Monday, August 25, 2014


Fred Hampton was born on August 30, 1948 and was only 21 years old when he was assassinated by agents of the American government including the Chicago Police Department. Hampton was an African-American activist and deputy chairman of the Illinois chapter of the Black Panther Party (BPP.) On December 4, 1969 he was sleeping in his apartment when a tactical unit of the Cook County, Illinois State's Attorney's Office together with the Chicago Police Department and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) invaded his home at about 4:45 a.m. Jeffrey Haas a White American lawyer has written about the invasion of Hampton’s home and the subsequent attempt to “cover up” the extrajudicial killing of Hampton and Mark Clark another member of the Black Panther Party in that early morning home invasion by American government forces. Haas’ 2009 published “The Assassination of Fred Hampton: How the FBI and the Chicago Police Murdered a Black Panther” documents the murder and the investigation that uncovered the role of the FBI and its undercover agent that had infiltrated the movement.
In an interview with Amy Goodman and Ralph Gonzalez of Democracy Now on December 4, 2009 ( Haas spoke of the attempted cover up by the American government agents: “And when we gathered all the evidence, it turned out that the police had fired ninety shots into the apartment with a submachine gun, shotguns, pistols and a rifle. There was only one outgoing shot, and that came from a Panther who had been fatally wounded, and it was a vertical shot, after he was hit himself. So, Hanrahan, who was — the police were assigned to the state’s attorney, a politically ambitious law-and-order prosecutor who wanted to get the political advantage of having attacked and taken out the Panthers, was on the TV that morning saying the Panthers opened fire. It turned out, we proved, that, quite to the contrary, it was a shoot-in, not a shootout.”
The Black Panther Party (BPP) originally the Black Panther Party for Self defense was founded in 1966 and was considered a threat to White supremacy in the USA. Edgar Hoover the infamous Director of the FBI was on a mission to destroy the BPP and used a paid informant William O'Neal to great advantage. Just as he had done a few generations before with the character assassination of the Honourable Marcus Mosiah Garvey, Hoover used every underhanded tactic his devious imagination could dredge up. The machinations of the FBI included the development of COINTELPRO to be used as a tool to undermine Civil Rights organizations and/or anyone who sought to improve the lives and fortunes of African Americans. The Nation of Islam (NOI) which has been a target of the FBI and COINTELPRO describes the organization on its website: “COINTELPRO (an acronym for Counter Intelligence Program) was a series of covert, and often illegal, projects conducted by the United States Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) aimed at surveilling, infiltrating, discrediting, and disrupting domestic organizations deemed “subversive”. On March 8, 1971, a group of anonymous activists broke into the small, two-man office of the Federal Bureau of Investigation in Media, Pa., and stole more than 1,000 FBI documents that revealed years of systematic wiretapping, infiltration and media manipulation designed to suppress dissent. The Citizens’ Commission to Investigate the FBI, as the group called itself, forced its way in at night with a crowbar while much of the country was watching the Muhammad Ali-Joe Frazier fight. When agents arrived for work the next morning, they found the file cabinets virtually emptied. Within a few weeks, the documents began to show up — mailed anonymously in manila envelopes with no return address — in the newsrooms of major American newspapers. COINTELPRO tactics included discrediting targets through psychological warfare, planting false reports in the media, smearing through forged letters, harassment, wrongful imprisonment, extralegal violence and assassination. Covert operations under COINTELPRO took place between 1956 and 1971, however the FBI has used covert operations against domestic political groups since its inception.”
Speaking of the vicious attack on the members of the BPP, the attempted cover-up of the assassination of Hampton and the attempt to vilify the BPP in 1968 Haas said: “What we uncovered years later — we also filed a civil rights suit after the charges were dropped against the Panthers. And in addition to proving, as I said, that it was a one-sided raid, that the police came in firing, the evidence also showed that Fred Hampton was in fact killed with two bullets, parallel bullets, fired into his head at point-blank range. He wasn’t killed with the bullets through the walls. But what we uncovered was that the FBI had obtained a floor plan of Fred Hampton’s apartment. That floor plan was complete with all the furniture, including the bedroom where Hampton and Johnson slept and a rectangle showing the bed. And it turned out that this FBI informant, William O’Neal, and his control took that floor plan and gave it to Hanrahan’s raiders before the raid, so that they came in knowing the layout, knowing where Fred would be sleeping. And when we looked at the directions of the bullets, in fact, they converged on the bed where Fred Hampton was sleeping that morning.” The recent spate of extrajudicial killing of African Americans and the attempts to white wash the White police perpetrators and vilify the victims as criminals is reminiscent of the struggles of the 1960s. The fact that the first African American President of the United States seems to be muzzled even though he cannot seek re-election speaks volumes about how much “not much has changed” in the lives of most African Americans.
On July 17, 2014 an African American man Eric Garner was a victim of extrajudicial killing when a member of the NYPD wrapped his arm around Garner’s neck in an illegal and lethal chokehold. There was a rush by the authorities to demonize Garner. On August 9, 2014 unarmed 18 year old African American Michael Brown was gunned down by police in Missouri and left to lie on the street for hours. Five days after the extrajudicial killing of Brown the smear campaign to impugn his character began. The tried and true propaganda machine that proved so useful to the FBI in their COINTELPRO operation remains in use. Gullible television viewers become convinced that accusations of selling loose cigarettes, stealing cigarettes or running from police are all (hanging offences) death penalty crimes with the murderous police as judge, jury and executioner. The grieving family members seem compelled to react on television and newspaper with interviews that their murdered loved ones were “good people.” It seems that African American lives have no value and those who are charged with the responsibility to “serve and protect” do not consider that African Americans fall under that purview.
In America there are at least some national organizations that will publicize and make an attempt to hold the killer police accountable. Here in Canada there are no such organizations and there have been several extrajudicial police killing of African Canadians. When police in Canada brutalize, maim or kill African Canadians there is hardly any outcry and the police are never held accountable. On July 19, 1952, Clarence Clemons, a 52 year old African Canadian longshoreman, was so brutally beaten by White police officers in Vancouver, British Columbia that he slipped into a coma and died 5 months later on December 24, 1952. Since then there have been several cases of White police killing African Canadians and no police has ever been convicted of killing an African Canadian. These are only some of the documented incidents of White police killing African Canadians: On August 9, 1978 Buddy Evans was killed by John Clark at a nightclub on King Street West in Toronto. August 26, 1979, 35-year-old Albert Johnson was killed in his apartment by William Inglis and Walter Cargnelli. November 11, 1987, 19-year-old Anthony Griffins was killed by Allan Gosset in a Montreal police station parking lot. August 9, 1988, 44-year-old Lester Donaldson was killed in his home by David Deviney. December 8, 1988, 17-year-old Michael Wade Lawson was killed by Anthony Lelaragni and Darren Longpre in Mississauga. April 20, 1993, 21-year-old Ian Clifford Coley was killed by Rick Shank, from 41 Division. March 30, 1997, Shank killed another African Canadian 31 year old Hugh Dawson. June 11, 1996, 24-year-old Wayne Rick Williams was killed by Kenneth Harrison and Gordon Hayford. The most recent were: On September 29, 2010, 26 year old Eric Osawe was killed by David Cavanagh. August 29, 2010, 25-year-old Reyal Jensen Jardine-Douglas was killed by a police officer whose name has never been released.
