“The Standing On Their Shoulders project has been a rewarding and eye opening experience. As a minority overseas for much of my upbringing has left me with a desire to connect with black legacies and histories. By participating in this project I have learned a wealth about the rich history of Black folks in Montreal, stories that will leave me inspired for years to come. I greatly enjoyed the opportunity I had to speak with and interview such prominent individuals.”

-Joseph Ariwi

 

“The “Standing on Their Shoulders” project seeks to uncover black anglophones’ hidden history through storytelling and visuals. It is our way of celebrating our achievements as a people and giving a voice to a community that has been marginalized out of history. We understand that knowledge of self is key to the growth and unity of black youth in Montreal and beyond.”

-Yanissa Grand-Pierre

 

“We felt that this was an important project to take part in because there isn’t as much recognition for the people who have worked so hard to get Little Burgundy to where it is as there should be. My sister and I chose Jesse Maxwell-Smith because we found that her story was inspiring and that accomplishments like hers are something to strive for. We are extremely thankful that the Standing on Their Shoulders project gave us an opportunity to learn more about our community and someone who helped shape it.”

-Rachel Shelton

 

“Standing on Their Shoulders is a bridge, in my eyes, to the past in Montreal. They taught me so much about the undiscussed history of Montreal’s Black Community. Without them, I wouldn’t have gained that knowledge and they are a great contribution to the Black Community because of this project that allowed youths to dig into their roots and create something marvellous.”

-Maxwell Step

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The article was featured in Semaji December 2015. To read the full version Click Here

By Dr. Clarence Bayne

 

I am prompted to write this as a response to some reaction to “givings” by two Black sport personalities from the English speaking Black Community of Montreal. The first has to do with an abusive attack on the Erene Anthony Family for an alleged gift that was given to Selwyn House; although, in reality, this gift was initiated by Andre Demarais and patrons of the Selwyn House on behalf of the Anthony Family. The second has to do with an under-current of negative criticism from both the Black and larger Montreal community relating to PK Suban’s gift of ten million dollars to the Montreal Children’s Hospital. Considering the use that my family, and so many of my friends and their families, have made of the children’s hospital, I say to Suban, “Thank you PK. Thank you for underlining the fact that the Black Community is an equal participating partner in the creation of a more healthy society.” We have been contributing for an incredibly long time in many different ways; but, as Kevin, from his seat in the Dragon Den, would have said, “the money talks.” However, as we see from these previous examples, even money does not quite set one free.

 

There have been responses to this propensity for negative criticism coming from some unexpected sources, but it is, nevertheless, appreciated and welcomed. However, what I want to do here is to appeal to the rational conscious. We are agents in an environment, interacting between ourselves and our environments. The incredible thing about these multiple interactions is that they cause the environment to change and in turn the agents adapt or change in some unpredictable way. Then we interact in response to the changes in the environment in perpetuity. The world around including us is in constant multi-directional change. In this constantly evolving non-linear system, human agents have the advantage and capability of thought and innovative action. We are capable of learning by action and reflection. In addition, we are social and cultural agents capable of collaboration. Human beings in a landscape act to preserve life, to perpetuate it and to evolve as a species over time. The fundamental human objective is to increase longevity, the number of their species, the quality of life, and spiritual existence over time into the indefinite future.

 

Groups when faced with a common enemy tend to collaborate when collaboration offers the opportunity for the survival of the group and the members of the group. In a nation state, as belief systems approach states which guarantee security and greater fitness to a larger number of cultural and kinship groups, loyalties to the institutions responsible for improving increased fitness grow stronger among the different cultural and kinship groups. It should not be surprising therefore that Blacks would donate to hospitals that preserve and perpetuate lives.

 

Giving is a form of sharing, a social entrepreneurial act, and, at the same time, selfish and social. By definition it has to be so for it is motivated by the intelligent strategy which shows that the life of the individual can be extended and protected by preserving and protective the collective. It is selfish in the sense that we have come to realize that our individual chances for survival, the perpetuation and improvement in the quality of life increases when we share information and the surpluses of our creative abilities. So we have a vested and personal interest in sharing. It is social in the sense that we are capable of empathy and love. Being capable of love, we can care about the preservation and wellbeing of other lives and the preservation of the earth.

