1. Black people, anger, forgiveness, and justice.
Last week, a reader accused me of being “anti-white.” I wasn’t bothered by this, other than I was planning on doing an edition of Morning File where I exclusively did news about baby deer in the South End and suggested that now white people could read Morning File without being offended by my off-putting “pro-Black” writing.
I’m not writing this to be petulant or to use this space to passive-aggressively pursue every critical comment or slight. I’m thinking about it because it gets at what it means to be Black in this world. When I started doing Morning File, I thought about how Rocky Jones always talked about the importance of having an independent Black-run newspaper in the African Nova Scotian community. I consciously made a choice to do news from an explicitly Black perspective, and I knew that in doing that, there would be people who found that alienating or challenging.
In my time doing poetry about Black issues, I have experienced every accusation about hating white people, pulling the race card, getting more people on my side if I would be nicer, being an angry Black woman and so forth, so I already knew that when you speak unapologetically from a Black perspective, this is perceived as threatening, aggressive, and somehow an attempt to alienate and silence white people.
And I understand that in a media universe where Sherri Borden Colley is the only Black female journalist interviewed in Vivian Smith’s book Outsiders Still, hearing the voices of Black women is actually challenging.
Because it is possible to go through the whole year without reading or hearing our voices in Nova Scotia, when there is one day a week where a Black woman speaks, that is seen as taking up space (rather than thinking about where we are the other six) and so it seems normal to say “I will be skipping this day” until it becomes more so-called white-friendly like every other day that caters to white readers, white voices, white preferences, white beliefs, white interpretation, white perspectives, etc.
I understand exactly why hearing Black voices can be an uncomfortable experience because I often reflexively am cautious about being “too Black” or toning it down, or adding something funny to seem harmless, or all the things we do to make what we are saying and feeling and thinking more acceptable. In a culture that at best erases Blackness and at worst actively kills us, I actually get why it’s a difficult experience to encounter and deal with Black writing because we live in a society that doesn’t yet know how to live with Black people.
The reason I am thinking about this is I am writing this in the midst of coverage of the shooting of nine Black people at Mother Emanuel in Charleston. Last week, I led with commentary about how Peter MacKay’s concerns about Muslim “radicalization” among youth in Stellarton were absurd in light of the history of white terrorism in Nova Scotia. This week, we see the media still refusing to call what Dylann Roof did an act of terrorism, because white male shooters are a “lone wolf” or “mentally ill” or a “murderous misfit.” Roof declared, “You rape our women, and you’re taking over our country, and you have to go.” Roof saw the small amount of space Black people take up, the small gains we have squeezed out against all odds, as a threat to him and to the white supremacy he espoused.
I’m not saying at all that a comment on a online newspaper is the same thing — what I’m saying is that as Black people our being, our taking up space, our speaking, our asserting our presence, is still an act of resistance. We are still being killed simply for the fact of being Black, so therefore being un-fearfully Black is always an act that is challenging, discomfiting, and something not supposed to be.
People noted that Roof made racist jokes, but they didn’t think it was serious. Talking about racism, pointing it out, recognizing its history and its presence today and its ongoing effects is not about being anti-white; it is about living in a world where white supremacy is an ongoing deadly reality, and giving ourselves, Black and white, the tools for understanding it and overcoming it.
In other words, we don’t say these things for the hell of it, to be annoying, to mess with white people, or for our health. We talk about them even when it upsets people, because we need to do it if we are going to survive.
What I thought about this morning watching the news where the families of the victims forgave Roof was the relationship to the Colored Home inquiry in Nova Scotia. In the Examinerradio podcast, I struggled with the idea of how Black people find justice — how in the Truth and Reconciliation hearings in South Africa which have been hailed as the model for so many other proceedings with Black and Indigenous people, the white leaders didn’t even show up (and I’m reminded here how Roof, born after Mandela was released from prison, wore an apartheid-era flag patch as a symbol of white supremacy — showing us that apartheid white supremacy is not as dead and buried as we would like to believe.) I wondered about how often we are pressured to not be angry, to take the high road, to turn the other cheek, and how social pressure and conditioning on us from surviving relentless oppression makes us reluctant to confront our oppressors.