As we read about the killing of Trayvon Martin, Ramarley Graham, Eric Garner and Michael Brown in the “home of the brave and the land of the free” we are not much better off in this Great White North where racial profiling is practiced by police forces across this country. We need to read and watch critically and be aware of the propaganda.


"Each year officially since 1979 we have used the month of August to focus on the oppressive treatment of our brothers and sisters disappeared inside the state run gulags and concentration camps America calls prisons. It is during this time that we concentrate our efforts to free our mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers, uncles, aunts, and all other captive family and friends who have been held in isolation for decade after decade beyond their original sentence. Many of these individuals are held in the sensory deprivation and mind control units called Security Housing Units (S.H.U. Program), without even the most basic of human rights." - Black August Organizing Committee THE ROOTS OF BLACK AUGUST
It seems that at least once a week there is a video on Youtube with images of police across the United States brutalizing, maiming or killing some hapless African American man, woman or child. With the proliferation of cellphones with the capability of video recording these images now seem common place. What is not commonplace is a sense of outrage and action when these videos are viewed. Usually there are a few comments/questions ranging from “what happened before?” “people need to do whatever the police orders” and/or “there are three sides to every story.” Then there are the comments by the obviously cowardly White supremacists who hide behind the anonymity of the internet to spew their vitriol and hate of racialized people.
The over-representation of Africans in the prison industrial complex of North America (America and Canada) has been a concern for many decades. The “school to prison pipeline” has also been a hot topic in both countries. The people who we elect to govern us municipally, provincially and federally are never held accountable for the decisions/laws that make these atrocities possible. There have been studies done and promises made and broken/ignored while we dutifully vote in every election never asking the questions that concern the future of our communities. With a municipal election on October 27 we still have time to question the candidates about where they stand on the over-representation of racialized people in the justice system before we cast our ballots.
Judging from the actions and non-consequences for the actions of the Mayor of Toronto over the past year it seems that there is one law for rich White men and another for the rest especially young African Canadians. The stories of the Mayor’s dodgy behaviour abound in the White daily newspapers of Toronto yet he has never been arrested. Imagine if this was the behaviour of an African Canadian of any educational or social status in this Great White North. Here is a quote from a story published in the “Globe and Mail” on March 28, 2014 reporting on an interview of the Mayor on CBC Toronto’s Metro Morning, hosted by Matt Galloway: “Don’t call me a criminal Matt, because I’m not a criminal” Mr. Ford said as Mr. Galloway peppered him with questions about his admission that he smoked crack cocaine and about the on-going police investigation into his activities.” Quote from a story published in the “National Post” on February 3, 2014: “The investigation, dubbed Project Brazen 2, was undertaken after media reports last May said Ford was filmed smoking crack cocaine. The investigation led to extensive surveillance of the mayor and his associates, much of which was eventually released to the media through court documents.” And finally a quote from the Toronto Star published on November 13, 2013: “The police document has numerous references to times when Ford appeared severely impaired. There are other points when, usually at a time when Ford is under the influence of something (staff are never sure what, but in interviews with police some say it may be cocaine) Ford allegedly tries to hurt one of his young staffers. These alleged assaults have been the subject of police inquiry, but no charges have been laid.” All of these “escapades” are publicly known yet this man continues to walk free among us. The man has lied until confronted with incontrovertible proof followed by excuses that would not allow most five year olds to weasel out of consequences. He has challenged the law and order authorities to hold him accountable and so far they have failed to do so! If the Mayor was a racialized person and especially if he was an African Canadian male he would not be walking free right now. However, such is the way White skin privilege works in this Great White North!
In 2011, African Canadians were 2.5 per cent of Canada’s population but made up 9 per cent of its federal prisoners. Between 2001 and 2011, the numbers of incarcerated African Canadians increased by 40 per cent, according to a report by the “Office of the Correctional Investigator.” The African bodies in Canada’s prison industrial complex is a direct result of racial profiling and over policing unfortunately these activities are not documented and distributed on the internet as is done in the USA. The Canadian “Office of the Correctional Investigator” offers these statistics: “The 2011/12 Annual Report of the Office of the Correctional Investigator (OCI) identified Black inmates as one of the fastest growing sub-populations in federal corrections. It highlighted the increasing over-representation of this group relative to their proportion within the Canadian population. Over the last 10 years, the number of federally incarcerated Black inmates has increased by 75% (767 Black inmates in 2002/03 to 1340 Black inmates in 2011/12) with most of this increase occurring in the last 6 years (2006/07 to 2011/12). Black inmates now account for 9.3% of the total federal prison population (up from 6.1% in 2002/03) while representing approximately just 2.9% of the Canadian population. The majority of Black inmates under federal sentence are incarcerated in Ontario and Quebec (61% and 17% respectively); however, there are also sizable populations in the Prairie and Atlantic regions where approximately 11% and 8% of Black inmates are incarcerated.”
In an article entitled “Bankrupting The Prison System – Part 1” published December 23, 2013 African American author Dr. Sinclair Grey III wrote: “During a panel discussion with current mayors of Los Angeles, Houston and New Orleans in 2012, NPR’s Michele Norris offered a chilling report which claimed, “The prison industrial complex will look at the test scores of a city’s third grade population. If the test grades are low they know that they’ll have to start building a prison.” To better understand this perspective, let’s look at the state of California for a moment. Since the 1980’s they have built 23 prisons and only one school campus. “California has more than 130,000 prisoners, a huge increase from the state’s 1980 prison population of about 25,000. Prisons cost California taxpayers close to $10 billion, compared with $604 million in 1980.”
