“When we talk about black maybe
We talk about situations
Of people of color and because you are that color
You endure obstacles and opposition
And not all the time from… from other nationalities
Sometimes it come from your own kind
Or maybe even your own mind
You get judged..you get laughed at… you get looked at wrong
You get sighted for not being strong
The struggle of just being you
The struggle of just being us… black maybe”
— Common, “U, Black Maybe”, Finding Forever (2007)
So here we are in the twenty-fifth Canadian Black History Month since the Honourable Jean Augustine made it official back in December ’95.
And we’ve grown—while not everyone agrees with the need for a Black History Month, it brought much more discussion to the forefront.
That said, we still struggle to find our home online.
After all, just because it’s Black History Month doesn’t mean we fix our gazes firmly in the past. Yes, the notable moments and achievements in Black Canadian history need to become part of our daily discussion instead of examining it once a day… but where do we go from there?
Not the Negro You Want, But the One You Have Right NOW.
“If you’re looking for a reason to quit, you can find one, no problem!”
— Treme Season 4, Episode 4, “Sunset en Louissiane”
That’s something I’ve looked to figure out with my Black History Month projects over the last four years, though the path’s been admittedly… rocky. As the project grew, my ambitions outpaced my abilities, and I needed to step back for some perspective on it all.
But it helped me learn a lot. I already knew my Black Canadian Experience wasn’t what popular media shows us, but what I underestimated is how different my opinion was from some of my fellow Black Canadians when it comes to race.
That I wasn’t Black enough to lead a project like this because I went to private school and grew up in a middle-class neighbourhood. That my children’s racial identity somehow invalidates their struggle and gives them a so-called pass. I’ve been called a race traitor for marrying white, a race-baiter for seeing colour at all, and wondered if I should continue this at all when all it did was make people angry.
But it reminded me of some advice that someone once gave me—it’s when people stop reacting where you need to get worried.
But if I’m Asking OTHERS to Share Their Stories, I’d Better Be Ready to Do it MYSELF.
Despite the project’s past pitfalls, it still stands that there aren’t many in our country looking to do this on such a grand digital scale. Speaking so openly about race tends to paint a target on your back, and most people could do without the hassle.
But if no one takes a stand and chooses to challenge the status quo we begrudgingly keep all around us, how can we ever really expect to move the needle in our favour?
And that’s why I’m back to do it right this year. I’ve been writing since July. Instead of going straight to interviews this year, I started my search for answers from within, looking to dissect my Blackness and see what pieces we can all relate with. There’s plenty we discuss in the community out of earshot of everyone else, but it’s time we let them know what we think and sow the seeds for a future we want. This year’s Live from the 3.5 will be a bumpy ride, but I hope you’ll join me for it—we’ll all learn a lot in the process!
Let’s Make the Change—One Post at a Time.
There’s a lot I don’t expect you to understand if you’re not Black—an identity thrust upon us, not one we actively chose. But we need to be open to discussion if we ever want others to be on the same page, and with 96.5% of the country who doesn’t identify as Black, I’d say there’s plenty of potential to work with.
If I can ask you anything this coming month, it’s that you don’t ignore this. Racism’s still very real, systemic discrimination still holds so many of us back, and things could be so much better than the way they are today.
That change won’t happen overnight, though—the path there is a long and incremental one, and it all starts with people being willing to make the hard conversations with all the people who don’t quite have a clue.
So here I am, back again, and I’m willing to fight the fight. As I finish writing this intro, I don’t know how many posts we’ll see for 2020, but I can promise each of them will be great.
Make sure to stay open this Black History Month and okay with taking new information in—there’s a lot to talk about this February, and with any luck, we’ll see more of us doing it every year!
Thank you so much for reading, and we’ll see you for the next piece—”It’s 2020. Why do we Even Need a Black History Month?”
We’ll see you then!
Want more from Live from the 3.5? Check out the other posts here!