A Summary Report from the BCRC Forum Secretariat
By Dr. Clarence S. Bayne
24 years after the First Black Community Forum at Val Morin (July 3-5 1992), key Black Community organizations were called together by the Black Community Resource Center (BCRC), at 6767 Cote-des-Neiges. The general purpose of this Community Forum was to review the Val Morin recommendations and priorities, to inform and to invite participation in the development of a community agenda. The BCRC, which acted as the Secretariat of the Community Forum, worked in collaboration with key organizations in the French and English speaking Black communities and ad hoc community committees to develop the agenda and set priorities for the future. The Community Forum thanks the BCRC for staffing the Forum and for providing the materials, space, equipment, and refreshments. It also thanks the Black History Month Round Table for organizing four of the ad hoc community committee meetings and the preparation and distribution of minutes and reports. Thanks also to Yvonne Sam, Fo Niemi of CRARR, Rolf Francois of UNIA, and Dave LaPommeray for their research contributions and for organizing the Rights and Freedoms ad hoc Community meetings.
Different organizations took turns at hosting the meetings of ad hoc community meetings, giving many organizations and individuals the chance to participate in and contribute to the process. Thanks to the Black Youth in Motion, the BCRC staff, DESTA Black Youth Net Work, and the Black Theatre Workshop for hosting those meetings. Finally a great debt is owed to the Black Studies Center (BSC)’s Archive technical staff, in particular Roythan Pink who, with the able assistance of Raeanne Frances and Ashlie Bienvenu (BCRC staff), conducted the technical scripting and operations.
The introductory and opening speakers, Patricia Dillon-Moore and Dr. Clarence S. Bayne, pointed to the fact that the BCRC has historically played a significant role in keeping the Forum mechanism in place and operational since 2000. Minutes in the BCRC Archive, dated April 2004, shows that BCRC has consistently used its resources, and access to resources, to administer and facilitate this process. One example of this process was the hosting of the meetings of ad hoc community meetings, in order to address priority issues and the collective needs of the community. One such significant instance is the City of Montreal Black Task Force chaired by Marcel Tremblay in 2004. BCRC has indicated that it will continue to provide administrative resources and to house the Secretariat of the Community Forum. It has informed the Forum that it is willing, in collaboration with the ad hoc community committees and key organizations, whose missions and mandates address the priorities set by the Form, to call and host meetings of the Community Forum, prepare the agendas, inform the community and organize subsequent community forums.
A Message to the Federal and Provincial Governments from the Forum
For years the Black community organizations have made the case at the Federal and Provincial levels of government, that it is incumbent upon the government to facilitate partnerships between its various Ministries and departments and the appropriate Black community organizations. However, Dr. Bayne, in his welcoming address to the Forum, expressed the view that both the Federal and Provincial governments have abandoned the Black communities in Quebec. This is especially true of the English speaking Black communities, making the members of these communities effectively “constitutionalized field niggers” of the Trudeau “notwithstanding clause” and the collateral consequences of Bill 101. In Session 1 that followed, the Executive Director of QCGN (Sylvia Martin-Laforge ) astutely pointed out that, under the Canadian Constitution, linguistic communities have inalienable rights that are provided for by certain funding agreements. She argued that Blacks in Quebec should cash in on their linguistic rights enjoyed here, as elsewhere in Canada, and from the benefits of Multiculturalism as a state policy. Following on these discussions the following general recommendations from Val Morin 1992 were reaffirmed.
A permanent mechanism
The Forum is to be used as a permanent mechanism in the community to ensure that the groups/organizations whose missions and mandates are directed at finding solutions to the priorities established by the Forum, develop strategies and take actions to meet the demands of those priorities. It states, “Community organizations must make efforts to access the range of government resources and services as other communities do on a regular basis.”