African Canadian children are also targeted in the education system leading to what has been described as the “School to prison pipeline.” On June 6, 2009 the Toronto Star published an article under the heading “Suspended sentences: Forging a school-to-prison pipeline?” discussing the specter of a “School to Prison Pipeline” in Ontario: “The Safe Schools Act, in force from 2001 to 2008, took students out of school. It resulted in a "zero tolerance" approach to bad behaviour. In 2002-03, the number of students suspended in Ontario spiked to 157,436 – an increase of almost 50,000 from two years earlier. Almost one in five of those suspended was identified as having a learning disability or special need. The number expelled shot up to 1,786 from 106 in 2000-01. The "Roots of Youth Crime" report to the provincial government last fall argued that zero tolerance "increased the criminalization of marginalized youth." Critics argued it was targeting low-income and racial minority pupils, particularly blacks. Parents turned to the Ontario Human Rights Commission, which filed a discrimination complaint against the Ministry of Education and the Toronto board.”
In the June 6, 2009 Toronto Star article there was information about the targeted communities: “A Star analysis shows Toronto schools with the highest suspension rates tend to be in areas that also have high incarceration costs. The findings combine school suspension rates for 2007-08 with a snapshot of sentences and postal code data for inmates in Ontario's provincial jails, obtained by the Star through a freedom of information request.”
There is a direct correlation between the miseducation of our youth and the rate at which they are incarcerated. The Liberals while they were in opposition had trumpeted the idea of repealing the “Safe Schools Act” however that did not happen when they gained power. Instead the Liberal government passed Bill 212 (Progressive Discipline and School Safety) which is not much better than the “Safe Schools Act” of the former government. These issues were not addressed during the recent hurriedly called provincial elections but we have the opportunity now with the municipal candidates. Commemorating 36 years of (Black August) the Network for Pan-African Solidarity a community organization will be hosting “Black August” events on August 15 and 16 from 7:00 to 9:30 p.m. at 252 Bloor Street West 5th floor.


The Honourable Marcus Mosiah Garvey famously said: “A people without the knowledge of their past history, origin and culture is like a tree without roots.” Garvey was born on August 17, 1887 and transitioned on 10 June 1940 when he was almost 53 years old. He is considered the father of the modern Pan-African movement and his philosophy of “Africa for Africans at home and abroad” has influenced generations of Africans on the African continent and in the Diaspora. His activism and dedication to the education of African Americans made him a target of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) an organization of the US government which eventually orchestrated his imprisonment and deportation. Garvey’s work while he was in the USA has borne fruit with the successive generations of African Americans becoming aware of their history although there is much work still to be done. The history of African Americans is well documented and for those who choose to read there are numerous books that include the stories of the struggle for Civil Rights and Human Rights by African Americans. The history of the African presence in the USA is included in books, magazines, television programs and movies. Names like “Black Wall Street” in Tulsa, Oklahoma and “Rosewood” in Florida which were thriving African American communities that were destroyed by Whites are fairly well known. The names of African American freedom fighters like El Hajj Malik El Shabazz (Malcolm X,) Rosa Parks, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Fannie Lou Hamer and Medgar Evers are also fairly well known. Garvey also famously said: “A reading man and woman is a ready man and woman, but a writing man and woman is exact.”
While visiting Canada in October, 1937 Garvey delivered a speech at Menelik Hall in Sydney, Nova Scotia where he is quoted as saying to his followers: “We are going to emancipate ourselves from mental slavery because whilst others might free the body, none but ourselves can free the mind. Mind is your only ruler, sovereign. The man who is not able to develop and use his mind is bound to be the slave of the other man who uses his mind, because man is related to man under all circumstances for good or for ill. If man is not able to protect himself from the other man he should use his mind to good advantage.” Garvey published his Nova Scotia speech in the July 1938 edition of his “Black Man” magazine. Some of his famous words have been immortalized by the Honourable Robert “Bob” Nesta Marley in his popular 1980 released “Redemption Song” from the album “Uprising.”
The history of Africans in Canada is not well known because of the White supremacist culture which permeates the education system. Many Canadians therefore do not know that there has been an African presence in this country since at least the 1600s beginning with Matthew DaCosta. DaCosta was a member of the Champlain expedition as an interpreter for the French with the Mi'kmaq people who are indigenous to Canada. In his 1981 published book “The Freedom Seekers: Blacks in Early Canada” African American historian Daniel G Hill wrote: “Mattieu Da costa, though not a permanent resident of Canada, was the first known Black to set foot on Canadian soil. He came with the expedition Pierre de Gua, sieur De Monts which founded Port Royal in 1605. It is probable that da Costa had spent some time in Canada even earlier, for he served as interpreter for the French Habitation with the friendly Micmac of the area.” The first documented presence of an enslaved African in Canada is that of a 6 year old child who was kidnapped from his home in Africa and sold by David Kirke an Englishman to a French family in Quebec in 1628. This African child whose African name is not known was sold several times during his short life (he was buried May 10, 1654) was given the name Olivier LeJeune. In 1796 a group of African who had lived as free people in Jamaica were transported to Nova Scotia by the British even though they had been promised their destination would be Africa. This group of almost 600 African men, women and children were members of a community that had seized their freedom in 1655 when the British expelled the Spanish from the island. The Maroons as they were called by the British lived in the mountains of Jamaica and refused to submit or be enslaved by the British who attacked them regularly. On July 21, 1796 (after the second Maroon War) the Africans arrived in Nova Scotia on 3 ships Anne, Dover and Mary. The Maroons were put to work building the fort (Fort George) that still stands today on Citadel Hill in Halifax, Nova Scotia. Many of the Maroons who arrived in Canada in July 1796 were eventually successful in achieving their desire to live in Africa when they were taken to Sierra Leone, West Africa.
