#thetimeisnow

The Afro Canadian Caribbean Association is challenging the status quo “We Are Planted Here: Narratives in Belonging” calls for empowerment and change

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Photo C/O Afro Canadian Caribbean Association

Please note that this event has been postponed until further notice due to the COVID-19 Virus. For more information please visit: https://accahamilton.com 

Since 1979, the Afro Canadian Caribbean Association has been creating a sense of community and empowerment in the African-Canadian Caribbean community in Hamilton. Evelyn Myrie, the president of ACCA, says that even though African-Canadians have been here for hundreds of years, they are still treated as though they don’t belong in this country. On March 13-14, ACCA will be holding an event called “We Are Planted Here: Narratives in Belonging”. The event will combine art and advocacy to dismantle this assumption, establishing the right that African Canadians have to feel at home in Canada, because it is their home. 

“[T]he objective of this initiative, symposium, celebration is to assert our existence and long-standing presence on these lands, on this land of Canada . . . there is still a perception [when] you’re walking on the streets, there’s an assumption that you are from another place. So it’s really to situate our position as Canadians in various locations, to have conversations about our rich and diverse contributions to this land and to reassert our presence here . . . We’re located here socially, politically and economically,” said Myrie. 

Not only is the physical presence of the Black community ignored, but so too are their contributions to Canada. Myrie says that she hopes the event will help to educate people both inside and outside of the Black community about Black history in Canada. She says that many of the social and human rights that we currently have were fought for by the Black community.

“[P]eople don’t know that human rights laws, housing laws, we were the ones who were the canary in the mine, because we were the ones who suffered those experiences [and fought] to change laws, immigration laws, especially; Black people were not allowed to come to Canada and it was Black people who fought against [that]. And now we have a whole slew of different people coming to Canada—and wonderfully so—racialized people, who sometimes forget or don’t know that they are benefiting from the struggles of the Black community,” said Myrie. 

“[P]eople don’t know that human rights laws, housing laws, we were the ones who were the canary in the mine, because we were the ones who suffered those experiences [and fought] to change laws, immigration laws, especially; Black people were not allowed to come to Canada and it was Black people who fought against [that]. And now we have a whole slew of different people coming to Canada—and wonderfully so—racialized people, who sometimes forget or don’t know that they are benefiting from the struggles of the Black community,”  

In the early days of mining, miners are said to have brought canaries with them into mines they worked in. Canaries are more vulnerable to carbon monoxide and other poisonous gases than humans, so a dead or sick canary would alert the miners to danger. In this metaphor, Myrie is suggesting that because Black people are far more likely to experience human rights violations, it frequently and unequally falls on their shoulders to fight for social change. Because they are so unequally adversely affected, they are the first to know when laws need to be changed. They were and are the canary in the coal mine.

Myrie hopes that this event will educate attendees on the pervasiveness of anti-Black racism and the othering of Black people, and the ways that this continues to be perpetuated in Canada, and that it will also encourage allies to examine their own actions and biases, and how they can seek to call out this behaviour in their day-to-day lives. Othering is a part of colonial discourse that creates an “Us versus Them” narrative, where the dominant group becomes accepted and the marginalized group is dehumanized and made into the “Other”. This manifests itself as increased violence towards marginalized groups, and removing them from mainstream media and discourse.

“So to us, anti-Black racism is a key part of this, because it’s really just like white supremacy in that it keeps knowledge away . . . So we’re telling our stories, because we know that anti-Black racism has kept those stories away from curriculums,” said Myrie.

“So to us, anti-Black racism is a key part of this, because it’s really just like white supremacy in that it keeps knowledge away . . . So we’re telling our stories, because we know that anti-Black racism has kept those stories away from curriculums,”

“We Are Planted Here: Narratives in Belonging” is a two day symposium. On Friday, March 13, there will be an evening of art and spoken word at the ACCA Banquet Hall (754 Barton St. E), and on Saturday March 14 there will be academic and community discussions at the Hamilton Central Library (55 York Blvd.). Both events are free.

 

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Author: Lauren O'Donnell

Lauren is in her fourth and final year of English and Cultural Studies. She is a big fan of sustainable fashion, body positivity, and 80s pop music. In her spare time, Lauren can be found hanging out with her cat, Lyric.