||February 27, 2009
Black History Month Remembers
February as Black History Month has been
celebrated for years in Canada under the initiative of the Ontario Black History
Society and other groups. Black M.P. Jean Augustine oversaw a Federal Government
motion in 1995 that established the event officially. There are over 600,000
blacks in Canada including, for example, 3-400 in North Bay. The incredible
racism of our immediate past based simply on the colour of one’s skin has
significantly passed. Black History Month remembers the past and celebrates the
present and future.
With a black Governor General Michaelle
Jean and black U.S. President Obama, two new names have been added to the long
list of black firsts. I have recently had the pleasure of writing a book about
Canada’s first black Mayor, Dr. S.F. Monestime from Mattawa who was first
elected in 1963. Dr. Monestime will be recognized this spring during Mattawa’s
125th anniversary by the naming of their Council Chamber after him –
their 9 time mayor. The book will be launched at the same time.
There is little recognition of Black
History Month in Northern Ontario primarily because of the demographics with
African Canadian populations primarily in larger cities. There is an African
Canadian Cultural Club at Nipissing University open to all and some schools have
events. In 2006 the Nugget reported an project at St. Joseph’s-Scollard Hall
where Antonio Fernandes initiated an event. The Nugget listed some well known
area blacks including Dr. Monestime.
Callander artist Fran Hanover was also
mentioned. Her powerful artwork and cards are readily available in North Bay and
elsewhere. Check her website at afrocentricnorth.com
The Afro Heritage Association in Sudbury
has Dr. Howard McCurdy as its speaker February 28th. He is a former
NDP Member of Parliament in Ottawa and ran for the leadership of the Party in
Book Covers 1. Doug Mackey Where Rivers Meet –
Dr. S.F. Monestime – Canada’s First Black Mayor Spring 2009. 2.Catherine
Slaney’s Family Secrets – Crossing the Colour Line. 2003 3. Dan Hill’s
I Am My Father’s Son – A Memoir of Love and Forgiveness. 2009.
There has been a remarkable number of
developments in the story of black history with recognition of former black
communities and leaders. Many excellent books have been written including
several new ones. I’ve Got a Home in Glory Land by K.S. Frost the Director of
the Ontario Historical Society won the Governor General’s Award for Non Fiction
Well known black leader Dr. Daniel Hill,
Ontario’s first Ombudsman and author of The Freedom Seekers has two sons who are
now authors. Lawrence Hill has written several books with his Book of Negroes
having wide recognition and sales in Canada and the U.S. It won several awards.
His brother Dan Hill, one of Canada’s best known singer/songwriters has just
published I Am My Father’s Son – a Memoir of Love and Forgiveness. Dan had a
struggle with his father over Dan’s music career and playing down his black
roots. This in spite of the fact that Dan’s records had 100 million dollars in
sales and he still makes a good living with his song writing.
Bryan Prince, Director of the Buxton
Museum and a descendant of slaves wrote an underground railway book in 2005 and
recently published A Shadow on the Household. The book, like Lawrence Hill’s,
tells the story of a black family’s struggle for freedom. I visited and wrote
about the Buxton Museum in an article here on February 28, 2003 which is online
on my website mentioned below. See also an article on January 30, 2004.
With my interest in Dr. Monestime I was
pleased to find that the Ontario Heritage Foundation, which recognizes
individuals and sites, was going to recognize Canada’s first black Canadian
trained Doctor, Anderson Ruffin Abbott. In looking at his history I discovered
that Dr. Abbot’s daughter married a black Toronto Alderman W.P. Hubbard who in
the early 1900s was Deputy Mayor of Toronto and occasionally Acting Mayor.
Even more interesting is a fascinating
genealogical family history by Catherine Slaney who thought she was white but
with the help of Dr. Hill discovered that her great great grandfather was Dr.
Abbot mentioned above and that she was related to W.P. Hubbard. Over several
years, and with some difficulty, she brought a large extended black family back
together and wrote a book about it called Family Secrets – Crossing the Colour
Line. It is refreshing to see the great progress that has been made in
recognizing the struggle and the achievements of Afro Canadians.
There is a wealth of information on the
internet on every aspect of black history –just a click away.
Heritage Perspective Home Page