Tales from the 2.9 — The Black Canadians Sharing their Stories in a Digital Age — #27: J. D. Amin, Founder, BramptonRises#

I’ll admit—being born in Mississauga but spending much of my life in downtown Toronto where I worked, dated and went to school, I’ve likely thought The Big Smoke the centre of the universe at least once. With much of our country’s 2.9% Black population living in the 8.5% of the 6ix that identifies the same, one can ignorantly forget at times that there are Black people everywhere — not just in Drake’s hometown.

But today’s contributor isn’t about to let that slide. Though Brampton is but a stone’s throw from the T-Dot, Torontonians write it off far too quickly, lumping it together with the rest of the suburbs in the surrounding area, failing to give it the recognition it deserves for everything it offers!

Amongst a number of initiatives designed to strengthen and empower Black people in the General Toronto area, J.D. Amin’s the founder of #BramptonRises, which connects, informs and inspires the new leaders of his city, and though we’ve yet to formally cross paths, I’d imagine he’d take none too kindly to those who dismiss Brampton without a second thought! His submission for Tales from the 2.9 helps illustrate that while Black History Month is a step in the right direction, we’ve still numerous issues to overcome if we ever want to see a Black community that’s treated just like everyone else.

But I’ll let the man speak for himself. Enjoy J.D.’s thoughts below!

J.D. Amin – Writer, Content producer, BramptonRises# founder

J.D. Amin is the founder of BramptonRises#, which created the intellectual property #BramptonRises. The platform was founded in 2012 to engage, connect, and inspire the new leaders of Brampton. The organization had had different phases, and will be going in a new direction for 2016 and beyond. Rest assured, we will never change. Follow us on Twitter! #BramptonRises above and beyond. Don’t believe us, just watch.

J.D. Amin is also a founding member of the Pages on Fire writers collective. An anti oppression writers group that host events and facilitate writers workshops all across the GTA. Past events include the highly reviewed “Black Futures” series, which encouraged participants to envision a better future, which we hoped would be the first steps to achieve it. Follow us on Twitter @PagesOnFire or on facebook.com/PagesOnFire.

J.D. Amin also writes for 4CornersBrampton.com. 4C is a website designed to connect the Brampton community. We present an exciting and engaging way to experience the food, culture, art and life of Brampton. With a team dedicated to providing the best of Brampton, we present stories that get you excited about our community.

1) When you think of Black History Month, what are some of the stories and images that come to mind?

Black history month reminds me of the unfortunate reality that in our modern Western society black history begins with slavery or colonialism. The entire month makes slavery seem like the “big bang” of Black existence.  “Black history” before slavery is rarely, if even acknowledged.

2) The Black Experience we’re largely exposed to in the media is that of our southern neighbours and the struggles they’ve faced. What’s your experience been as a Black person in Canada, and what have you learned from it?

Canada has been great for me and my family. I am confident I haven’t felt the intensity of institutionalized racism that is seemingly the “American way”.

However there are unique challenges one faces being black in multicultural Canada. For one there is still basic level—and frankly stupid, racist tendencies or prejudices in people, of all colours. We are inundated with so many messages and images of black negativity it subtly shifts our perceptions of each other. Sometimes, even your fellow “black person” will look at you sideways in certain situations. One has to be constantly  aware of those biases and tendencies and subsequently watch for their own reaction. Or else stupid situations will tend to escalate quickly, or 0 to 100 real quick! As intoned in some circles…

Secondly, the concept of multiculturalism has created a false sense of smug self-satisfaction amongst Canadians when we really want to speak about race issues.  Even though we are multicultural in regional demographics, due to media and old-time misconceptions we still see the world in the dichotomy of black and white. Everyone in between uses that to create their cultural context.

The fact that we as a group have to be called by a colour, and the dominant society is the opposite colour, is a doomed proposal from the start. Only an alien invasion, or robot uprising can change it…

3) In sharing your voice with the world, what impression do you hope to leave on the world with everything you do?

You have to think differently. It may sound like a marketing slogan, but it’s real life! Once you think differently enough, new ideas and solutions present themselves. Just do it, anyone can…

4) We all benefit from good mentors who guide us along the way to make sure we reach our potential in life. Who was your mentor to teach you from a cultural standpoint, and what’s the greatest lesson you learned from them?

This one is easy. My parents. They taught the value of hard work, and being a straight up good person. Our “operating systems” aren’t exactly compatible, but we DEFINITELY agree on that uncompromising principle.

5) If you could say just one thing to the rest of the 2.9%, what would it be?

Don’t get caught up in the hype of negativity. A positive life is a magical life. Oh, and watch out for Brampton, I heard the city rises….

Tales from the 2.9 is an ongoing series on CaseyPalmer.com showcasing Black Canadian content creators and the experiences they’ve had growing up Black in Canada!

DO ALL THE THINGS: The 2013 100 Wrap-Up 91-100: The Last Post of the Year

We made it. Despite a 3-hour outage from my hosting provider, I managed to get this done. Thank you for joining me on the ride, and I’ll just leave this up here so I can go get my party on in these last few hours of the year. Enjoy the post!

I AM NOT A FOODIE: #BramptonTweetup at Sul Irmaos Smokehouse

Above all else, #BramptonTweetup taught me never to say never, ’cause you never know when you’ll be eating those words.

Maybe Brampton gets worse a reputation than it deserves. In addition to the fact that there’s all too many Torontonians who couldn’t point to Brampton on a map, people often say it’s too far, too hard to get to it, or too dangerous. And were you speaking to a younger Casey Palmer, I might’ve agreed with you.

The Far Side of the GTA

Brampton’s a long way from home, but sometimes you’ve gotta venture into unfamiliar territory to try something new.