The enslavement of Africans in Canada did not end until August 1, 1834 with the passing of the Slavery Abolition Act of 1833 in the Parliament of the United Kingdom which abolished slavery throughout the British Empire. With the abolition of slavery in Canada a group of Africans settled in what became known as Africville in Nova Scotia. Although there were other communities of Africans in Canada, Africville is the community that suffered a similar fate to the African American communities of “Black Wall Street” in Tulsa, Oklahoma and “Rosewood” in Florida but is not as well known. Documented purchase of land by Africans in the community of Africville was made between 1842 and 1848 by 5 families with the last names: Arnold, Brown, Carvery, Fletcher and Hill. In 1849 the community of Africville built the Seaview United Baptist Church that served as the community's spiritual and cultural centre. The attack on the community by the Nova Scotia government began almost immediately. Beginning in the 1850s railroads and railroad expansions (Canadian National Railways) ran through the community, a city prison, an infectious disease hospital, a slaughterhouse and a city dump were built and operated in areas surrounding the community of Africville. Although the members of the community paid taxes they were never connected to water and sewer services. The members of the community relied on local springs that became contaminated by the railway and surrounding industrial waste. The community was severly neglected and ostracised until the government decided on its destruction. Within 3 years (1964-1967) the Nova Scotia government forced the African Canadian community of Africville out of their homes, destroying their church, their homes and their community bulldozing some homes that were occupied. After resisting for months, the last resident of Africville the elderly (Aaron "Pa" Carvery) was forced out of his Africville home on January 2, 1970. On January 6, four days later the destruction of the historic African Canadian community established since the 1800s was complete. (
The government of Nova Scotia after evicting the Africville community and razing their homes established “Seaview Park” which is an off-leash dog park in its place. After suffering the horrific abuse of chattel slavery and the complete destruction of their homes by the government the members of the community continue to meet every year. The Africville community and their descendants gather at “Seaview Park” every summer at the end of July to remember the community of Africville.
Marcus Mosiah Garvey who is the first National Hero of Jamaica was born on August 17, 1887 and transitioned on 10 June 1940 in London, England. Garvey spent his life advocating, educating and working to improve the lives and minds of Africans. During his lifetime he successfully established factories in the USA to employ African Americans and the organization which he established helped to raise the awareness of Africans. On July 20, 1914, Marcus Garvey founded the Universal Negro Improvement Association (UNIA.) Through the UNIA Garvey urged Africans worldwide to be proud of their skin colour, the texture of their hair, the fullness of their lips, the shape of their noses, bodies and everything about their perfectly made selves as Africans. He urged Africans to see themselves through their own “spectacles” made in the image of the God they worshipped: “If Negroes are created in God's image, and Negroes are Black, then God must, in some sense, be Black. If the White man has the idea of a white God, let him worship his God as he desires. Because once our God has no color, and yet it is human to see everything through ones own spectacles, and since the White people have seen their God through their white spectacles, we have only now started to see our God through our own spectacles.” In 2014 the words of Garvey remain pertinent, 74 years after he transitioned. “A people without the knowledge of their past history, origin and culture is like a tree without roots.”


On Thursday July 31, 1834 Africans who were enslaved by the British were anticipating the end of their enslavement on the following day Friday August 1, 1834. Unfortunately most of them were sorely disappointed when they gathered on August 1 to hear the announcement that they thought would free them from chattel slavery. Africans in Antigua and Barbuda and Canada were freed on August 1, 1834. Africans who had been enslaved by the British in several Caribbean islands including Barbados, Dominica, Trinidad and Tobago, Jamaica and Grenada, in British Guiana (Britain’s sole South American colony) and in British Honduras (Britain’s sole colony in Central America) were subjected to a system of “apprenticeship” which lasted from 1834 to August 1, 1838. Africans were forced to continue living on the plantations of the White people who had enslaved them and were forced to work 40 hours a week without pay (paid a pittance for work over 40 hours) as “apprentices.” They were forced to pay taxes and rent for the dreadful hovels in which they dwelled on the plantations. In 1838 two White Britons Thomas Harvey and Joseph Sturge documented the brutality of the “apprenticeship” system when they published “The West Indies in 1837: Being the Journal of a Visit to Antigua, Montserrat, Dominica, St Lucia, Barbados and Jamaica, Undertaken for the Purpose of Ascertaining the Actual Conditions of the Negro Population of Those Islands.” Harvey and Sturge wrote: “A new kind of slavery under the name Apprenticeship; an anomalous condition, in which the negroes were continued, under a system of coerced and unrequited labour.” They also observed that: “the planters have since succeeded in moulding the Apprenticeship into an almost perfect likeness of the system they so unwillingly relinquished. An equal, if not greater amount, of uncompensated labor, is now extorted from the negros; while, as their owners have no longer the same interest in their health and lives, their condition, and particularly that of mothers and young children, is in many respects worse than during slavery.”
The enslavement of Africans by White people who transported them to Europe and the “New World” as horrific as it was did not begin with the British. No that dubious honour goes to the Portuguese who began that barbaric practice in 1441 when 10 Africans were kidnapped by Antão Gonçalves a Portuguese sailor.
A group of Portuguese sailors under the leadership of Antão Gonçalves (sometimes spelled Antonio Gonsalves) and Nuno Tristão was sailing along the coast of West Africa and happened upon an isolated group of Africans. They took the opportunity to kidnap these unfortunate people and transported them to Portugal where they were presented as gifts to the Portuguese monarch. So this first kidnapping of Africans by the Portuguese was a crime of opportunity. In his 1996 published book “The Negro in the Making of America” African American historian Benjamin Quarles wrote: “The modern traffic in African slaves began in the mid-fifteenth century, with Portugal taking the lead. In 1441 Prince Henry the Navigator sent one of his mariners, the youthful Antonio Gonsalves, to the West Coast to obtain a cargo of skins and oils. Landing near Cape Bojador, the young captain decided that he might please his sovereign by bringing him gifts. Taking possession of some gold dust and loading ten Africans on his cockleshell, Gonsalves made his way back to Lisbon. Henry was greatly pleased by the gold and the slaves, deeming the latter of sufficient importance to send to the Pope. In turn, the Pope conferred upon Henry the title to all lands to be discovered to the east of Cape Blanco, a point on the West Coast some 300 miles above the Senegal. Thus began a new era.” In 1444 another unscrupulous Portuguese kidnapper Lançarote de Freitas on August 8, arrived in Lagos, Portugal with 235 captive Africans. The Portuguese cemented their position in Africa on January 19, 1482 with the arrival of 12 sailing vessels loaded with men and materials to build ElMina. From that time the Portuguese were on a mission to exploit Africa and Africans. Information from the 2010 published book “The Progress of Maritime Discovery: From the Earliest Period to the Close of the Eighteenth Century” by British writer James Stanier Clarke makes the intent of the Europeans who entered Africa frighteningly clear. Stanier Clarke wrote about the uninvited arrival of the Portuguese in Africa on January 19, 1482: “Early on the ensuing morning the Portuguese commodore landed with his followers, who had weapons concealed in case of resistance.”
