It’s a new day, one and all!
With 2017’s Tales from the 2.9, we’ll build off of the successes of last year’s entries with a deeper look into what it means to be a Black Canadian and some thoughts on our culture… whatever you might perceive it to be!
I could’ve done like last year and come out swinging with a piece of my own to share my thoughts about all the issues attached to this project like I was hosting Saturday Night Live… but Tales isn’t about me. Tales is about the fact that you can’t easily define what Black means, and I hope to share a month’s worth of stories to show you just that.
I’ll still be here in my intros and asides, but I rather let my contributors do the talking until the end of the month, and when we get there, then we’ll have some words.
This year’s Tales kicks off with a piece from Dwayne Morgan, a poet, speaker and social entrepreneur from Toronto, ON who hits us with some poignant thoughts on being Black Canadian and how to embrace a culture that’s fragmented by its very definition.
See you tomorrow!
— case p.
What does being Black Canadian mean to you?
I always struggle with this question. There isn’t a Black Canadian identity, in the same way that it may exist in the United States. For that matter, I’m not even sure how I would describe or explain Canadian identity, so I see myself as a Black man, with all that comes with that from history, who happens to be born, and living within Canadian borders. Maybe my Canadianness is my deep connection to my Jamaican heritage and African roots.
What’s your experience been like as a Black Canadian and how has it shaped who you are today?
I experience the world through the lens of race. I’m often seen and treated as Black before human. I have experienced my fair share of racism, both overtly and via micro-aggressions. With these experiences, I’ve had to learn how to thicken my skin, and become more sure of myself, to ensure that I am not defined by the media, stereotypes, or prejudice.
As a result of my experiences, today I am very self-aware, and can call out racial bias and prejudice when I see it. I have become stronger through necessity, and work, not so much to tear down racial barriers, but to be an example of how they can be hurdled and overcome.
What’s something you’d like to see more of within the Black Canadian community?
This is an interesting question, for reasons that I’ve touched on earlier. It’s hard to say what I would like to see more within the Black Canadian community, when I don’t think that such a community exists. Canada probably has one of the most diverse Black communities, which makes it differ significantly from our neighbours down south. In America, you quickly become a Black American, while here, there is the Nova Scotian community, the Caribbean community, the African community, and many sub-communities within these. Maybe one thing that would be of benefit would be to try to establish greater understanding of these various communities so that we can unify and have a more powerful voice.
I think that greater support of Black businesses and enterprises would also serve an economic benefit.
What do you think those outside the Black Canadian community need to better understand in order to coexist with Black Canadians in a respectful and considerate way?
Outside of the community, people should understand how different and diverse the Black community is, thus we shouldn’t all be lumped into this one homogeneous group. Those from Trinidad are offended if you call them Jamaican. Those from Nigeria are offended if you call them Ghanaian, and those from Nova Scotia are offended when asked where they’re from, as though their families haven’t been here for generations.
A greater understanding of the Canadian experience, as it pertains to Black people and immigration would do a great service to everyone. I think that it would also be of benefit for this community of people to understand how interwoven anti-Black racism is, into the fabric of Canadian society. This is extremely evident in cities like Toronto, where many of our ‘systems’ (police, welfare, judicial, child services), benefit and receive funding based on anti-Black racism.
If your life could teach but one thing to your fellow Black Canadians, what would it be?
My life is about believing; believing in oneself and my community. I learned at a young age that you can’t change other people, so it doesn’t make sense to put your energy into it. Racism isn’t going anywhere, because we’d have to dismantle life as we know it to eradicate it, and I’m not sure who is willing to do that. This is the platform that we are born into as Black Canadians, and we can let it devour us, or we can strive to overcome it. I have spent my life in the pursuit of excellence, because I believe that excellence trumps all arbitrary barriers with time. I have lived a life beyond my wildest dreams, and spend my time trying to inspire others to do the same.
Dwayne Morgan is a writer, speaker, and producer. Morgan is the author of ten collections of poetry and is a 2013 inductee into the Scarborough Walk of Fame. Morgan annually produces a number of entertainment events in Toronto, and is host and producer of Poetically Speaking, a weekly show, highlighting writers of colour, on the AfroGlobal Television Network.
Please download the free Dwayne Morgan app from your app store.