Demands for long-term core Funding
A recurring theme in the committee meetings was the administrative instability and discontinuities in the services of organizations, resulting from lack of core funding due to shifts in government policies and biased private and institutional corporate funding. This Forum, like the Val Morin Forum, recommended that the Government of Canada, and the Provincial Government of Quebec, provide sustaining funds for Black organizations with a long-term mandate serving the community and Canadians. It also recommended that, in particular, Heritage Canada, Immigration and Cultural Communities, Library and Archives Canada and other ministries and departments provide long-term recurring funding to mandated Black community based organizations. In addition, it was also suggested that they assist in strengthening Black community based organizations, and facilitate in the creation and transfer of knowledge. This can be accomplished by providing core funding to ensure the implementation and maintenance of professional communications network centers and digitized archival system.
Consensus forming functions of Forum
The current Forum, like the Val Morin Forum, agrees that during a crisis in the Black community, or when decisions are to be made that impact on the entire community (such as decisions relating to toponymy), we will agree to meet to determine the policy goals, to decide how best to inform and involve the wider community in the decisions, and to mandate spokes people to speak on behalf of the community on the issue.
There is general agreement that the Forum be used to create a consensus of opinion and to identify who will speak on behalf of the Black community in times of crisis. For the June 16 Community Forum, the main focus was on rights and freedoms and the seeming failures of the Human Rights Commission; issues of systemic racism; the action taken by key community organizations to deal with the development of the Black child in the triangle of home, school and the community; issues of mental health; culture and identity, and approaches to the management of different cultures and identities in the Black communities. Economic development was not addressed at this Forum.
Black Community Business and Economic Development Summit
The Forum Secretariat felt that, based on the research available, this topic merited a Forum or summit to address it properly and in a productive and creative manner. Thus, the Secretariat proposed that a detailed review be done of the Current Status of Black employment and employability in the Black communities to measure the changes, if any, that have taken place since 1992. To give authority to this decision the Secretariat revisited recommendation 126.96.36.199 of the Val Morin Forum Report which states:
“A FORUM BE HELD TO INFORM AND INVOLVE THE WIDER BLACK COMMUNITY IN ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT.” This recommendation was, in part, implemented by the McGill Study of the “Evolution of the Black Communities of Montreal” (2001). Professors Bayne and Saade have also published a series of papers on the rise of the business and social entrepreneur in the Black English speaking communities of Montreal, the use of information and communication technologies in community development, and the Yolande James Task Force (2006).
Over the last ten years there has been no formal investigation of the measured impact of the initiatives of all levels of government, private and public institutions, and social and private entrepreneurs in the Black communities on advancing the objective of the Yolande James Task Force: to bring about a full participation of the Black Communities in Québec Society. In particular, special attention needs to be given to the status and future of the English speaking Black communities over the last 25 years.
Black Community Priorities
Based on a review of the minutes of meetings of the ad hoc community meetings, a survey of key organizations conducted by ICED, the Yolande James Task Force Report, published research by Mc Gill Consortium for Ethnicity and Social Planning, and the presentations and discussions at the Community Forum June 16 2016, the following are identified as priorities for our communities :
- Support for the Black Family
- General and Mental Health
- Youth, Education, Employment and Employability
- Arts and Culture
- Rights and Freedom: anti-Racism Strategies
- Economic Development
- Reinforcement of Community Structures and organizations
- A Black Community libraries, archive and communication network system
Structure and authority and functions of the Forum
It has been noted that, while the Forum is not an organization in itself, it is a facilitating mechanism. Thus, the Forum recommendations and the subsequent amendments are priorities/guidelines for us to move on and work on. The responsibility for implementing these policies, therefore, goes to the community organizations. Thus, the role of the Forum will be to provide a meeting place for the community to identify policy issues, to review options, to attempt to develop a consensus whenever possible, and to effectively communicate this consensus. Subject to budget constraints, the Forum Secretariat will be responsible for specific tasks assigned to it by the Forum: the creation of specified sub-committees for dealing with community priorities; making the community, the government ministries and departments aware and informed of the priorities and needs of the communities; monitoring the implementation and encouraging organizations to participate by observing and integrating the recommendations into their practices; determining the date of the next General Black Community Forum.