The Portuguese were ready and willing to slaughter any African who objected to the occupation of their land. They came well prepared to occupy Africa as Stanier Clarke writes in “The Progress of Maritime Discovery” that: “The requisite materials from the stones of the foundation to the very tiles of the roof, were accordingly shipped on board a squadron consisting of ten caravellas, and two transports: which carried five hundred soldiers and one hundred workmen.” By 1482 when the Portuguese monarch sent Diego d'Azambuja to build ElMina which would include a dungeon where Africans were imprisoned before being forced unto the slave ships, Africans were being regularly kidnapped and taken to Europe. The infamous “Door of no return” is worse than Dante’s Inferno in the minds of many Africans in the Diaspora when we think of the horrors the Europeans visited upon our ancestors.
The British joined the lucrative trade in Africans in 1562 after a British pirate John Hawkins (1532-1595) hijacked and plundered a Portuguese ship as it was taking Africans to sell in Brazil. Hawkins the British pirate kidnapped 300 Africans from the Portuguese and transported them to the Caribbean where he sold them to the Spanish colonizers in Santo Domingo (Dominican Republic.) His criminal venture was so profitable that the British monarch Elizabeth (1533 – 1603) decided to go into business with him. In 1564 Elizabeth became partners with Hawkins in his piracy by giving him command of her ship, the 700 ton “Jesus of Lubeck” and the 300 ton Minion. Together with 3 other ships the Swallow, the Tiger and the Salomon owned by other investors Hawkins set sail on his voyage of piracy with royal approval on October 18, 1564. On this voyage the pirates led by Hawkins and his cousin Francis Drake captured hundreds of Africans resulting from their piracy of Portuguese slave ships. They sold the Africans to Spanish settlers and returned to England to share the spoils with their investors which included the British monarch Elizabeth. Other British pirates joined Hawkins and Drake including Walter Raleigh and Martin Frobisher. These unconscionable criminals who traded in human beings were celebrated in Britain. The British eventually became the largest traders in Africans and at one point monopolized the trade. In 1833 the British parliament passed the Emancipation Act which would set enslaved Africans free on August 1, 1834. When Africans realised on August 1, 1834 that they had to serve a further 6 years until 1840 in a system (apprenticeship) that was slavery in all but name there were protests (documented) in British Guiana, Trinidad and Jamaica and elsewhere. The result of the protests was that the “apprenticeship” system was abandoned in 1838 two years before it was supposed to end. Many Africans were brutalized, maimed and killed during those 4 years of protests against the “apprenticeship” system. Gaining eventual freedom from chattel slavery on August 1, 1838 was the result of Africans uprising and protesting against the system, it was not automatically granted to our ancestors. In 2014 as we commemorate 176/180 years since Emancipation we continue to protest the racial profiling that is a result of a centuries old White supremacist culture.


It is already the fourth week of July and 4 weeks since the end of the 2013-2014 school year. The time has flown while school children and parents have hopefully enjoyed the beautiful summer sunshine and the past super-cold winter is just a dim memory. We are almost halfway to the reopening of school for the 2014-2015 school year, just 5 weeks left of the summer holidays.
Summer is my favourite time of the year with warm days and bright sunshine most days from 6:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. There is so much to do with several festivals hosted by the city of Toronto and various organizations and communities. It is also the time of year when I can enjoy one of my favourite activities (reading) outdoors. During this time of the year although there is no formal education children should be encouraged to read. Whatever your children’s interests there are books that they would enjoy reading. Research has shown that the effects of “summer reading loss” can have a negative impact on the education of students. “Summer reading loss” sometimes referred to as the “summer slide” is the result of children not reading for most of the two months away from formal education.
Information from the website of the organization “Reading Is Fundamental, Inc.” (RIF) entitled “Keeping Kids Off the Summer Slide” states that: “Experts agree that children who read during the summer gain reading skills, while those who do not often slide backward. According to the authors of a report from the National Summer Learning Association: "A conservative estimate of lost instructional time is approximately two months or roughly 22 percent of the school year.... It's common for teachers to spend at least a month re-teaching material that students have forgotten over the summer. That month of re-teaching eliminates a month that could have been spent on teaching new information and skills." Sociologists Karl Alexander and Doris Entwisle have shown that the cumulative effect of summer learning differences is a primary cause of widening achievement gaps between students of lower and higher socioeconomic levels. Research demonstrates that while student achievement for both middle- and lower-income students improves at similar rates during the school year, low-income students experience cumulative summer learning losses throughout their elementary school years.” RIF is the oldest and largest nonprofit literacy organization in the United States. Founded in 1966, it is based in Washington, D. C.
Reading is an excellent summer activity especially for our children and young people who are out of school and away from formal education for the next 5 weeks (back to school Tuesday, September 2.) Encourage the children to read for fun and to learn about our heroes and sheroes, those well known, little known and unsung. One of those heroes Dr Daniel Hale Williams (January 18, 1856 – August 4, 1931) made history when he performed the first successful heart surgery on July 9, 1893. His achievements were extraordinary for an African American who was born before slavery was abolished in the USA on January 31, 1865. Dr Hale Williams received his medical degree from the Chicago Medical College in 1883 and established the Provident Hospital and Training School on May 4, 1891. I could only find three books written for children about Dr Hale Williams: “The heart man: Dr. Daniel Hale Williams” by Louise Meriwether published in 1972, “Sure Hands, Strong Heart: The Life of Daniel Hale Williams” by Lillie Patterson published in 1981 and “Daniel Hale Williams: Surgeon Who Opened Hearts and Minds (Getting to Know the World's Greatest Inventors and Scientists)” by Mike Venezia published in 2010. Unfortunately, none of these books are available at the Toronto Public Library (TPL.) However this is a good time to practice Ujamaa (Co-operative economics) the 4th principle of the Nguzo Saba (7 principles) of Kwanzaa. Practicing Ujamaa means supporting businesses owned by members of our community. In the 1997 published book “Kwanzaa: A Celebration of Family, Community and Culture” Dr. Maulana Karenga defines the practice of Ujamaa as: "To build and maintain our own stores, shops and other businesses and to profit from them together." There are several bookstores owned by African Canadians where we can buy books for ourselves and our children including Accents Bookstore, A Different Booklist, Knowledge Bookstore and Nile Valley Books. Now would be a good time to practice Ujamaa by visiting these bookstores and buying books for your children, yourself, your relatives and friends.
