As the old African proverb goes , "Until lions have their own historian, tales of the hunt will always glorify the hunter."
Ah, Black History Month, a perfect time to catch up with community uplift. Enter Dawn Williams, publisher of the just-released contemporary directory Who's Who In Black Canada 2: Black Success And Black Excellence In Canada.
Williams, who spent six years doing development work in Botswana and Mali before returning to T.O. in 1998, holds that in these times "if it's not written down, it doesn't exist, you haven't done it."
Self-published, the directory contains more than 700 profiles grouped in 28 areas of endeavour, from academia to visual arts, community work to international affairs, plus "in memoriam" tributes.
Interestingly enough, the majority of WWIBC 2 entrants were born or educated outside Canada, prompting George Elliott Clarke to note in the intro that "Canada does not value its black children and youth, no matter how deep their roots in this tundra."
A casual flip through can leave you feeling wildly inspired, but you also realize how ignorant you are about the influence of blacks in Canada beyond sports, music, arts and entertainment.
Entrants can nominate themselves for inclusion. And Williams admits to the inevitable sniping over who's in and who's not with her six-member selection committee.
Then there were those put off by being referred to as "black," who didn't want to be included in the book. Caribbeans want to be labelled by island, and continental Africans don't want to hear no hyphen talk.
Some Canadian-born blacks can't fathom why they can't simply be referred to as Canadian. Would Who's Who In Negroid Canada go down any smoother?
"There are those who think the project is divisive," says Williams. And some opted not to pay for the privilege of having their photo included.
Among the no-brainer inclusions are Oscar Peterson and Governor General Michaélle Jean. But there are also some glaring omissions in Williams's collection: deputy cop honcho Keith Forde is a no-who, along with Donovan Bailey, Charles Roach, Tonya Lee Williams, Kenny Robinson, Austin Clarke, Nalo Hopkinson and many, many others.
Williams is more concerned about who's in and what that means. She says the initial press run of 1,000 copies sold out within a few weeks, bolstered by a single order for half the load.
"It should take us on a further journey. People should look at it and start aspiring to more, see the endless career possibilities for themselves, have bigger dreams in spite of the obstacles," she says.
WWIBC is Williams's message for young black youth to take heart. "Yeah, you got it rough. There's considerable discrimination still out there. But here, look at the people who have recently come before you, persevered and succeeded," she enthuses.