Recommendation 188.8.131.52 of the Val Morin Forum requires that the Forum (Secretariat) “resolve, in its future consultation with the wider Black community, ensures that a proper and timely system of notification and communication be employed to allow for more meaningful participation from groups. Other groups are encouraged to also share this objective.”
Information gathering and Communication
With respect to the gathering, archiving and communication of information, there is already in place the Black Community Library and Archives project developed by the Black Studies Center in collaboration with the QBBE, the BCRC and ICED. It specializes in processing the archives of the English Speaking Black/Pan African communities. The Forum also agrees that the Black History Month Round Table will be responsible for promoting Pan Black/Pan Afrique identity defining events as defined in the Manifesto of identity events approved by an ad hoc community committee meeting. The Forum requires that this sub-committee be responsive to all groups within the larger Black and Canadian communities for information and knowledge about the pan-Black/pan Afrique peoples and communities.
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A Truly Individualized Program, Tailored for Each Specific Person
We, at the BCRC, would like to present our upcoming program: House of Kings and Queens. Due to an interview with the chief coordinator of the program, Shimmon Hutchinson, we now have an inside view of this wonderful, one-of-a-kind program. The “Kings and Queens” program seeks to explore a new avenue that has not been used by any past programs for “at-risk” youth. This is a truly individualized program, tailored for each specific person. As Mr. Hutchinson has stated, “the strength of the program is the strength of the individual.”
Kings and Queens provides children with role models that are closer to their value system and community, as well as tailor these youth to become role models and mentors in their own community. In fact, Hutchinson said that, “the main objectives inside of the program are to build on a lot of the micro skills with kids to be able to help them affect change in their community.” This will be done by giving the children and youth a sense of empowerment.
This program also goes well beyond the school system and plans to give aid to the families as well. A portion of the program will also go towards strengthening services and institutions. According to Hutchinson, “it’s this whole concept that because the kids are improving community services through the acquisition of skills they have inside the group then it’s improving the services that we use to recommend to the families, so it’s this very cyclical, strengthening pattern that we’re hoping to create.”
The Kings and Queens will be a great benefit to the Montreal community. It would “increase connection to services, increase connection to schools, lower dropout rates, improve grades, improve the chances of youth continuing to graduate studies—post-graduate studies or Cegep.” However, while it would be beneficial to the community, the most important aspect of the program is making a change with the individual. According to Hutchinson, “There’s so many things that I think it will improve, but I think it would really depend upon the individual, who is kind of telling me what they want, what they need.”
When asked where he saw this program going in the future Mr. Hutchinson declared that his long-term goals “would be if this was something that could be run in all of the schools, engaging as many organizations as it possibly can, having everyone on board so as if we are almost creating like a common culture and a common ideology to be able to help children, I think that in itself would be so powerful, if everyone is working together.”
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The Black Community Leadership Forum will be hosting a working conference of its member organizations and partners on June 16, 2016. The Forum was approved by the BCRC Board of Directors at its Board meeting of December 7 2015. The Conference will be held at 6767 Cotes des Neiges and, very shortly, the agenda and invitations will be sent out to the BCRC’s member organizations, collaborators and supporting agencies.
The purpose of the meeting is to bring together BCRC’s associated organizations, partners and collaborators to revisit and update the Val Morin Agreement of 1992. The meeting will re-affirm the basic principles of cooperation and collaboration. For example, the organizations and its members’ commitment to strengthening the vitality of the community by focusing on the health and vitality of its members. We will also continue to search for new strategies for education and development of the youth and future leadership, as well as strengthening and supporting families and enrichment of the lives of the aging subpopulation. Another topic will involve seeking greater community support for the arts, cultural and educational institutions central to the shaping of our identities, and improving the channels through which we contribute to the creation of a sustainable social and economic environment, a just, equitable and more inclusive and empathetic society.