 

But, it is also clear that giving is spiritual. It has to do with the sense of being associated with acts that are seen as elevating the human spirit above its material existence, as well as the creation of a legacy that extends our lives through the collective spirit of the society long after the death of our physical and material self. I refer to this as purchasing one’s ticket to heaven in a blazing chariot of glory. However, just as the importance of the widow’s mite as a valuable social act should not be discounted, similarly, the importance of altruism of the wealthy as a motive for giving should not be downgraded. There are rich people who are altruistic in their giving.

 

There are also economic principles underlying giving that explain how one might go about deciding to give to one cause and not another. The overall objective would be to maximize the benefits over the collectivity in a socially cohesive manner. I think it is not difficult to imagine that a general rule could be that one should distribute one’s surpluses such that the greatest good is done for the greatest number of persons. I do not think that we could be justifiably critical of a social allocation of surpluses in which the intent was just that; and if, in fact, the benefits of that allocation could be evaluated to have been socially equitable, inclusive and cohesive. I think that the Children’s hospital of Montreal would qualify as such a cause for “giving”.

 

Finally the argument that such gifts are simply an attempt to dodge taxes is simplistic. The policy of tax exemptions for giving allows the donor the freedom to pick an appropriate cause, as opposed to having bureaucrats in the public sector and elected politicians decide on or select our causes for us. For what is not given is either taxed away or disappears unseen by the “Revenue Agency” or the general social collective. Governments also recognize that the private individual has legitimate priorities and preferences that differ from those of government distributive agencies. Accordingly, they respect those rights by exemption clauses in their tax laws. It follows that it is the right of every free being to distribute some of his or her surplus earnings as he or she believes to be most optimal socially, not according to loyalties imposed socially or otherwise.

The article was featured in Semaji December 2015. To read the full version Click Here

With funding from Canadian Heritage, BCRC has been able to mount a seniors’ pilot project which will run between June and December 2015. The goal is to identify the needs of a group of seniors who frequent the Cote-des-Neiges Plaza. Our motivation is to find ways to get to know who they are, to offer them both constructive and social activities, as well as to share our knowledge of the range of the services of which they could take advantage. Two part-time animators have been our ‘boots on the ground’.  Shimmon and Felicia have conducted face-to-face interviews with many of the seniors asking themselves “what are the needs that exist?” They have also put together a survey and did some preliminary research about groups and social services in Côte-des-Neiges that currently exist for all local elderly.

Armed with this plethora of information, Felicia and Shimmon are now hoping to address topics that can resonate with the seniors. The two have now become a resource and, over the course of the next few months, they pull together some workshops to educate our seniors on issues that directly affect the quality of their life.  They are planning to invite groups and knowledgeable individuals to talk about social housing, ageism, isolation, finances, mental health, and family.

Having made some strong connections while engaging with other organizations, there is a strong desire to work in tandem to create a strong support network that focuses on a holistic approach for our seniors.

Certainly, there will be more challenges ahead but BCRC is proud to say that Shimmon and Felicia have shown dedication to improving the lives of this segment of our senior population.  If you would like to contribute your knowledge or expertise with seniors or you would like to give the team a hand, call Shimmon at: 514-342-2247.

 

By the Seniors Project team.

 

The article was featured in Semaji September 2015. To read the full version Click Here

For several years BCRC has been closely aligned with the activities of the umbrella group called REISA. In fact, BCRC is considered one of REISA’s founding members. While REISA is the French acronym everyone uses, in English it stands for the East Island Network for English Language Services. For readers not in the know, the east-end of the island is generally seen as starting at St. Laurent Street and going eastward to Pointe-aux-Trembles. With BCRC situated in Côte-des-Neiges, it seems unlikely that we would have many of our projects in the east end, since most of our English-speaking Black community that we offer our services to, live on the West side of Saint Laurent Boulevard. But this belies the reality of the English-speaking Black community as it has dispersed over the last several decades. Moreover where there are English-speaking Blacks, we can surmise that their needs are similar regardless of their street address.