Good news! The TPL has several children’s books about the little known history of Africans in Canada including “The children of Africville by Christine Welldon published 2009, Last Days in Africville” by Dorothy Perkyns published 2003, “To stand and fight together: Richard Pierpoint and the coloured corps of Upper Canada” by Steve Pitt published 2008, “The kids book of Black Canadian history” by Rosemary Sadlier published 2003, “The Black Canadians: their history and contributions by Velma Carter” published 1993, “Viola Desmond Won’t be budged” by Jody Warner published 2010, “Crossing to freedom” by Virginia Frances Schwartz published 2010 and “John Ware” by Ian Hundey published 2006. Early reading for enjoyment and appreciation can lead to a lifetime of willingness to continue reading and learning. Taking children to the library to borrow books that are age appropriate is a good way to start the love of reading. Buying books that children can keep at home is also encouragement to enjoy reading. Apart from supporting our community bookstores by visiting these bookstores our children can learn that there are other ways to make a living besides working for other people. It might encourage them to become entrepreneurs and we do need that in our community. Even if you have young pre-school children it is important that they are introduced to books: “Early childhood educators and neurologists agree that the first eight years are a critical time of brain development. Infants come into the world with a brain waiting to be woven into the complex fabric of the mind. Some neurons in the brain are wired before birth, but many are waiting to be programmed by early experiences. The early environment where young children live will help determine the direction of their brain development. Children who have severely limited opportunities for appropriate experiences will be delayed; this may permanently affect their learning. But, children who have the opportunity to develop in an organized and appropriate environment are challenged to think and use materials in new ways.” Enjoy the great summer weather and the summer festivals, read with your children and encourage them to read.


The World Cup 2014 is finished for another four years with Germany winning the “World Cup” on July 13. Over the past month (June 12 - July 13) the eyes of the football/soccer watching world has been trained on Brazil where the national teams of 31 countries competed to win the “World Cup.” The Fédération Internationale de Football Association (FIFA) held its first game in Uruguay in 1930 with 13 countries competing. Brazil first hosted the World Cup competition in 1950 and was soundly defeated by Uruguay in the final. It was a bitter pill for the Brazilians to swallow especially since football/soccer is Brazil’s national sport with a representation of the ball that is used to play the game in pride of place on the Brazilian national flag. Brazil had gone all out in preparation for its first time hosting of the World Cup competition by building the majestic stadium Estádio Jornalista Mário Filho popularly known as the Maracanã in Rio de Janeiro. At the time it was the world’s largest stadium with a seating capacity for 220,000. Information from the FIFA website states that: “The Final was played on 16 July 1950, in front of an official crowd of 174,000, although reliable sources put this figure much higher. One such person was Joao Havelange, the President of FIFA between 1974 and 1988, who recollects: "There were some 220,000 people in the stadium that day," a figure equivalent to 10 percent of Río de Janeiro's population at the time.” (
In spite of that crushing defeat on their home territory at the hands of Uruguay, Brazil has won the World Cup more times than any other team, five times (1958, 1962, 1970, 1994, 2002) but never on their home turf. Perhaps memories of that 1950 defeat of the Brazilian team on Brazil soil was uppermost in the minds of many football/soccer fans who were glued to their televisions on Tuesday, July 8 when Brazil and Germany battled for supremacy at the Estádio Mineirão in Belo Horizonte during the first semi-final match of the 2014 FIFA World Cup. Brazil was crushingly defeated 7-1 to the disbelief of all their fans and then again defeated by the Dutch team 0 – 3 when they played for third place. A humiliated Brazilian team placed 4th at the 2014 World Cup again defeated on home turf reminiscent of 1950.
Apart from the thrill of the World Cup competition the eyes of the world were also watching the Brazilian culture as it was displayed on television. Most of what is known about Brazil is that their Carnival is a spectacular display and it is the only country in South America where Portuguese is the official language. Whenever Brazil is advertised as a place to visit most of the images are of White people or “exotic” light skinned people with light coloured eyes and straight or slightly wavy hair reminiscent of “the girl from Ipanema.” It was noted that although Brazil has the largest number of Africans outside of the African continent those faces were not seen when the cameras panned the stadium crowds. The Africans who were seen in the stadium were either playing to represent the various countries or they were from outside of Brazil. African Brazilians were mostly seen by those who cared to look for them outside of the stadium desperately trying to make a living. The money they earn barely keep them alive so they could not afford the price of entering the stadium to watch the football/soccer matches. One observer Felipe Araujo writing for “The Guardian” newspaper noted: “Most black people in Brazil are poor. A World Cup ticket is officially priced between $90 and $1,000, but in a country where the minimum wage is a little above $350 a month, a seat at the Maracanã is out of many people's reach.” Nicolas Pinault writing for Voice of America News commented: “On television or seen from abroad, Brazil still portrays a white image. Blacks, indigenous or other non-white people are seen less than whites on TV commercials and programs.” The White supremacist culture of Brazil was exposed to the world during their hosting of the “World Cup.” From the comments that accompanied the article written by these two journalists who were in Brazil to cover the World Cup this part of the Brazilian culture was well hidden. As a child living in Lethem, Rupununi (my father was stationed at that outpost for several years) where Guyana shares a border with Brazil it was evident that whiteness was valued highly by Brazilians. There were several families with ties to Brazil and they preferred their children who looked White over the ones with slightly darker skin. One particular family whose Brazilian mother was a mixture of Portuguese and African and Guyanese father a mixture of White and South Asian had 9 children whose skin colour ranged from various shades of brown to white. The favourite child of both parents was the child with green eyes and blond hair who was fondly called “Branca.” Since I did not speak Portuguese it took a while to realise that “Branca” meant “White.” Branca was seemingly idolized by her darker siblings who would proudly exclaim praises of her skin and eye colour. If that family lived in the USA some of the members of that family would be identifiably African American but they all considered themselves and identified as White especially when they travelled within Brazil. In her 2006 published book “The Sorcery of Color: Identity, Race, and Gender in Brazil” White American history professor Elisa Larkin Nascimento writes: “In the same way that Brazilians adopted colonial and neocolonial external standards, blacks are coerced into accepting the standards of whiteness.”