Within that framework, the intent is to revisit the current evolved strategies of long term community development with a view to encourage the support and cooperation, of the community and between the community and partners. We also hope to expand the cross cultural communication and exchange of ideas and best practices, as well as replace intuitive and untested impulse decision making by a planning process that is information based, dynamic and responsive to change. We will also work to strengthen the existing relationships within our network by exploring more fully the use of communication and information technologies for knowledge transfer within the network of members and collaborators. And, finally, we hope to encourage and promote the development and effective implementation of strategies that benefit the total community. That is to say, we give preference to social economy engagement as opposed to purely individualistic private profit or self-serving activities. The market does the latter better that we can.
The Black Community Forum was originally created in the early nineties by the “Table de Concertation” for the English Speaking Communities of Montreal in response to the expressed desire of those communities “to develop a cooperative planning process” as an engine for its development. Initially, it was intended to be a forum for “informing and involving the wider community in the policy initiatives being discussed at the Table with the three levels of Government.” Protocols for the Forum were created over a six week period by some thirty community based organizations and presented and approved at the Val Morin conference in July, 1992. The Forum worked on an informal basis for five to seven years, at the end of which all of its sub-committees came under the coordinating functions of the BCRC. The BCRC inherited, hosted and provided administrative support to three sub-committees approved by the Table de Concertation: the Heath Committee, the Education/youth sector, and community economic development community committees. Arts and culture was subsumed into the community and Education function. The key agencies given the arts and cultural mandate were West Can Dance, Cultural Agency and the Black Theatre Workshop. Other agencies used cultural camps and programs for arts and culture. These agencies include the QBBE, the BCCQ Community Associations and the Black Studies Center Cultural program for mixed race families. The community economic development initiatives lost its central focus and community significance and became divided up between competing entities: CDN-BCA, YES Montreal, a research oriented collaboration between ICED Concordia and QBBE, the Black Studies Center, and the Government of Quebec Black Entrepreneurship Fund.
The 10th Black Community Leadership Forum retained a sense of strategic unity by holding meetings hosted by the BCRC. The Forum held its tenth meeting, on April 13, 2004, to discuss support for three community projects and to coordinate the collective community’s (French and English) submissions to the City’s Black Task Force, Chaired by Marcil Trenblay. As a result of Community initiatives coordinated by the BCRC, with the support of its Black French partners ( Maison d’Haiti, La Ligue de Noirs, and the Black History Month Table), Marcel Tremblay, Associated Councillor for the Mayor, reported to the Forum and the Committee for the Economic Development of the Black Community that five Boroughs were committed to work to find solutions to “the problems identified by the Montreal Black communities, within the sphere of its jurisdiction, and to employment, dwelling, infrastructures and services; and play a leadership and support role for the proposed initiatives which decision are made by other levels of government.” (Letter dated November 4, 2004, Cabinet du Maire et du Comté Executive, Hotel de Ville). These interventions led to the Yolande James Black Task Force, which reported in 2005.
Since then there has been significant changes in Quebec, Montreal and Canada over the last twenty-five years. There have been changes in demographics, changes in political and social philosophies, institutional changes, economic changes, and infrastructural and environmental changes. Tracking of developments in the Black communities of Montreal has been done and records kept and reported by ICED Concordia, the BSC, and the McGill Consortium for Ethnicity and Strategic Social planning (the Evolution of the Black Community of Montreal), and the City and Provincial Governments Black Task Forces (2004 and 2005).
