By PAT WATSON
Close to a million people of African heritage live in Canada, most reside in the Greater Toronto Area. The majority of those people have come here by choice, and with the kind of hope that propels all immigrants when they leave their country of birth and set off to seek their fortune in a new land.
But despite that optimism, each new wave of immigrants finds that they are not so readily accepted here at first. There is typical resistance from the group that arrived prior. Still, where people look alike there is eventual assimilation.
The way forward for people of colour, or visible minorities as we are called, has been more difficult. That is not news. Moreover, whenever this community seeks to redress imbalances or to initiate corrective measures we are met with transparent rationalizations the subtext of which is anti-Black racism.
That is why it took more than 30 years to get even one alternative primary school with an Africentric-based curriculum established. That is why it took persistent and vocal advocacy to get the issue of racial profiling and unwarranted police stops of young Black men on the table at the Toronto Police Service Board.
Every step requires a concerted push forward and determination to persist until the goal of equity is achieved.
Last week in Share, it was reported that a community meeting at the Jamaican Canadian Centre on issues of importance to this community included discussion of formation of a social service organization focused on serving the needs of children and families. This would be an answer to the numbers of Black children being removed from their homes by the Children’s Aid Society (CAS), an outcome that has much to do with the lack of understanding on the part of the CAS of what the parenting culture of this community is and what it is not. Establishment of such a social service would require steady commitment by a determined collective.
There is enough history of what to expect going forward to achieve this needed service.
This week, the march forward for civil rights in the United States is being marked especially because it has been 50 years since the March in Selma. “We the North” like to engage in ideas that in the area of race relations things are not as bad here as in the U.S. But the world watches America and takes many cues from what happens there. The fight for equal rights and justice there is not lost on us here. We struggle with the same kinds of injustices related to so-called race – racialized poverty, loss of education and career opportunities, and other social currency that other groups seem to have access to with impunity.
So we have to arm ourselves with resolve and make perseverance a guiding principle. There is no question that by using these tools, this community will attain our fair share. But, as with the push for equality from Selma, Alabama, all the way to Washington D.C., there has to be a well-supported and sustained effort. As we are witnessing now with the next generation of African-Americans taking a stand in their country, the work that is required to attain and maintain equality never gets a holiday.
This is an important piece of awareness, because it would be misleading to think at any point that “we have arrived”. As with life, so is the movement for equality and justice, it is not so much a matter of arrival but a journey.
As we head into Black History Month and begin to reflect on where we are as the result of the momentum of those who came before us, it is well to understand that they have passed the torch and we have to keep carrying it forward.
A note on a Hollywood snub…
The film Selma, which explores Rev. Martin Luther King’s participation in that momentous event in the fight for civil rights, does not need Hollywood Oscar award validation for it to matter to the rest of us. However, within the context of all that has occurred during the past year, the protests and demonstrations following the police killings of unarmed Black men, one has to wonder.
Pat Watson is the author of the e-book, In Through A Coloured Lens. Twitter@patprose