Like their Francophone members, English speaking blacks have taken advantage of the relatively lower housing costs of the East End, and for many English-speaking blacks living there it is an opportunity as well to immerse their children in the French culture. For these and other reasons BCRC has never shied away from mounting projects, particularly our school projects, in the East end. These projects, under the auspices of the English Montréal School Board (EMSB) are just one part of the story.  Several years ago, when BCRC was asked to join this fledgling group of English-speaking associations in the East it was clear then that our common interest was to find ways to increase the level of English language services in the health and social service network of the East End– for all English speakers living there. To that end, BCRC and other English language, east-end organizations has been quietly, and not so quietly at times, engaging with CLSCs, the CSSS, various borough and city administrations, and local community organizations serving the population of the East. For years it seemed to be an uphill battle to even get the occasional acknowledgment that there were English speakers living there. Reisa persisted, partnered, and continued to work with Francophones to show that their common wisdom also needed to be revised.

Today we can measure some success in the efforts of BCRC in this partnership. REISA has developed a partnership with McGill University’s health and social services sector and now acts as a bridge to many Francophone East End institutions. We now have a project titled the East Island Retention of Health Professionals. Its mission of course is to increase access to health and social services in English in collaboration with the public/private and community stakeholders while at the same time promoting and supporting the training and retention of health and social service professionals in the East End. Through this method we can ensure that English-speaking minority communities such as Blacks have access to services in their own language without having to travel downtown.

This has been a long time coming and we are very excited to say the project is a go. Therefore, BCRC is now pleased to promote internships for black students currently in school interested in working in the East end with Anglophones. REISA, in hand with the French institutions, have now identified a dozen or so disciplines where there is a need for bilingual support. These range from communication sciences, policy studies, creative arts therapies, nursing, psychology, social work, special care, substance abuse, etc. etc.  I would encourage you to visit www.reisa.ca to check out the complete listing.  The hope is that with the rush to the East end, qualified blacks in our community will find good career opportunities later while serving Blacks living on the other end of our island.

 

By Dr. Dorothy Williams

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This article was featured in Semaji September 2015. To read the full version Click Here

A behind the scenes look at our Standing on Their Shoulders team! Stay tuned for next Semaji issue in December to meet some of our participants and in March to meet the final three members of the Standing on Their Shoulders team!

 

STS 3 Jennifer Sinclair–I’m one of the animators on the Standing on Their Shoulders team along with Pharaoh Freeman. Since we began sharing Little Burgundy’s Black history we have been met with such enthusiasm and passion from everyone we met. I have spent as much time educating youth as I have spent learning from them and from Little Burgundy’s elders. I feel so fortunate to have been part of this wonderful project.

 

 

Pharoh 2 Pharaoh Freeman (aka Robin)–I’m the co-animator on the Standing on Their Shoulder Team alongside Jennifer Sinclair (aka Batman). I’m really excited to be on this project because it gave me an opportunity to work with youth and learn about the rich history of Little Burgundy. I thank the BCRC for giving me this amazing opportunity.

 

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This article was featured in Semaji September 2015. To see the full version Click Here

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After four years of renovations, on Sunday, June 14th, the Union United Church, on Delisle Street bordering Little Burgundy, was reopened with a service of thanksgiving thanks to funding amounting to about 1.2 million dollars. The building was originally closed in 2011 in order to deal with the issues of mould and asbestos, as well as water damage and outdated wiring and plumbing. The reason for the four-year delay was because it was not an easy task to fundraise. In fact, they have only been able to obtain money to do the basic renovations, but luckily the rest of the renovations needed can be done with the congregation in attendance. During the four years the Union United Church services were held at Rosedale United in NDG but needed to move to Wesley United three months ago when Rosedale was sold.

