Canada: Back in History – Reveals the true Black History – By Yvonne Sam

Back in History – Reveals the true Black History

By Yvonne Sam

Irregardless of how new and unique something may seem to be, it carries with it a legacy of the past, for everything that exists in the present has come out of the past. Therefore, the more we understand about the past the more we will know about the present.

“Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”
– George Santayana, The Life of Reason (1905-06)

For one month each year Canadians deign to pay attention to Black History in the most perfunctory manner possible. For many, it is all about the Underground Railroad, and how progressive Canada the Savior is.   

Currently, the Black History that is taught in public schools is what has been colonized and edited to make it palatable. At its best, Black History Month is casually thrown into the curriculum and not intended as part of yearlong learning. At its worst, it is used to brush aside or outright erase the past. Historical omission in civic remission

An incontrovertible fact is that many adult Canadians are not even aware that slavery was legal in Canada, and that the first purchased black slave Oliver LeJeune was brought to Canada in 1628. When Canadians speak about slavery it is always about the Underground Railroad as it allows Canada to position itself as being morally superior to America, due to the fact that African-Americans escaped slavery in the U.S. by moving to Canada No one wants to talk about slavery in Canada, or everything that happened before or everything that happened after. As long as Canada defines itself discursively as “Other” in relation to the United States, it will never have to deal with its own bad acts.

People of African descent are often absent from Canadian history books, despite a presence in Canada that dates back farther than Samuel de Champlain’s first voyage down the St. Lawrence River. In addition, not many Canadians are aware of the many sacrifices made in wartime by black Canadian soldiers (Black Corps or Runchey’s Company of Colored Men) as far back as the War of 1812. Black History is not so much about Negro History as it is of history influenced by Negroes. Nor is it a time to promote propaganda, but to counteract it by popularizing the truth. Not a tendency to eulogize the Negroes or to abuse his enemies. But with the sole intent to emphasize important facts, clinging steadfastly to the belief that facts properly set forth will speak for themselves.

Background to Black History.

By 1950, the idea of Black History Month was first celebrated in Toronto, by railroad porters after having cognizance of it during their travels in the U.SA. A few celebrations were also hosted by The Canadian Negro Women’s Association.  However, it was not until the Ontario Black History Society (founded in 1978),led by Rosemary Sadler and others, petitioned the city of Toronto to have  February proclaimed as Black History Month. In December 1995, the House of Commons officially recognized February as Black History Month, following a motion introduced by the Honourable Jean Augustine, the first black Canadian woman elected to Parliament. The motion was carried unanimously by the House of Commons causing Black History Month to become a national celebration. At the time the chief aim was to raise awareness of black history in Canada, which up until then had been virtually ignored in school curriculum and in the media. Anyone familiar with Black History knows that we are extremely fond of our legends and heroes– names like Marcus Garvey, Harriet Tubman, Nelson Mandela, Rosa Parks, Sojourner Truth, and George Washington Carver, spring easily to our lips when we talk about leadership, courage and innovation.

But what about the names of, and many, other names and stories we should know and take pride in?  Names and stories that perhaps spring less quickly to mind. We owe it to ourselves and those who will follow in our footsteps to learn about those Black Canadians who made history, who fought against the odds and who laid the foundation for some benefits that we enjoy today. The greater Canadian community needs to know a history of Canada that includes all of the founding and pioneering experiences in order to work from reality, rather than from perception alone.

Speaking to the point, Canada (putting aside its safe haven status) could not have become what it is today without the vital contributions of Black communities, whose history spans over four centuries and flourishes in pivotal moments.  Their determination in the fight for freedom, perseverance throughout World Wars 1 & 2, the victories achieved during the Civil Rights Movement are some examples that should serve as an inspiration for us all.

There still remains much more history to be examined relative to Blacks in Canada, but viewing it only through the spectrum or prism of Black History is a perplexing part of the problem, as it should really be seen as part of the larger Canadian context.

Black history provides the binary opposite to all traditional histories. One needs traditional history to engender a common culture; one needs Black history to engender a clearer and more complete culture. The focus on the past should ultimately be a way of looking for a better future.

Future generations in the history books should look to ensure that the omissions are no longer in remission.  Black History should no longer be a mystery, for each and every contribution by Blacks must be kept on track.

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Comments

  • cedric thompson  On 02/03/2018 at 1:55 am

    PLEASE INCLUDE SUBSTANTIVE ARTICLES WHICH WOULD EDUCATE ALL ABOUT ACTUAL CONTRIBUTIONS .E.G.ONE ARTICLE DAILY BY A CREDIBLE
    HISTORIAN DURING THE MONTH OF FEBRUARY

    • Hermina  On 02/05/2018 at 3:18 am

      Get to the point — what substantive articles do you need to educate whom, speak for yourself. Most educated folks are aware of the contributions and inventions of
      the past. The writer speaks directly of history affecting Blacks that have not made it into the history books.
      P.S watch your usage of the Caps Lock feature on the keyboard.

