for tiny dogs.

Most were kept in kennels during the day, often ramshackle tin structures sometimes with a small window covered in chicken wire to allow them to see their prey (or maybe breath). Apparently, the angst from staying in all day circling the same tiny space ensured that once released at night, they would be most hungry (literally and figuratively because not much food was provided) to attack anyone that wanted to harm their owners. The few that were kept out all day were either not menacing enough, or were the retired, death bed versions of their former selves.

 I recall a time when Tiger broke through his flimsy door in broad daylight and found innocent and unfamiliar me hanging around “suspiciously” in the yard. He proceeded to give chase, while barking menacingly and for whatever reason, I ran away from the compound and 10 minutes later leaped across the storekeepers shelve to safety. He was shoo’d away by well meaning customers and I stayed there until one of my siblings who had watched the entire episode from inside the house finally arrived with the leash (and treats) for “our dog”

For reasons such as these, the process of releasing them at dusk required only their most trusted human to be present. Once released, they would stay within the boundaries of their homestead only if the fencing was sturdy enough and howl the night away. However, those who could escape, would pack together with their neighbourhood friends, as they searched for human or small animals to make a meal of. Meeting with such a pack at night was akin to walking towards a group of militias, only one that could only be bribed by a bite of your thigh or worse.

Imagine my surprise when I moved to the USA after University to find that dogs not only lived with their owners inside the same houses but were fed AND clothed too. Watching people walk their dogs initially gave me heart palpitations and 20 years later, a barking dog still stirs my heart. Learning that veterinarians were a big business, and not just to inoculate the precious and useful goats and cows like back home, but to keep a healthy check on dogs and cats was beyond baffling to me.

When I thought of my experience with dogs, it game me some empathy towards their view of me because they, like me, were cultured to see the world that way. For some odd and inexpiable reason, the darker people in society are viewed as “less than” and so even in their home countries, with their countrymen, treating such people in a discriminate manner is seen as maintaining social order, however warped that view may be. Having black and brown people cooking and cleaning after them and even (interestingly enough) raising their children is perfectly acceptable, so long as we remain in our kennels and do not request or worse still demand equal treatment under the law.

I have adopted to know that there are mean dogs who must remained muzzled , small dogs that have a loud barks but no bite, huge dogs that on first glance may seem threatening and scary (looking at you great Dane) but are super harmless and everything in between. I have found the same diversity in humans regardless of race, colour or creed and just as it takes patience and an open mind to understand dogs, so it should be with humans.

At the risk of not ending on a positive note, I can excuse those who were cultured differently and will willingly have the uncomfortable conversations to open their minds. However, I have no time for those that know all this, but still choose willful ignorance, hate and discrimination; to you all I’d tell tiger to “sika!”

What’s the point of it all?

I love to write; nay I loved to write.  There was always a gleam of unseen life that existed in my head when I’d write stories in my primary school compositions. There was an innocence that allowed me to see the beauty in the mundane and allow myself to imagine possibilities that were not supported by my circumstances.  I wish I’d saved such compositions so I could regain that

I find myself devoid of the positivity necessary to write anything of meaning. As I have solidified my status as a legal alien in North America as one side of a scale, the weight of what that encompasses disproportionately weighs me down, causing regret and a dissatisfaction with my current existence that may seem unreasonably negative.

The subject of my current displeasure is a human resources director, who knowingly or not, has made it her mission to frustrate me by pointing out my inadequacies; real or imagined. A person whose very job title includes the title “diversity” spends more time highlighting my differences and ways in which that signifies a ‘lack-of”. Every time I tell myself my skin is too thick to withstand simple microaggressions, she manages to make me forget my vow to rise above it all.

Then I think of people who faced way worse than I did: I think of Nina Simone, penning “Mississippi goddamn” during the height of the civil rights movement. How brave was she to express herself so eloquently, as only a curse sometimes may, knowing full well that the risk she faced from such acts was death itself. This humbles me yes and makes me snap out of the pity-party that is in full swing inside my head.

Yet it does not invalidate the fact that in this day and age; at my age, I should be dealing with issues of a higher calling than petty discrimination. It upsets me to no end that even as the world is facing an existential crisis in the form of Covid-19, people like me are facing it a little tougher; either from lack of social support or from occurrences such as this https://thegrio.com/2020/05/04/white-privilege-crowded-parks-nyc/, which highlight that lady justice is only colour-blind in so far as she doesn’t see black or brown hues.