I remembered these events as I watched the recent World Cup and realized that although there are now 97 million Brazilians who identify as Black compared with 91 million who identify as White being the majority has not benefited African Brazilians. In “The Sorcery of Color: Identity, Race, and Gender in Brazil” Larkin Nascimento notes: “A very well defined and extremely rigid racial stratification tends to exclude African descendants from positions of power and prestige, keeping whites at the top of the hierarchy. In 1998, 110 years after slavery’s abolition, there were no African Brazilians in the highest echelons of government except during the short period when Pelé was Special Sports Minister. Of 594 Congressmen, 13 are African descendants. In the public universities which are better quality and more prestigious in Brazil, ‘brown’ professors are rare and dark black professors are almost nonexistent. Among judges there are almost no blacks, while today white women constitute the majority of newly admitted judges (Jornal do Brasil, 27.06.1999.)” The White supremacist culture of Brazil was exposed during this World Cup major sporting event as the world watched Brazil’s ignominious defeat. Canada is hosting a major sporting event next year, the Pan American (Pan Am) Games with Toronto as the host city. The motto of the city of Toronto is: “Diversity our strength” and there is a myth that Toronto as a city of many immigrant communities is welcoming to racialized people. When the United Nations (UN) independent expert on minority issues Gay McDougall visited Canada in 2009 she traveled across the country and spoke with members of various “minority” communities. In her report she wrote in part: “As I have toured Canada members of various communities have discussed with me significant and persistent problems that they face in their lives as persons belonging to ethnic, religious and linguistic minorities, as people of colour or of particular religious beliefs. Many of those I have spoken with feel that the government has failed to respond adequately to their problems or to devise meaningful solutions, leaving them and their communities feeling discriminated against, neglected or as second class citizens in their country of birth or long-term residence.” In her recommendation to the Canadian government Ms McDougall noted: “Human Rights Commissions have an essential role to play in the promotion and protection of human rights, but the jurisdiction of the federal Commission is severely limited and the Provincial bodies are under-resourced, under threat and have been abolished in some provinces. This has led many communities that I talked with to lose faith in the effectiveness of these critical enforcement bodies. The Federal government, in close cooperation with provincial authorities, must work towards stronger mechanisms of cooperation to guarantee consistent enforcement with respect to obligations under the provisions of international treaties to which Canada is a party, particularly in the area of non-discrimination and equality and the implementation of the rights of persons belonging to minority groups.”
With this in mind and the Brazilian example Toronto has to ensure that it lives up to its motto “Diversity our strength” in word and deed because the eyes of many who will be watching the 2015 PanAm games will be observing.


I leave you finally a responsibility to our young people. The world around us really belongs to youth for youth will take over its future management. Our children must never lose their zeal for building a better world. They must not be discouraged from aspiring toward greatness, for they are to be the leaders of tomorrow. Nor must they forget that the masses of our people are still underprivileged, ill-housed, impoverished and victimized by discrimination. We have a powerful potential in our youth, and we must have the courage to change old ideas and practices so that we may direct their power toward good ends.
Excerpt from “My Last Will and Testament” by Mary McLeod Bethune (July 10, 1875 – May 18, 1955)
Mary McLeod Bethune’s “Last Will and Testament” was fittingly published in Ebony Magazine the preeminent African American magazine. The article published in the November 1973 edition of Ebony Magazine paid tribute to the life led by this extraordinary African American educator and civil rights activist. So great is her legacy that it is hardly possible to read about Mayesville, South Carolina without the name Mary McLeod Bethune appearing.
Mary McLeod Bethune was born Mary Jane McLeod on July 10, 1875 in Mayesville, South Carolina. She was the 15th of 17 children born to Samuel and Patsy (McIntosh) McLeod. Her parents had been enslaved Africans and she was the first child in her family who was born after the emancipation (1865) of Africans in the USA. Some of her siblings had been sold by the McLeod family that “owned” them. After the abolition of slavery, Samuel and Patsy McLeod were able to retrieve their children from the various plantations where they had been sold. The African American McLeods eventually bought five acres of land where they built a home and raised their family of 17 children. Patsy McLeod continued working for the White McLeod family who had been their former owners doing the same work she had done as an enslaved woman (African women could only work as maids or other similar work they had done during their enslavement) while Samuel McLeod cultivated cotton on the 5 acres of land the family then owned. The 17 McLeod children also worked on the family’s land but Mary Jane McLeod wanted an education something that most African Americans could not afford. When she was 11 years old she was allowed to attend the one room school for Africans in Mayesville. She was an eager and brilliant student who impressed her teacher and she earned a scholarship to attend Scotia Seminary (now Barber-Scotia College) in Concord, North Carolina. After graduating from Scotia Seminary, McLeod was awarded a scholarship to attend the Bible Institute for Home and Foreign Missions (now Moody Bible Institute) in Chicago, Illinois. After graduating from the Bible Institute in 1895, she planned to go to Africa, the land of her ancestors, to minister to the spiritual and educational needs of her people on the continent. That plan came to naught when she learned that the Presbyterian Mission Board would not assign an African American to teach in Africa.
She was disappointed but undaunted by the fact that her dream of becoming a missionary in Africa was not realized. Taking that in stride Mary Jane McLeod instead went back to Mayesville to begin her teaching career. She also taught at Augusta, Georgia and at Sumter, South Carolina. While teaching at Savannah, Georgia in 1898, she met and married Albertus Bethune and had a son, Albert, a year later. In 1904 she moved to Daytona, Florida where she established a school for African American girls. Mary McLeod Bethune founded the school for African American girls as an elementary school with five students on October 4, 1904. She had deposited five dollars as a down payment on a property for which the asking price was 250 dollars. Over several years the institute grew into a co-educational secondary school after a merging with Cookman Institute of Jacksonville, Florida. By 1931 it was a junior college and in 1941 had grown into Bethune Cookman College, with a four year baccalaureate program offering liberal arts and teacher education. By 1947, the institution was mortgage-free, had a faculty of 100 and a student enrollment of more than 1,000. On February 14, 2007, the Board of Trustees approved the name Bethune-Cookman University after the institution established its first graduate program. Student enrollment at Bethune-Cookman University for the academic year 2013-2014 was 3,486 ( Bethune-Cookman University is one of the 105 Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU) in the USA.
Bethune McLeod believed that if African-American women were given the opportunity to vote, they could bring about change. In 1920, after passage of the 19th amendment, which allowed American women to vote, she went door to door raising money to pay the poll tax. In Southern states, African Americans had to pay a poll tax and pass a literacy test before they were allowed to vote. Beginning in the 1890s, southern states enacted literacy tests, poll taxes, elaborate registration systems and eventually Whites-only Democratic Party primaries to exclude African American voters. The poll tax, as it applied to primary elections leading to general elections for federal office, was abolished when the Twenty-fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution was ratified in 1964. McLeod Bethune taught night classes providing a means for African Americans to learn to read well enough to pass the literacy test. Her efforts eventually succeeded when 100 potential African American voters had qualified.
