We are not Black Americans.
We’re not all that different from our brothers and sisters to the south of the 49th parallel, but it’s the differences in our narratives that define how our cultures work. We don’t have over 80% of our population descending from slavery—the vast majority of us came here by choice from the ’60s on seeking a better life. And though I can’t immediately tell you the number of countries we’re from, Black Canadians come from every corner of the globe, retaining much of their culture when they come here.
But we do know what it’s like to be marginalised. We do know what it’s like to struggle. Though we must learn to reframe our success as a culture distinct from the portrait of Blackness dominating popular culture, it doesn’t mean we’ve had an easy run, and that’s something Sagine Sémajuste has dealt with in her personal journey as a Black Canadian.
Ultimately I think Sagine’s submission touches on a point I’ve known since I was a boy—You Are Responsible for Yourself!
A phrase originally taught to me by my Grade 5 teacher, it holds so much more meaning to me as an adult. There’s no end to the problems and obstacles looking to keep us from reaching our potential, but we can’t blame them if we don’t get where we want to go in our lives. It’s up to us both individually and as a community to keep working for a better tomorrow, and if we continue hustling with that mindset, who knows what might be possible?
But since Sagine’s post beautifully outlines this point and more, I should just leave her to it. Enjoy her words below, and I’ll see you tomorrow with another Tale from the 2.9!
What does being Black Canadian mean to you?
Being Black Canadian means my parents were able to leave their country of birth (Haiti) and freely enter Canada without having to conform or abandon their culture. It means being accepted and able to live in a diverse environment, where my differences are acknowledged without judgement and embraced without ridicule. That I got to freely learn and speak my mother tongue (kreyòl-Creole) as well as the country’s two official languages (English and French). It means responsibility. Sacrifice. Pride. Privilege. It means going to sleep with all that I am and rising looking forward to who I will become.