I talked about how it seems that white people always get to have plain old justice — let a group of Black people do something to white people and you can bet that charges would be laid and Black people would be doing time in prison, yet when we are the victims, suddenly it’s all about reconciling and moving past and moving forward.
I wondered about how whether we have seen Restorative Justice, developed in Indigenous and communities of colour as a radical tool to combat mass incarceration, disproportionate sentencing, and the collective effects of poverty, racism and marginalization, be used to truly change social structures, or if it has mostly been used when it is convenient to maintain the white status quo but somehow never when Black people can’t get parole, are getting harsh sentences, are being placed in maximum facilities, and being incarcerated at the fastest growing rates in Canada.
So these are questions I have. But watching the families of the victims in Charleston, and thinking about the survivors of the Colored Home, I was reminded again about the magnificent generosity of Black people. How again and again, confronted with violence, hatred, and abuse, Black people have over and over given chances, truly believed in the ability to transform and change, patiently taught and guided, and have continued to keep faith with and contribute to a society that historically does not want us alive.
It struck me that being “anti-white” is only seen as a damaging insult because of how hard Black people have worked to live together, to make it work, to truly believe in the best of humanity.
That we should in fact be happily “anti-white” given our history, and that we are not, is one of the testaments to our optimism and love. How expansive, how radical, how beautiful, how loving Black people are. To see the survivors of the Colored Home talk about how they can make a difference in the province, how we can learn from what happened, how carefully they want to journey forward reminds me powerfully of the vision for justice and equality our people have forged. How we have not only continued to be, and to take up space, but have consistently moved beyond, believing that society can be better, can be accountable, can be shared.
I already knew the families in Charleston would forgive, just as I knew that the culture of racism that created the shooting would be minimized, denied and refused to be confronted. I also know that none of this is about me, or what I write or how I write it, and that is not what I’m saying — I’m only saying that whether in our small ways or large, whether facing micro-aggressions or actual slaughter, sometimes in our anger, sometimes in our truth-telling, sometimes in our forgiveness, and always in our being, our ability to not just survive this society, but to continue to insist upon its ability to be better — to insist upon the necessity to transform and to hold ourselves and others accountable to that transformation — is always significant.
Keep on keeping on Black people. Keep doing you. Take up space and have your voices heard because we’re still not supposed to be here, not on Saturday morning, not in church in Charleston, not in this province, not in this world. And that we are here asserting our presence is a victory every day.
2. I’m picturing Indigenous activists being imprisoned and the rats in Mulgrave Park, actually…
Image from APTN.
The Chronicle Herald
gives a tongue bath to takes us inside the Irving shipbuilding facility. Kevin McCoy, president of Irving Shipbuilding wants us to picture legos going together.
Cool. I’m kind of picturing this though. And workers being laid off and replaced by workers from Alberta and then being brought back, if at all, on a temporary basis. And rats. And I’m also picturing this. And this. And this. Oh, and I found this. And this. And of course this. Well, you get the point.
3. Oh good, more military hardware.
First of all, this story has both of my favourite Ministers/Ex-Ministers Jason Kenney and Peter MacKay so we’re already lucky. Kenney is probably here to deport the whale from the Liverpool Harbour because it left its face in the water too long or something. Uncover your face, whale! You can’t be a citizen!! But anyway, the first six CH-148 Cyclone Helicopters are finally accepted.
Defense Industry Daily notes: “Canada’s Maritime Helicopter Replacement Program has been a textbook military procurement program over its long history. Unfortunately, it has been a textbook example of what not to do…”
Peter MacKay “said the new aircraft and the safety they provide are essential ‘in coastal communities like ours, where so many make our living at sea or take to the water for recreation.’”
Yeah, well, we know how much MacKay likes helicopters.
