February 2020 / Toronto
- by Dr. Afua Cooper, former James Robinson Johnston Chair in Black Canadian Studies at Dalhousie University and founding Chair of the Black Canadian Studies Association. (from a 2014 interview on Black Canadian History, The Black Scholars Series)
“We are not there yet. Not yet Uhuru. Uhuru meaning freedom. We see it every day with our children in school. The trials and tribulations that they go through. We are not there yet. My work is for that. My work is for us to reach that promised land”.
This first week of the month of African Liberation, with the 2020 theme of Black History/Black Futures has been one of deeply mixed emotions.
Last week, a judge in an Oshawa courtroom heard the final arguments in the trial of the police officer and his brother who beat the young Black man Dafonte Miller and blinded his left eye of as he went about his business on a December night in 2016. The fact that it’s four years later and a verdict is yet to be rendered in this case - clearly justice delayed- is vexing to say the least. Black (and Indigenous) communities across Canada have been witness to untold numbers of police brutality against our people.
A few weeks ago I had lunch with a group of Black women where some shared their experiences in academia. All three Toronto based universities were implicated. From unjust firings to blatant anti-Black racism in hiring practices, to the uncrackable glass ceiling, Black women in that room shared their stories of frustration, anger and the pain of confronting daily a dehumanization that tears at their (our) souls. At the end of the dinner after much tears and cussing and loud laughter that comes from generations of overcoming, we parted ways with hugs and reminders to each other of these words from Maya Angelou:
“(Y)our ancestors took the lash, the branding iron, humiliations and oppression because one day they believed you would come along to flesh out the dream.”
My Sisters and I who broke bread together that sunny afternoon are fleshing out the dream.
And so are our brothers and non-binary siblings. We celebrate this month the launch of two long anticipated books released this first week of African Liberation month 2020. First, Desmond Cole, Toronto based journalist and activist released his book, ‘The Skin We’re In: A year of Black Resistance and Power’.
And Black Lives Matter Toronto, the grassroots activist group that camped out for two weeks in protest against police and systemic anti-Black racism in front of Toronto police headquarters and landed the issues of anti-Black racism loudly and firmly on the public agenda in Toronto and across the country will hold the launch of their book ‘Until We Are Free: Reflections on Black Lives Matter in Canada’ in mid-February in Toronto.
Another sister, Brittany Andrew-Amofah, the senior policy advisor at the leftie think tank, the Broadbent Institute, has launched her second annual Black History month policy series, Bold Policy Proposals To Tackle Anti-Black Racism. The first article in the 2020 series is a brilliant piece by Melana Roberts on Black Food Insecurity in Canada. Melayna writes:
"It is becoming increasingly clear that race has an impact on food insecurity. In Canada, more than 4 million people struggle with the burden of food insecurity, with a disproportionate number of Black, Indigenous and racialized Canadians identifying as food insecure as a result of enduring racialized income inequality.
As a member of the Toronto Food Policy Council (TFPC) and Board Chair of Food Secure Canada, I have contributed and participated in the creation and implementation of food policies locally and nationally. Through this work, it’s becoming increasingly apparent that the solutions from both government and the food justice community aren’t addressing the deep-seated food access and availability challenges that Black people in Canada face..."
The recommendations in the piece should be taken up by activists and advocates of all stripes concerned with systems change. Enjoy and know I continue to stand in solidarity with all who live and work for a just world.In solidarity