I want to sit down one day and write a song; a soliloquy to how great life is. A recognition of fulfilled dreams or a ‘sending positive vibes’ letter to my children as they enter adulthood.

I will write that one day: in this world or the next

But today, my tired bones just need to grovel and question the point of it all!

N

I wonder if COVID-19 will make us better humans

As we begin day one of a 14 day lockdown in Ontario, I have thoughts (completely mine) and questions:

  • How did we get here? How is it that the world with all it’s advancement did not prepare for such a risk- however remote it might have been in anyone’s mind?
  • How do we get from here? I am completely opposed to placing economics over lives but how do we slow or stop the world enough to make reasonable assessments and get out of this better than we got into it?

Yesterday someone made a straight faced comment to me that we (in Canada) will not have sufficient funds to bail us out of this, because Justin Trudeau has wasted it on refugees who come here and are given everything for free. As upsetting as this completely odd and unnecessary pivot from reality was, this individual had a mother and brother who lived their last 15 years on earth in Canada, with full health and social benefits while on disability (in the brother’s case, due to an alcohol related disability). They didn’t work or contribute to their cost of living in any way- but the irony of this was completely lost on this individual. While there is a large population of Canadians who are genuinely good, individuals such as this one, who often are (I hate to say it), immigrants like me, see the world only through their ignorance and xenophobia.

Even in the midst of such a chaotic time, they choose to look backwards, to an argument that is neither here nor there; and it worries me that this God-given opportunity for individual and collective reflection will not be valuable to them because like an obstinate ox, they are firmly placed in their place- even against their own good.

I guess it helps them sleep at night

I wish I had answers to how we, as the world, will get through this. One thing I do know is that we need to break from our every day activities, and seek a lasting solution not only to this pandemic but to future possibilities of the same. In times when Nationalism had become the rallying cry for most leaders, this pandemic calls for even greater co-operation between countries, regions and the world. This issue has showed us that me-first, or me-only is just not a viable way for this completely interconnected world to continue.

At the other end of this, I hope not to have to listen to ignorance such as above (though I am not THAT optimistic but hey!)

Until then, wash your hands, avoid crowds, check on your neighbours and let’s beat this thing together

Black History Celebration

Yesterday I had the pleasure and privilege of attending the annual black history celebration at Etobicoke School for the Arts (https://www.esainfo.ca). Aside from celebrating our future movie producer and director Emmanuel, I went eager to see what the youth’s take on the black experience in Toronto (and the world really given their diverse backgrounds). I was not disappointed!!


Again, I must plug Emmanuel and say if you don’t know him now, you will soon because the boy has talent oozing out of his every pore and the sky is truly his only limit.


I just had a momentary brain freeze and writer’s block at attempting to explain how the show made me feel. There are a lot of talented kids, especially as ESA is one of the top Arts schools in the region or perhaps the country; that is not up to to debate. However, the presentations yesterday felt raw and vulnerable and completely devoid of the infusion of drama that one may expect from arts students.

They spoke candidly about their struggle to occupy spaces that their peers perhaps take for granted: their feeling of “otherness”, their need to control their true emotions for fear of alienating their peers, the struggles of those that identify as LGBTQI & also black to gain acceptance not only by their communities but especially outside of it. I was especially moved by a skit about a girl struggling with a decision to bleach their darker skin so as to fit in- complete with advise from beyond by Harriet Tubman (she was not depicted as much of a pacifist that woman 😊), Claudette Clovin, Betty Shabazz and Martin Luther King JR. The actors were hilarious but the issues that the young woman was struggling with were no laughing matter. One comment they made about the teasing by students about where is “X” when the lights go out reminded me of my own daughter struggling with such cruelty during her late primary school years. The skit about why black kids sit together or isolate themselves in the lunch room was very touching in it’s honesty because it did not provide a concrete answer, as there truly is none, but it explained why even black adults gravitate towards each other in work places and elsewhere- safety in numbers.

The dance performances were amazing but also filled with heart- for once I did not raise any eye-brows over shaking booties and curse words as they all seemed to serve a greater purpose than the hyper-sexualization that hip hop and other such dance forms are often relegated to.