      • cedric thompson  On 02/05/2018 at 9:28 am

        Sorry to offend you with my “CAPS”, BUT IT WAS FOR EMPHASIS.
        I would like to see more articles written by historians who have done their research on individuals whether they are widely known or not.For example,the video on G W Carver was very educational .You might be surprised by the fact that many Americans of all colour have not even heard of Dr.Carver.

  • Rosaliene Bacchus  On 02/03/2018 at 1:30 pm

    I wasn’t aware of slavery in Canada.

    • Kman  On 02/07/2019 at 5:28 pm

      Boy, where have you been?

  • Ali  On 02/03/2018 at 2:22 pm

    “Irregardless “ . Is that a word? I have not seen other journalist use it – they use regardless instead. Am I wrong? Explain yourself professor.

    • Hermina  On 02/05/2018 at 3:13 am

      See response by Hermina

  • Mark  On 02/04/2018 at 11:28 am

    Canada is not morally superior compared to the United States—True! Canada just knows how to hide racism by using feel good phrases like “multiculturalism” and “human rights”.

    Toronto Police are known to racially profile young Black youth at the low-income area of Jane-Driftwood that it creates an atmosphere of fear.

    Black youth as young as 8 and 9 are being placed into police databases over trivial offences like loitering and jaywalking, proven not! When those youth become adults and they try applying for jobs, this impedes their employment because of the police record.

    If you’re white, you will rarely suffer the same fate as Black youth who face constant surveillance, coercion and oppression from government agents like police, social services and public services like Toronto swimming pools and parks.

    A white Canadian can never be violated of their civil and human rights even if he or she commits heinous crimes like genocide.

    But a teen Black youth who walks outside their apartment at Jane & Finch will be contacted by Toronto Police and his information put into a police database.

    In Canada, if a white teacher, doctor, lawyer or other professional commits a crime such as molestation of a child under 12, even if he or she is convicted of that offence, they usually hire prominent lawyers to prevent registration on the Sexual Offenders’ Registry.

    There you have it— Black youth only ‘suspected’ of a ‘crime’ in Canada are treated worse than convicted white sexual offenders in Canada.

    • Kman  On 02/07/2019 at 5:31 pm

      Easy brother, you are making some very broad statements about white Canadians. This is the same thing you are accusing them of, even if you know it or not.

  • cedric thompson  On 02/04/2018 at 11:40 am

    Can someone with factual knowledge kindly document (if anything)what is being done about this and other similar plights that black people encounter in Canada?

  • Hermina  On 02/04/2018 at 7:01 pm

    Is irregardless a word? Yes, ‘Irregardless’ Is a Word
    Irregardless was popularized in dialectal American speech in the early 20th century. Its increasingly widespread spoken use called it to the attention of usage commentators as early as 1927. The most frequently repeated remark about it is that “there is no such word.” There is such a word, however. It is still used primarily in speech, although it can be found from time to time in edited prose.

    Jun 5, 2017 – Kory Stamper, a lexicographer for Merriam-Webster and author of “Word by Word: The Secret Life of Dictionaries,” told us that “irregardless” is a word in the dictionary, and how to use it correctly. Following is a transcript of the video. “Irregardless” is a word and we’re duty-bound to enter it.

    Irregardless is a word sometimes used in place of regardless or irrespective which has caused controversy since the early twentieth century, though the word appeared in print as early as 1795

    In the last twenty-five years, irregardless has become a common entry in dictionaries and usage reference books, although commonly marked as substandard or dialect. It appears in a wide range of dictionaries including Webster’s Third New International Dictionary of the English Language Unabridged (1961, repr. 2002),[2] The Barnhart Dictionary of Etymology (1988), The American Heritage Dictionary (Second College Edition, 1991),[4] Microsoft Encarta College Dictionary (2001), and Webster’s New World College Dictionary (Fourth Edition, 2004).

    The approach taken by lexicographers when documenting a word’s uses and limitations can be prescriptive or descriptive. The method used with irregardless is overwhelmingly prescriptive. Much of the criticism comes from the double negative pairing of the prefix (ir-) and suffix (-less), which stands in contrast to the negative polarity exhibited by most standard varieties of English

  • Mark  On 02/05/2018 at 7:17 pm

    You are more likely to die at the hands of police in Canada if you are black than if you’re white:
    https://www.thestar.com/news/crime/2017/12/13/andrew-loku-shooting-prompts-toronto-police-board-to-create-anti-racism-committee.html

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