In early September, my friend Lat reached out to invite me to a tweetup in her hometown on Brampton, ON. For those not in the know, I’ve a long and sordid history with that little place.

Born and raised in Mississauga, ON, Brampton was always the city just north of us that we’d never visit. I mean — being Mississaugan had its societal pressures — too good for Brampton to the north; not rich enough for Oakville to the west; and nowhere near cool enough to hang with the kids of downtown Toronto to the east. But we always knew Brampton was there, it just wasn’t somewhere we’d go after dark.

Funny what a couple of decades can do to change growing cities and negative perspectives, right?

After an unexpected (and unwanted) adventure on the east side of Toronto, Christine and I made the trek to the northwest to join Lat Leger and friends for the first-ever #BramptonTweetup at the Sul Irmaos Smoke House in the Downtown Brampton neighbourhood.

Who is Lat Leger?

Lat Leger and Crystal Boese

I met Lat last year at either SaugaTweetup or After Work Drinks TO, and since then she’s become a solid friend. Living in Brampton, ON with her husband Garrett and their 3 kids, she’s more than just an award-winning mommy blogger: she’s a social media enthusiast and strategist; self-proclaimed foodie and really likes singing in the car with her windows rolled down. When you connect with her, you expect nothing but candor and authenticity, so it was no surprise to me when I walked into #BramptonTweetup to see a number of familiar and influential faces from the west side of the Greater Toronto Area (GTA), as Lat’s a mutual friend to many of us.

After all, I’m not going back to the ‘burbs for just anybody.

Welcome to Sul Irmaos!

Welcome to Sul Irmaos (English translation = Southern Brothers) Smoke House website. We’re glad you paid us a visit. We are known as the sandwich specialist and if you try one of our delicious sandwiches, you’ll discover that this name fits our restaurant like a glove. We will satisfy your appetite with an assortment of choices from our menu including Po’ Boy, traditional, Portuguese Churrasco and pulled pork sandwiches. Eat in or take-out at your convenience and we also offer first class catering services for special/corporate events and more. Give us a call or visit our restaurant today! We look forward to making your day!

That’s Jonathan (left) and Jason Pereira (right) with the bandanas on!

If you’re in Brampton and looking for a good bite to eat, Sur Irmaos has some decent offerings. Dressed up as more of a lunchtime venue, it makes “slow food served fast”, which speaks to the daily effort that Jason and Jonathan Pereira put into assembling a menu that whets an appetite for smoked meats without investing the hours to do it yourself.

The Pereira brothers were nice enough to open up on a Monday evening for us (they normally close on Mondays for a well-deserved day off).

Many of their meats are seasoned, smoked for at least 8 hours and pulled, meant to infuse as much flavour as possible into their offerings. As a testament to their methods, after being rejected from joining Brampton’s annual Rotary Rib Fest, they decided to serve their own ribs, marinating their meat for 2 days and smoking it for 14 hours, with customers waiting up to 2 hours for a fresh batch when they ran out.

So the expectations were high going in to Sul Irmaos! Here’re some highlights from the experience!

Things That Were Great:

  • Mac ‘n’ Cheese Bites
  • Pulled Pork and Beanasaurus (even several days later, reheated in the toaster oven — Jason made me promise that I wouldn’t wreck my leftovers by microwaving them)
  • Pulled Pork Sandwiches
  • ATBs (I don’t know why they’re called ATBs, but they’re jalapeño peppers wrapped in pancetta bacon smoked for 4 hours and stuffed with herb cream cheese, dates and chorizo sausage. Truly a great appetizer!)

Needed Work:

  • Pulled Chicken with Sweet Chili Aioli
  • the Sumol (I tried both Pineapple and Passion Fruit, and can tell you I loved the Passion Fruit far more, but were it served in a glass, it would’ve been easier to stir when the sediment started settling to the bottom)

The Skinny on Sul Irmaos

Despite sorely needing a haircut, I still had a great time at Sul Irmaos!

We all enjoyed ourselves thoroughly, but what was clear, however, was that this was Sul Irmaos’ first foray in the world of tweetups. Things to note:

  • the first course of food didn’t make it out ’til Christine and I arrived, and we were a half-hour late
  • the amount of food didn’t satisfy the number of guests, which may have been indirect incentive to buy meals, but you don’t invite people to your restaurants and tell the guests it’s BYOF when they get there, right?

I don’t know whether Sul Irmaos offers enough to get Torontonians jumping behind the wheel for the 40-minute trek for a Po’ Boy, however, for Brampton’s 500,000 and Mississauga’s 750,000 — if you want something filling, delicious and a mere stone’s throw away from your backyard, the Southern Brothers have you covered.

In the end, it looks like Brampton’s come up a bit over the years — perhaps enough to have a recurring #BramptonTweetup to rival the very popular #SaugaTweetup from its southern neighbours (ironically run in part by Rob Sarjoo, another Brampton resident!)? But to get to that point, Brampton’s going to need the support of its people — it can’t survive on the efforts of a few people alone.

Shout-outs to:

  • Raj Kutty, who’s friends with the owners and made sure to give my bag a solid place to rest behind the counter
  • If it weren’t for Christine, who made sure I made it to BramptonTweetup, even when I was trying to avoid a major TTC delay
  • Davindra Ramnarine, who’s all about the food and put a review together of Sul Irmaos before it changed its name

And of course, thanks to Lat for a solid event and getting me to return to the ‘burbs. Not an easy feat by any measure, but it’s good to remember that you can only live in a box for so long before you start to lose sight of the bigger picture.

It’s a massive world out there — go explore it!

Adeus and get your nom on,

–case p.