I could write two books just giving my take on that show and justifying all the times my tears fell freely down my cheeks; but the overarching feeling that I’d be trying to express is my sadness. Sadness that these children, born and raised here (sometimes 2nd and 3rd generation) still don’t feel settled in their own home. Sadness that even at that age, and perhaps more so given social media’s influence, they have to fight to be seen as ‘equal to’, ‘worthy of’, and ‘deserving of’ whatever the good Lord Himself put them on earth to do. My 11 years old daughter was quite emotional after watching the show not because the issues that were addressed were foreign to her but because she could put a name on some of the feelings and actions she’s experienced before. She’s 11 years old- at her age I thought I was binge-reading Nancy Drew and Sweet Valley High and planning to take over the world as a teenage sleuth ☹

Because I am an eternal optimist, I will chose to end this post with the positives that I took from it; primarily the underlying message demanding kindness and understanding from within and outside of their communities. These kids are confronting their reality head on and seeking and successfully finding allies who hopefully do not lose that sense of open mindedness and for lack of a better word “colour blindness” as they grow up. They spoke honestly, sometimes pointing their fingers directly at themselves over areas that they could do more to change the narrative- something that may be controversial to those who only see racism in terms of the perpetrator versus the victim and completely miss the middle ground- that of people who are just ignorant and could use a little education and nudging. There is hope yet- and for the sake of their lovely souls and humanity I pray that it comes to fruition and these kids can truly feel “Canadian” – no hyphen necessary.

What a way to celebrate Black History Month- thank you ESA (and you go Manu!!!: 😊) Grid Table 3 A

Black History Month

Do you sometimes wonder why there needs to be an entire month dedicated to the history of one racial group?

I did- during my first few years in North America; I wondered if perhaps the Civil Rights movement had asked for too much in pushing for an entire month, albeit the shortest month of the year, to be attached to black people.

You see as someone from the motherland, my history was never in doubt. Passed down orally from one generation to the next (with embellishments along the way depending on the tale spinning skills at work), we all had a rough idea of where we came from. I have drunks and medicine men on my dad’s side and great leaders and extreme polygamists on my mum’s side. My family name on my dad’s side is quite colourful, owing to a great grandfather who ran the town. My sister’s name is so specific to our family that anytime we meet someone with that name, we are more than assured they are our kin. At any given time, we could be sure of at least 3-4 generations before us (see the caveat above on the downside to oral history) but the bottom line is that it continuous with no breakages.

We didn’t study the history of slavery back in the motherland and truth be told even colonialism was presented to us in the most sanitized fashion. However, after educating myself courtesy of living in North America, I learnt that when the slaves landed in the shores of North America, which for argument’s sake we will say was in 1619 Jamestown in present day Virginia, their history was essentially erased. They were assigned the names of their owners but none of the privileges. Someone previously named Makende now became Johnson; like a river whose straight-line course was forever diverted by use of a boulder or invisible river traffic cop. The separation of families by the traders created a new mishmash of families, who were not bound by blood and sometimes not even by language.

Fast forward to 1970 in the US and 1995 in Canada when people from the African diaspora first began to reclaim or more to the point, recreate their history 351 and 376 years later respectively. Granted oral history would not have provided a very smooth account of those years, it would have been nice for them to know that their lineage had been continuous throughout that time. Colonisers did try to divide and conquer Africans on their land and my mom told us of being forced into rows of homes, set as camps to keep everyone in and track the troublemakers who were living in the forests out and easier to “hunt” down. However even in these camps, cramped together into single rooms as they were, they continued their family lives and with it their stories. My North American cousins weren’t that lucky, especially because along the way, house slaves were given to birthing their masters’ offspring, hence complicating the lineage that much more.

A month doesn’t undo this; after all even DNA studies go only so far in bridging the missing links of their history. But if done well, it allows the black diaspora some time in the year to make a deliberate effort to research and learn their collective history and whatever individual history one can trace. It’s as important to do so as it is for the First Nations who suffered similar fate, in the form of extreme colonization on their own lands.

We can’t right any of these wrongs; we can’t even re-write the history but if only once in a year, we can acknowledge that Africans were brought into these lands against their wills and had histories that may not have been perfect but existed and perhaps, just perhaps, the future generations of black disaporans (sp) can move forward with a strong sense of a valid and legitimate past. After all, we are who we were!

Peace!