4. Basically, don’t fuck with the whale.
Look, don’t swim with the whale, ok? Don’t feed it, don’t touch it, don’t go in the water around it, don’t speed up your boat around it, don’t try to ride the whale, don’t capture the whale and put the whale in a tank and then wear a wetsuit that makes you look like the whale and torture the whale and then think the whale is your friend and it likes doing tricks for you and then be surprised when the whale kills you…OKAY WHITE PEOPLE? Are we all clear?
5. Wishful thinking?
The Cornerstone Wesleyan Church in Hammonds Plains went solar. The title of the article is “sunshine will always be free.”
Are we sure about that? Dr. Vandana Shiva:
Because it seems to be a strange kind of competition in which the biggest corporations of the world want to compete-out the smallest peasant, every butterfly and every bee and every element of biodiversity. And I’m not joking about this. In 1992, when we had protests against the entry of Cargill in India, John Hamilton who used to head Cargill-India said, ‘These Indians are foolish. They don’t understand. We are preventing the bees from usurping the pollen.’
In the many many years of negotiations that have gone on during the Biosafety Protocol (in which Tewolde of course has played such a leading role) Monsanto put out a document in which it said, ‘The reason the world needs Roundup-Ready crops is because herbicide tolerance prevents the weeds’ — which for us is biodiversity — ‘from stealing the sunshine.’
They are building a world in which every diversity of life is a thief from some source of making profit for them. Biodiversity ‘steals’ the sunshine, the bees ‘usurp’ the pollen and the farmers ‘steal’ when they save seed.
1. The Progressive’s Guide to Pope Francis’ Environmental Encyclical.
Greg Melchin on Pope Francis’ Environmental Encyclical.
If you have access to an internet connection, you’ve heard that Pope Francis’ encyclical on the environment, Laudato Si, dropped today, touching off a firestorm of media hype. While the media can’t get enough of the old Argentinian, progressives are more ambivalent about Francis – while he’s made some progressive-friendly comments about the economy and capitalism, his politics on feminism and LGBTQ issues remain stubbornly in line with his predecessors (even if he’s nicer about it). Not to mention he occupies the exclusively male position of head of a deeply patriarchal, corrupt, and ancient institution. So how should progressives respond to Laudato Si, given all of this?
2. Dartmouth Nationalism
It’s possible to be pro-Dartmouth without being anti-Halifax, ok?
Frank Doyle from Dartmouth NOT HRM OR HALIFAX:
My wife and I went for a walk this past Sunday on the grounds of Sullivan Pond. I remember that when Dartmouth was its own city, it took pride keeping the grass neat and the borders tidy (even when it was raining). Now that Halifax runs everything, my wife and I walked in ankle-deep grass and the borders were not so tidy.
Coun. Gloria McCluskey, please run for mayor of Dartmouth again. You would obtain lots of votes. The movement should go forward as we in Dartmouth are being left behind.
Kathleen Eyland throws some shade: “Dartmouth Councillor Gloria McCluskey has always been one of my local heroes. She understands the town and its place in history. The amalgamation was a mistake from the start. To then come up with a dumb “Halifax” logo with unformed letters took the cake.”
(Reference to the “Darkside” for “older” readers.)
Dartmouth residents hastened to add that by Dartmouth they don’t mean North Preston though.
I met Corey Wright when I was invited to do poetry at the Zion Baptist Church in Truro for the Black inmates gathering, where Black inmates across Nova Scotia and New Brunswick are brought together for workshops. The women of the church cook for them and it’s one of the most moving and beautiful things I get to do, and Corey was there year after year sharing his own poetry. I began this column thinking about forgiveness, and this column made me cry both with sadness and pride for Corey, and for what he says in this article about my community, and thinking about him staying positive through those years and creating art, and because I know that through music and art people do change, and thinking about the time he sent me a Black History month card to thank me for my poetry, and all the good things he has done. I hope people check out his music.
You’re invited! The Halifax Examiner turns one year old!
Who: anyone who wants to celebrate the Halifax Examiner
When: Wednesday, June 24, 5–10pm
Where: The Company House, 2202 Gottingen Street