The Black communities, like all other cultural communities, both minority and non-minority, have had to adapt and react to these changes. In the Black community, new organizations have been created and some have evolved or disappeared. Things have changed since the sixties, partly because of the activism of the sixties and partly because of the dynamism of the interaction of forces and agencies in the environment at large. Now there are a higher proportion of Black youth in colleges and Universities that are Canadian born than was the case 26 years ago. Black education and employment capacity has kept pace with other visible and non-visible minorities. This has been substantiated by the McAndrew Report Commissioned by the QBBE (2004), the McGill Consortium studies, and the reviews of ICED, Concordia. But, while employment income has improved there is still an unacceptably lower probability that a Black person will get a job compared with a white person of equivalent, or even lesser, education status. There is still a perception in the Black community that Blacks are more likely to be the victims of racial profiling. There are real hard questions being asked in the Black communities concerning the effectiveness of the strategies for community development undertaken by agencies in the community, as well as interventions by the various levels of Government. There is a feeling that the breakdown of the united voice that the BCCQ was able to create, in the seventies through to the late nineties, has been replaced by inter-organizational conflict as we return to competing for funds to sustain our presence in the society and the communities.
There is a body of opinion in the Black community that accuses young educated Blacks of abandoning the community; in other words, not giving back. This is frequently countered by the argument that the organizations need to change to reflect social and political changes, new needs and shift to new strategies that are now possible but were not twenty five years ago. Some young, educated Blacks feel that they are in positions where they should be invited to make decisions that impact entire sectors of the society, and that many of the Black community agencies still act as outsiders rather than as Nation influencers. For example, it is clear that the question of the education of the Black child can no longer be addressed simply as a matter of removing racism from the English school system. Because, in Quebec, we have to deal with the larger question of linguistic preferences and the negative impact of the historic struggle between two European settler classes that have become embedded in the struggle for minority rights in Quebec and Canada. This has divided Caribbean cultural groups, which one might expect to be more united around rights and freedoms, along linguistic lines that are foreign to their historical origins and New World experiences and struggles. Also, there are those that believe that they can solve what is a general problem for all peoples in the society, as well as the health of the economy, by setting up a separate school system. Is it possible? And, if so, at what price? What are the real net social and direct, and indirect, economic benefits to the potential participating community members? Can the current models in the community at large be improved to meet our needs with greater networking among us? We hope to hear from experts across communities on this.
It is clear that we need to take a serious look at where we are and where we are going. But, that will require that we do not merely meet and speak with ourselves. There have been initiatives taken by others that must be considered and integrated into our leadership forum. One such situation is the work being done by CQGN in the Education sector as a representative of the constitutional rights of the English-speaking cultural groups and Citizens of Canada in Quebec. Another situation has to do with health, community development, and most specifically art and culture and the recognition of our contributions to the cultural vitality of Quebec and Canada. We will be paying particular attention to the recommendations and implications of new policy initiatives being advanced for our moving forward by two recent community meetings: a community meeting called by the Round Table on December 4, 2015 and the Pan-Black Identities manifesto, approved at a recent Community meeting called by La Ligue des Noirs and accepted as guidelines by the Round Table Meeting of December 4, 2015.
We invite your feedback and comments.
For Full Version of Semaji March 2016 Click Here
February 21, a very special day, marked the culmination of an extraordinary project called Standing on Their Shoulders. A little over one year ago this project was birthed, a team was assembled and a community was informed that their neighbourhood would be touched in a way like never before. The mission of the Standing on Their Shoulders project was to capture, highlight and preserve the history and contributions of Montreal’s Black English-speaking community in the Little Burgundy district. This new and different approach was to be separate from past endeavors that focused solely on “jazz” or “the railroad”. This approach focused on a generation of people who first came to create the community of Little Burgundy during Canadian Confederation to find work on the railroad. We also set out to document the effects that would be carried through from generation to generation. Standing on Their Shoulders was all about capturing the history behind jazz legends and historical buildings still found in the community today. However, simply documenting the historical changes ourselves was not enough for this unique project. We intended to involve the community itself to highlight and preserve its history.