The night before the election in November, 1920, while McLeod Bethune worked late in her office, she noticed that all street lights had gone out. Then there was the sound of car horns and horse hooves, soon she saw a procession of about 100 people masked in white sheets following a burning cross. The students at the school were all young African American girls, many of whom boarded on campus. The terrifying sight recalled images of the brutality and violence perpetuated against Africans since their enslavement. Thinking quickly McLeod Bethune ordered the lights turned off on campus and all outdoor floodlights turned on. The Klan was left standing in a pool of light watched by the terrified students, as the principal (McLeod Bethune) rallied her students to sing the spirituals that had comforted and imparted courage during the dreadful years of enslavement. The Klan soon dispersed and scattered into the night. The following day, McLeod Bethune led a procession of 100 African American men and women to the polls, who were all voting for the first time.
McLeod Bethune was a national leader in the civil rights struggle. She was the highest ranking African American in the Roosevelt administration and played an important role in the integration of America’s armed forces and the founding of the United Nations. McLeod Bethune was recognized for her hard work during her lifetime, receiving the Spingarn Medal in 1935, the Frances Drexel Award for Distinguished Service in 1937, and the Thomas Jefferson Award for leadership in 1942. She received an honorary Doctor of Humanities degree from Rollins College in 1949, the first African-American to receive an honorary degree from a White southern college. She received the Medal of Honor and Merit from the Republic of Haiti in 1949 and the Star of Africa from the Republic of Liberia in 1952. On July 10, 1974, ninety-nine years after her birth, she became the first woman and the first African-American to be honoured with a statue in a public park (Lincoln Park) in Washington, D.C. Her portrait hangs in the South Carolina State House, the state capitol building in Columbia, South Carolina.
On May 18th, 1955, Mary McLeod Bethune, founder of Bethune Cookman University transitioned to be with the ancestors. Although McLeod Bethune wrote her “Last Will and Testament” ( before she transitioned in 1955 many Africans in the USA and Canada “are still underprivileged, ill-housed, impoverished and victimized by discrimination.” The words that McLeod Bethune (who was born 139 years ago) wrote in her “Last Will and Testament” are words that every educator (including parents) should take to heart. “Our children must never lose their zeal for building a better world. They must not be discouraged from aspiring toward greatness, for they are to be the leaders of tomorrow.”


Many decades ago in the Guyana of my youth one of the worst insults that could be levelled at any Guyanese was to say to them: "Like you went to School August Month!" Those words could become "fighting" words because they would mean that the person to whom the insult was levelled was a "dunce." In those days being a "dunce" was considered a shame. Education was highly prized by Guyanese of all stripes. Because there was no school in "August Month" telling someone "Like you went to School August Month!" meant that you were suggesting they never attended school which meant they were illiterate, uneducated and possibly unintelligent or "stupidy."
The “August holidays” which began mid July and ended mid September was a much anticipated time because we were free from “formal” education. However some form of “formal” education continued for those who had to sit the “Common Entrance Exams” the following April. The “Common Entrance Exams” was the most important exams for 11 year olds in Guyana because the results determined which secondary school you would attend. At the time all the secondary schools (also kindergarten and primary schools) were operated by the Guyana government but everyone vied for those top spots. It was the days of the Linden Forbes Sampson Burnham led PNC government and education was free from kindergarten to university. The competition was fierce to get enough marks to attend Presidents College, Queens College or Bishops High School but no child of secondary school age was left behind during the Burnham era.
On the last day of school in mid July there would be gleeful shouts of “No more Latin, no more French, no more sitting on teacher old bench” as children hurried home to begin the “August holidays.” Unlike North America, Guyana does not have four seasons so there was no “summer holiday.” Guyana has two seasons “dry season” and “rainy season” and both seasons boast similar temperatures of between 25 and 33 degrees Celsius. In the Rupununi which is the largest part of Guyana’s 83,000 square miles (where we share a border with Brazil) the nighttime temperature can dip as low as 12 degrees Celsius. We were never fazed by the temperature in spite of not having access to air-conditioners. During the “August holidays” most families sent their children to visit relatives in other parts of the country for a few days or a few weeks. Sometimes one or both parents would accompany their children on these family visits to renew acquaintances with relatives they had not seen all year. It was the days before the easy access to telephones, computers and programs like Facebook and Skype. As a child my siblings and I accompanied by our parents would visit exciting places including Courtland, Fyrish and Gibraltar on the Courentyne coast, Sandvoort up the Canje River (all villages established by Africans who bought plantation land after Emancipation.) My relatives have lived in these villages for generations (beginning in the 1840s) and it was always exciting and educational to visit. We also visited Mackenzie up the Demerara River where my mother’s older sister, her husband and daughter (they later had 3 more daughters) lived on Mora Street. My aunt had framed photographs of Africans and African Americans who were popular during her childhood and youth. I learned about Billy Eckstein, Sam Cooke, Miriam Makeba, Little Richard, Langston Hughes, Paul Robeson and Joe Louis. My aunt’s husband was more interested in Africa and would often relate the story of the Herero people who were massacred (1904-1908) by the Germans in Namibia.
Visiting my grandparents’ home in Stanleytown, Berbice was the greatest adventure because of all the old “Ebony,” “Jet” and “Tan” magazines they had collected for many years. I never got tired of reading those old magazines. The lives of African Americans were so different from the lives we led in Guyana. Some of the stories were entertaining and some were distressing. I will never forget the images of 14 year old Emmett Till killed for supposedly whistling at a White woman or the image of an obviously terrified 15 year Elizabeth Eckford stalked by a mob of White people baying for her blood, chanting “n***er” and “lynch her.” My grandparents also had the most fascinating framed photographs including those of the Ethiopian royal family with a huge framed photograph of His Imperial Majesty Haile Selassie I in pride of place in the living room. Mounted high on the wall as you walked into the space there he was resplendent in his ceremonial uniform and those bright piercing eyes. There were photographs of the Empress Menen proudly wearing her natural hair like a crown and pictures of the Emperor, Empress and their children together. Apart from the books and photographs my grandparents’ property had more fruit trees than anyone I knew. The fruits included oranges, gooseberries, tamarind, mangoes, tangerines, coconuts, guavas, pears and papaw. There were even a few cotton trees and it was fascinating to watch the beautiful yellow flowers become pods then the cotton popping out of the pods.
The beginning of the summer holidays being enjoyed by Toronto District School Board (TDSB) students brings back beautiful memories of “August holidays” in Guyana. I hope that my grandchildren and all TDSB students will have fond memories of the years they spend in the education system in spite of the shortcomings of the system. For two months these precious children (our future) will be away from formal education but we can ensure that they continue to be educated by encouraging reading and exploration of their culture and history. I wish every student a safe and enjoyable summer holiday/vacation.