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The Church was filled with its many members who were elated to be back to their original Church. The Church Choir was joyful and their songs of praise were the perfect backdrop to the congregation’s hymns of thanksgiving. It seemed like the entire United Church family and dignitaries of the community were in the pews, including Dr. Williams, so the best wishes flowed. Ms. Anthony, the Chair, acknowledged our historical project [Standing on Their Shoulders] and BCRC.

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The congregation, which filled every pew and balcony in the Church, was treated to a performance from long-time Union United Church member and jazz legend, Oliver Jones. He played on the baby grand piano that he had just donated to the Church. Jones, quite dedicated to bringing the Church back to its former glory, will also be hosting a fundraiser on August 14th called the Dr. Oliver Jones Golf Tournament.

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This article was featured in the Semaji June 2015. To read the full version Click Here

 

 

Saturday, June 13th turned out to be a beautiful, sunny day. Perfect, not only for the Dr. Charles Drew Blood Drive, but for the outdoor bar-b-q. This was possible thanks to BCRC’s partnership with the Hilarious Riders. This group of young professionals have created quite a buzz on their motorcycles fundraising for worthy projects in Montreal and abroad. Through their initiative they got numerous sponsors, including tapping into the generosity of our neighbour, Maxi, who provided the food and even allowed Hilarious Riders to use their parking lot to flip the burgers and grill the hot-dogs. The bar-b-q attracted a whole new crowd to the drive in our center–exactly what it was intended to do. We are happy to announce that the Blood Drive was a smashing success. We surpassed our goal of 75 and reached 92 donors.

 

Unfortunately, many of our generous community members were not able to give blood due to their low blood iron levels. Statistically, Black women have lower blood iron levels then white women, on which the standard iron levels are based. Good news, however! Héma-Québec will be lowering their iron level restrictions in August 2015 allowing more Blacks to donate.

 

Thanks to all of our community members who donated their time and their blood to a good cause. Thank you also, to our sponsors Maxi, Tim Hortons, and McDonald’s. We would also like to thank our partners in this undertaking, the Hilarious Riders. While this may have been a new partnership, it was very successful. We look forward to further collaboration in the future.

This article was featured in the Semaji June 2015. To read the full version Click Here

 

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Adieu Jean Doré. Doré, former Mayor of Montreal, opened City Hall to all minorities by inviting them to participate in the democratic process of decision-making about the kind of city they wanted. During the Jean Drapeau administration, the Black community had acquired limited access to the city’s civil service due to the interventions of the Black Community Council of Quebec. As a result, some substantial community services in sport and recreation were provided but Drapeau remained distant from our events and community.

 

However, under the Doré administration we sat at the policy tables at the levels of the MCM party, the city and the boroughs. This set a pattern for the years that straddled the two subsequent administrations of Borque and Tremblay. Doré’s style of administration was characterized by his receptiveness to voices from the minority communities and the administration’s commitment to creating a socially cohesive Montreal with safe, welcoming neighborhoods.

 

Black cultural activities flourished under Doré’s administration as part of a very direct and planned strategy of cultural tourism and community development. There was significant support of Black culture, theatre, carnival arts, and festivals. The city’s support and funding of the Caribbean Carnival was at no time stronger than during the Doré administration. In fact, Vue D’Afrique, Carifete/Carifiesta, Rhythm du Monde and Black Theatre Workshop were formally considered as integral elements in the city’s strategic plan for cultural tourism during Doré’s term.

 

For the first time in the history of Montreal, the City’s administration created a department responsible for cultural communities’ development and hired a significant number of Blacks. Perhaps the most visible association and trend-breaking policy of his administration was the recognition of February as the month that all Montrealers would celebrate Black history and the contributions and presence of Blacks here. There are many Blacks who say that Black History Month should be celebrated every day, not just in February, and there is certainly no one stopping us from doing that thanks to Doré. However, draping City Hall in huge streamers that flow in the wind and read “Le Mois de l’Histoire des Noirs” is no simple achievement in French Quebec. It marks the depth of the relationship between Jean Doré and the Black communities, as well as the respect and value that his administration accorded our place in Montreal. It underlines the pluralism practiced by the new leadership in Montreal and by their initiatives to update and reform the attitudes of the informal, private culture of the city’s civil-service, and police about Blacks.