The project was divided into three phases. The first was about teaching the history to a new generation of young Black English-speaking youth in Little Burgundy. This was done through a series of workshops and walking tours with youth, along with the support of our partner organizations such as Desta Black Youth Network, Club Energy, Tyndale St. Georges, and Youth in Motion. The second part of the project focused on scouting out 20 youth who wanted to create their own videos capturing Little Burgundy’s history through their own form of artistic interpretation. This phase also included connecting with the elders of the Little Burgundy community to gather as much oral and archival history as possible. This served to provide a pool of information for our youth, who would choose their own piece of Little Burgundy’s history to interpret. Finally, the last phase focused on assisting the 20 young directors in creating their own three minute videos. With our partners from Great Things Studio and Concordia’s CEREV, our youth learnt video directing techniques and got much more acquainted with the history of their video topics. On February 21, 2016, these very talented youth had their brilliant work displayed at our video launch. The videos were rich in history and displayed in excellent quality. Over 200 people came out to attend our event, including all three elected officials from the three levels of government. Our youth were recognized and so were our elders for all of their hard work and dedication.
If you, or someone you know, would like to watch these videos then please stay tuned. They will be available online shortly. You can find out when and where on the BCRC website at www.BCRCmontreal.com.
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Hello, my name is Adanne and this is my story of following my roots. It all began when we decided to clean out the attic one rainy day. While cleaning we came across an old trunk that belonged to my great-grandmother.
My great-grandmother was descendant from African slaves that were brought to Brazil during the slave trade. She decided to move to Montreal in the 1950’s and brought her trunk along with her. It was in this trunk that we found letters from my great-grandmother to her sister, who stayed in Brazil. My great-grandmother was Catholic, and extremely religious, so we were quite shocked to discover that her sister had been a Candomble Priestess.
Candomble, also called “dance in honour of the gods,” originated from African religions of the Yoruba, Fon and Bantu regions. However, Candomble also has a strong connection with Catholicism and is considered a syncretic religion because it incorporates various beliefs from different religions, including Islam (http://www.religionfacts.com/candomble). The Candomble worshipers believe that there is one almighty god, named Oludumaré, and various other lesser gods, called Orixas, who act as middlemen between the head god and the people, since people cannot communicate with Oludumaré directly. Each worshiper believes that they have a personal Orixas, who acts as their protector and controls their destiny. This is important since, according to the Candomble beliefs, there is no duality of good and bad; each person must simply fulfil their destiny. However, this is not a carte blanche, any evil you do to another will come back to you eventually.
Believers of Candomble practice their beliefs through dance. These carefully structured dances allow the believer to be possessed by the Orixas. Some of these Orixas’ are ancestor spirits, called Baba Egum, who regulate the community’s moral code through public demonstration during possession. The priests and priestess’s also masquerade as these spirits during important ceremonies.
During the slave trade slave owners and Church leaders felt it imperative to convert the African slaves to Christianity. It was because of this that they outlawed traditional African beliefs, and later Candomble, up until the 1970’s. As a way to keep their traditional beliefs the slaves outwardly practiced Christianity. However, they still met in secret to practice their beliefs and on special religious days. They hid their practices and symbols within the Christian faith, especially in connection with the Christian saints, which resembled their own Orixas. Many people now practice Candomble in the open as a way to reclaim their culture and history (http://www.bbc.co.uk/religion/religions/candomble/).
This was not so for my great-grandmother’s sister, who had to practice her religion in secret all of her life. It was through her letters that we learned of her struggle and dedication. This was why I was so interested in learning about this part of my family history and following my roots back to Brazil.
Please write us about your personal experiences with following your roots! Looking back at personal history allows a community to better understand their own history as a whole. It is through looking at these individual pieces that we begin to see the entire puzzle.
One such experience will be featured in Semaji every issue. Send any articles to firstname.lastname@example.org. We hope you decide to share your piece of the puzzle with the community. Thank you!
The article was featured in Semaji September 2015. To read the full version Click Here
“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.”
“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.”
“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.”
“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.”
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
This article was featured in Semaji September 2015. To read the full version Click Here