We must use entrepreneurship to uplift ourselves

By Lennox Farrell Wednesday September 11 2013 in Opinion
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Specific procedures, measurements and materials must be followed and used when positioning a new light pole anywhere in Ontario.


These requirements are to ensure safety and usefulness. First, any dirt where the post is planted is usually removed, not with shovels, but washed out using powerful water hoses. That way, other underground wiring and connections will not be damaged. Also, the circumference around the hole is filled, not with dirt but with aggregate. Pounded and ground from rock into a grainy sand, this aggregate packs the pole into the hole more securely than dirt can.


In addition, the procedure most technical is determining the depth of the hole into which each pole best fits. The calculations determining depth is one-tenth the height of the pole, plus two feet. Thus, planting a 50-foot pole requires a depth of seven feet; that is, five feet plus two feet. The poles are usually pine possibly because they are better able to withstand the rigours of weather and attacks by insects.


Light poles?! Why this description of light poles? Wooden light poles?


Well, for one thing, it might also hold enough interest for one to continue reading. More importantly, if clearly outlined specifications for positioning light poles are so precise to ensure safety, how much more precise must be any planning by our community to deliver our youth from the mouth of the roaring lion of anti-Black racism? And undertaken to achieve the maximum of success.


For example, there was, during the early 1990s, the establishing of a credit union to serve Black communities in the GTA. Its failure, from what I understood, went unobserved generally because its creation had arrived unheralded. There is possibly more that was not under the control of the organizers. The fact still is that it is no more. Any future planning in this regard – hopefully sooner rather than later – must be undertaken with community input, blessing and success the primary options.


Also, the ‘problem’ of unemployment and under-employment rampant in our communities must be seen not as a ‘problem’, but as a challenge. Defining them as ‘problems’ is to assume that these are unsolvable and inevitable; that we are too disorganized, too divided, too weak and too undeserving to do better. Apart from the First Nations of Canada, on whose lands we and others live and move and have our being, no other community here is as deserving of justice and progress as are we.


And why? A brief review of our history here might answer why. First, the arrival of Black people in North America pre-dates the very founding and naming of ‘Canada’. In addition, our history is one of Black people, as Maroons, Merikans and slaves, as free men and women defending the country. But who were these people, and when their recorded arrivals?


For a brief period, 16 years, some arrived as free people. One of these, in 1603, was the explorer/interpreter and freeman, Mathieu Da Costa. A navigator able to chart sextant, sky and tide, he was also the first linguist in North America: fluent in French, Portuguese, Dutch and Basque. He was interpreter for the Europeans in their dealings with the Mi’kmaq, a First Nations people living along the Atlantic and St. Lawrence Seaway.


The majority of these Black people, however, for two centuries after him (1619-1830), came shackled in slavery; many to English-speaking Jamestown. By 1628, the first Black person would arrive in what, centuries later, would be called Canada. Sadly, he was a child, kidnapped in Madagascar; sold and re-sold; and baptised by the Catholics in Quebec as Olivier Le Jeune.


Later, the increasing imports of enslaved Africans would force the French Monarchy to act. Thus, between 1685 and 1689, Louis XIV, importuned by French colonists for more slave labour, published the Code Noir which established and regularized controls on the enslavement of Africans here.


As a continuing experience of injustice in today’s ‘multicultural Canada’, no other community has had need of an Underground Railway as a means to escape oppression, and do so into a country where White Supremacist ideas and attitudes pervaded every strata of society. So, centuries before ‘Canada’ got its name, Black people, considered today as late-comers, were residents, albeit enslaved, in British and French-controlled territories.


By comparison, and regarding the arrival of Europeans and their impact on the land, the name, Canada, has been in use since the earliest European settlement of Jacques Cartier in 1535. It originated from an Iroquoian First Nations word, ‘kanata’. Translated, it means, ‘settlement, village, or land’.


Later, the whole area grew to become two British colonies: Upper Canada and Lower Canada. That is, until their union in 1791 as the British Province of Canada and Lower Canada. The two remained thus until 1841 when, as in a shotgun marriage, they were joined together as the British Province of Canada. Upon Confederation, in 1867, the name Canada was officially adopted for the new Dominion of Canada. This name, Canada, has been used thereafter in all treaties, contracts and international legal proceedings. In short, Black people were in ‘Kanata’ for almost 300 years before ‘Canada’, the country was born.


To understand the contributions of Black communities during these centuries, the country was the site of six colonial wars. According to the Ontario Black History Society, in every war fought then and later, Black people have defended Canada. For example, in 1796, an estimated 600 runaway slaves captured from mountainous regions of Jamaica were shipped from Trelawney to Nova Scotia.


They were forcibly exiled to ‘Kanata’ after another Maroon War against Rule Britannia. Soon after, however, these Jamaicans rallied to deter an attack by French troops on Canada. They later helped to build Halifax Citadel and, by themselves, built the Government House.


Likewise, across the country, against a series of American invasions and threats (1775-1867), Black people defended Canada. With the British navy always short of manpower, they were more welcome there than in the army. In the War of 1812, of the 2,000 Black people who had fled the United States to fight for their freedom alongside British troops in Canada – Black people, seeking freedom, fought on both sides – fought, rebuffing American regulars on what is today, the center of tourism in Niagara Falls: Lundy’s Lane.


These Black troops were later settled in Central Trinidad, establishing ‘Company Towns’ in today’s districts of Moruga and Mayaro. In Jamaica, anti-slavery fighters are Maroons. In Trinidad, they are Merikans.


The defending of Canada by Black people would continue with the country’s involvement in the Boers War, WWI, WWII, the Korean War, the Gulf War, the Kosovo War and the Afghan War.


And the roles played by Black women? Denied participation in Canada’s war effort in WWI, they still formed the Black Cross nurses, modeled on the Red Cross, to aid wounded soldiers. They also worked in Black communities providing first aid, nutrition, health care and child care. Black women also worked in other ways to support Canada at war. In ammunition factories, they not only made the weapons used by the fighting men; theirs were also the most dangerous jobs, working with explosives. Today, their levels of unemployment are unjustly the highest among all Canadians.


Finally, and earlier, with the help of abolitionists like Harriet Tubman, thousands of Black fugitives fleeing slavery in the United States had also made Canada their home via the Underground Railroad Movement (1830-1865). They settled in Ontario. They worked as farmers, teachers, preachers, household servants, business owners, sawmill workers, doctors, lawyers, politicians and inventors.


They established settlements in what are today Windsor, Chatham, Sudbury, Amhertsburg, Dresden, Wallaceburg, Guelph, London, Hamilton, Waterloo, Collingwood, Niagara Falls, St. Catherines, Fort Erie, Welland, Owen Sound and Toronto.


Today, with our supportive institutions in our communities, we, who uplift so many others, must use tools of social entrepreneurship, faith-based credit unions, and communal unity to uplift ourselves.


African Canadians, Canada and justice, like well secured light poles, will finally be at our best for it.


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