 

Doré leaves behind his legacy of humanism, his support and encouragement of our participation in Montreal’s social and political life, as well as the decision-making processes of the city.

 

By Clarence S. Bayne

 

 

This article was featured in the Semaji June 2015. To read the full version Click Here

BCRC is Hiring Seniors’ Animators

BCRC in Cote-des-Neiges is about to start a Seniors’ pilot project. This project’s goal is to “create 20 social activities to explore how English-speaking Black seniors can better embrace aging and explore their past contribution to, and future participation in their community.” BCRC is in search of two part-time Animators to deliver this project in Cote-des-Neiges. If you have seniors’ experience, and have ideas about how to break seniors’ isolation and encourage active lifestyle choices, then please consider applying.

Job Qualifications

• Seniors’ Animator
• Significant knowledge of social and health services as they relate to seniors
• English fluency necessary. Competency in both official languages preferred
• Minimum Academic Qualifications: CEGEP AEC/DEC or 2nd year university (special care/human sciences or related disciplines)
• Strong awareness of, and familiarity with, Caribbean culture, folklore or history
• Pertinent experience planning or animating activities with aged population(s)

Skill Set Sought

Good communication skills (will lead group discussions)
Able to build and nurture trusting relationships
Good listening skills
Can create, organize, and animate a variety of workshops
Appropriate and healthy conflict resolution skills
Can work in a team
Ability to maintain activity log and provide progress report to supervisor
Survey experience an asset

Job Details

• Available part-time: 23 weeks (July 6, 2015 to December 11, 2015)
• Must be able to start July 6, 2015
• Flexible project hours: afternoons and early evenings (10 hrs/wk)
• Salary is 16$ hourly
Application Options

a) Send or drop off CV: 6767 Côte-des-Neiges, Suite 497, Montreal, Quebec H3S 2T6
b) Email CV: Executive Director, bcrc.qc.ca@gmail.com (subject: Seniors Pilot)

All CVs must be received by June 30th for consideration. Please include references. BCRC is open Monday-Thursday 10-5p.m. Positions open to those with pertinent qualifications and experience, however, only those retained for interview will be contacted.

Photo Credit: Scott Strohmeler

 

This past July 25th 2015, the organizing committee of the NCC/Royal Arthur Reunion held their 5th annual picnic in Angrignon Park. As early as 7:00 a.m., volunteers, organizing members and the Standing on Their Shoulders team were preparing for the crowd of hundreds.

The purpose of this annual reunion picnic, is, and has been, to reunite all who had attended Royal Arthur School and the Negro Community Center in Little Burgundy.  This year was special as the NCC is now just a memory, an empty lot; the building stands no more…

 

Standing on Their Shoulders had the very exciting opportunity to set up a story-telling tent, where the picnic goers shared their stories with our researcher, Kai Thomas. We were fortunate to have so many people share their memories about Little Burgundy. The tent served as a means to collect and corroborate facts for our youth videos yet it was also a place for people to reminisce. There were many emotional moments. It was great to see people laughing and some even shed a tear. Unfortunately, time being short, and stories plentiful, we did not have the opportunity to speak with as many people as we had hoped. It was wonderful to see the interest, as they waited patiently for their turn to speak with Kai.

 

The space in Angrignon Park that was allocated to this event filled up by early afternoon. Food was in abundance, music played, people danced, and smiles were everywhere…Joy filled the air. The atmosphere was simply amazing! The Standing on Their Shoulders team was grateful for the opportunity to witness such an outpouring of love and appreciation of a community that has grown together and is ‘Standing Strong in Spirit’.
A special thanks to our volunteers and to all those who supported the picnic by purchasing our t-shirts, which will help us defray unexpected costs and keep the machinery going.

 

 

Photo Credit: Ozgur Mulazimoglu