DALTON HIGGINS discusses writing and race on February 16, 7 pm, at BAND Gallery (1 Wiltshire), unit 134. Free. See listing.
Most black folk ain't gonna tell you exactly how they feel. Its historical, y'know, coded communication - kinda like Harriet Tubman and the Underground Railroad, Ebonics or E-40's lyrics. (Thirteen-plus albums deep and I still have no idea what this dude is rapping about.) But I will. Why?
Well, let's just say that some brothers are proudly Kunta Kinte, while others might more willingly accept Toby. The street gospels sometimes need to go above ground. I would never profess to speak for an entire heterogeneous community of a few hundred thousand Afro Torontonians. But there is a laundry list of problems that tend to recur in our collective lives with nauseating frequency.
Black History Month presents an opportunity to call the kettle white, air out the Suits and chastise the Babylonians. Call it Blacklisted: Things That Mildly Annoy Your Average Black Torontonian.
• We get it. You might've hated on the Africentric alternative school concept after ODing on them PBS specials on Jim Crow and segregation. But while you were sloppily trying to figure out exactly what segregation was and who initiated it back then (and were still getting it wrong on most fronts), did you ever consider that a 40-plus-per-cent dropout rate for any group of youth is just not even remotely acceptable? So why not try something new? And did you feel like an arse when the first set of test scores from the Africentric school kids were higher than the TDSB and provincial averages?
• Being patted on the head like a miniature poodle when someone wears their 'locks or afro proudly is outright bizarre. You don't ever see me feeling the need to run my just-ate-a-roti-curry-drenched fingers through your straggly, dirty (bleached) blond do, do you?
• When there are more than three black folk at the company water cooler, an insurrection is not being plotted. It's not Django Unchained, and their sobriquets are not Nat Turner and Marie-Joseph Angélique!
• Why do so many downtown non-Caribbean folk try to speak patois (nation language) like my fam-ily and rock Haile Selassie buttons and Ethiopian banners? Even mayoralty candidate Sarah Thomson had a midlife crisis and went Ras. Bumboclaat! DJ Starting from Scratch is an honorary black man, though - an African Canadian emeritus.
• Why does MuchMusic's RapCity come on at those weird hours - Tuesdays at 11:30 pm or mornings at 7 am - when it used to be on at prime time? This is not good timing for our hip-hop nation or Canada's party animal, our beloved T-Rexxx. Oh, well, it's back to those shitty BET reruns and 24/7 booty videos!
• I have never seen a black firefighter in Toronto, and I was born here in the 70s. Can someone please come up with an explanation for this one (or email me a high-rez JPEG)?
• Chief Keef's antics do not represent me, or my community.
• We exist beyond February. Really, we do. We get it, Mr. Politico. This month is an opportune time to dust off the (one) kente cloth scarf you own, kiss (black) babies, eat curried goat ad nauseam and make "special appearances" to honour Us. But we represent so much more than djembe drum circles, and we're not just here to entertain you.
• If I see one more top-10 Toronto list of anything that's utterly devoid of black contributions to Canadian life, I am going to spontaneously combust. Or upchuck violently on something in the ROM's permanent collection.
• Can we not be asked for one day of our lives whether we're Jamaican? Sheeit, I'm Jamaican and even I find it utterly offensive. Like Kardinal Offishall rapped on BaKardi Slang, "You think we all Jamaican when nuff man are Trinis, Bajans, Grenadians and a hole heap of Haitians." And we are Nova Scotians, Nigerians, Eritreans, Cubans, and it goes on and on. We are not a monolithic glob of humanity.
• Advertising executives, it's okay to have more than one black person in a TV commercial. Shit, even them tokens are pissed nowadays. They feel oh so alone. And Ethan Art Director, that one black person doesn't need to mostly always be biracial. We come in all hues, from lemon chiffon to purple black.
• Now that Raptors exec Bryan Colangelo's Euro experiment has officially failed, is black back? Alan Anderson, holla! Bye-bye, Andrea Bargnani.
• Why is it that the only black and brown folk I see in the Forest Hill area bordering Little Jamaica are nannies? And are the neighbourhood residents there okay with this? Even Annex liberals like a little cocoa in their latte.
• My community reaps little reward, fiscal or otherwise, from Caribana (outside of shaking one's rump on city streets, and the obligatory cop photo ops). How did this happen, or become remotely acceptable? Even Millennials know the jig is up. I'm selling bootleg Free Vybz Kartel T's at this year's parade.
• Shaquille shot someone. He represents less than 0.00001 per cent of my community. I do not feel responsible for this. Thank you. Amen.
• On Christopher Spence, no comment.