Student Life

Black History Month: Walking through life in limbo

Reconciling my identity as a Cameroonian-Canadian in Uganda

It’s 2014. My excitement is so tangible, the man beside me can sense it with every fidget. I haven’t set foot in Cameroon for 15 years; the country from which my parents came of age, the country that holds my earliest memories, the country I’ve been told to refer to as home. In that moment, in the backseat of my uncle’s jeep, for the first time in my life, I felt at home.

Now, it’s 2018 and I am excited to be returning to the motherland for an internship. I’m a bit wary of engaging in a “going abroad” endeavour, but I’m confident that the organization I’ve partnered with is different from your typical non-profit. As the plane descends, my nerves betray me: there’s a dryness in my throat, my body is stiff, and my heart is thumping.

My head is full of thoughts, hopes and expectations. Front and center is the anticipation of that feeling of home filling me once more as it did four years earlier. Although I realized it wasn’t my home country, I was expecting to feel more at home than I did in Canada. Finally, the plane lands, I step out, and as I try to make my way through the crowd, I can feel my body searching for that ‘home’ feeling and failing to grasp it. I push those feelings (or lack thereof) aside and reunite with my fellow Canadians.

My days were spent on a compound with fellow Canadian and Ugandan interns. The work days were packed with various activities; on the weekend, people did their laundry, read a book or hung with the locals. I realized my dark skin allowed me to navigate public spaces in ways some of my fellow interns couldn’t. I could slip out and shop at the market without the boda boda men (those who transport people on motorcycles, referred to as bodas) screaming muzungu (“white” or “foreigner”) my way. I could walk all over town without getting so much as a glance in my direction. This was one of two times in my life I was not a visible minority.

One day, I went out with a friend, a white Canadian girl. We were hungry and wanted to try this cafe, which was filled with white people—foreigners. I noticed eyes on me, but wasn’t fazed. My friend places her order; her friendly disposition leads to a chat with the cashier long after having ordered. I am not greeted with the same energy extended to my friend just seconds before. Though my accent throws the cashier’s guard off, it is not enough to affect him the same way my friend did.

My ability to blend in—if I didn’t speak—was once a blessing, but I realized it was useless if I would still be treated as lesser in the presence of my white friends. I had always known that in Canada, the system favoured white people/white-passing people; but I had underestimated the extent of colonialism in “developing” countries. My time in Uganda showed how so many locals have an automatic association between skin colour and one’s “foreignness.” Even though I, too, was a foreigner, it was never the assumption. When I would speak, my accent would create such a confusion the english-speaking locals would rather speak to fellow locals rather than engage with me.

In Canada, I am a visible minority constantly fighting for the space to be seen, heard and validated unashamedly. I never thought I would have to fight for that same space in a country where most, if not all, of the population looks like me. I felt as if I had to fight even harder than I do back home, because the attention automatically went to my white counterparts.

The struggle on the table is not my desire for attention; on the contrary, it’s a questioning of identity. Where do third culture kids fit when they were born in one place—or their parents come from and identify with one place—but they were raised somewhere else? We spend time this month explicitly to celebrate black history, while so many black people struggle with reconciling their identity.

Should we continue trying to assimilate within the community we most identify with while negating all other parts of ourselves, or should we just create new spaces for people who are in this limbo? This isn’t the first time a black person will have questions about their identity, nor is it the last.

Feature graphic by @spooky_soda

Student Life

Exploring the “Computer Riots” 50 years later

Exploring the Computer Riots 50 years later

Fifty years ago today, on Jan. 29 1969, the Sir George Williams Affair began—also known as the Concordia Computer Riots. According to CBC, about 200 students occupied the ninth floor computer centre in the Hall building and engaged in a peaceful sit-in protest for 14 days. The occupation was organized following the administration’s mishandling of racism complaints lodged by a group of six students against their biology professor, Perry Anderson, who they accused of unjust grading. Negotiations between the administration and the students fell through on Feb. 11. The peaceful protest turned violent after the administration handed the case over to the police, which resulted in 97 arrests, a mysterious fire and $2 million worth of property damage.

Blackout: the Concordia Computer Riots, organized by production company Tableau D’Hôte Theatre, is a play that explores the events that led to the student occupation and questions how race relations have changed in Quebec over the last 50 years. Blackout will essentially explore and interrogate the historical events of the Sir George Williams Affair through fictional characters.

About a year ago, Mathieu Murphy-Perron, the creative director and owner of Tableau D’Hôte Theatre, gathered a team of uniquely talented artists, poets and writers to start researching the history of the protests for Blackout. “We were trying to identify with these students who experienced injustice and, when they spoke out against it, realized the root of the problem was much bigger,” said Tamara Brown, a Concordia graduate as well as assistant director and part of the writing unit for Blackout. “We realized that the moments we read about were all too painfully familiar.”

Brown said that while they were exploring archived media coverage of the peaceful protests-turned-riots, the team also tried to look at what wasn’t covered. “When you do research on the event, you find images of the destruction and the $2 million of damage,” said Lydia Dubuisson, part of the writing unit for Blackout. “You don’t read about the events that led up to the riot.” Students were blamed for the mysterious fire that started after police got involved. However, according to the CBC, some believe police set the fire as a means to sidebar the protest.

Blackout invites viewers to question how different the events that unfolded in 1969 are in comparison to current events. “[The students] didn’t have support from the population, or from the media, or from society,” said Dubuisson. “Today, when people of colour express their same frustration, the response is the same.” The intersection of theatre, politics and education is unique to this performance in relation to its context and relevance within our current political state of polarization. “There is a terrifying racist rhetoric circulating now that makes people afraid,” said Brown. “We’re so polarized and it makes people afraid to stand up against injustice.”

In 2014, former Arts and Science Federation of Associations (ASFA) Executive Mei Ling, a pseudonym, filed a complaint against the administration after experiencing sexual and racial discrimination from two ASFA executives. Despite Mei Ling winning the case in 2015 and ASFA supposedly reforming its harassment policies to be more survivor-centric, the Centre for Research-Action on Race Relations (CRARR) filed a sexual harassment complaint in 2018 against then ASFA president, on behalf of Harris Turpin.

“I observe how much things have changed, but also how they have not changed,” said Dubuisson. “I hope students take pride in knowing that it’s part of your job to fight your administration.” Brown, Dubuisson and Kym Dominique-Ferguson, part of the writing unit and one of the lead performers, all touched on the importance of re-examining history in order to fully understand where we are currently. “It’s time to start looking at the folks that have experienced oppression and look at the groups—white people—who benefitted from this,” said Dominique-Ferguson. “We need to look at that, acknowledge that, respect it and respect the individuals that are still affected by this.”

“I find what these students did to be so remarkable,” said Brown. “Everything we do matters, and the administration tried to tell [the students] otherwise, but they knew better.” Despite the 97 arrests and property damage, the protests led Concordia to revise its policies and procedures, which resulted in the creation of the Ombuds Office, according to CBC. According to Concordia University’s website, “the Ombuds Office’s role is to assist in the informal resolution of concerns and complaints related to the application of university policies, rules and procedures.” It is allegedly independent of all the administrative structures of the university, and impartial.

“We’re trying to frame extremely difficult events with a lens of hope, and I think that will inspire people to not be afraid,” said Brown. “They weren’t afraid, and we can learn from what they did.”

Blackout will show every evening from Jan. 30 to Feb. 10 in the DB Clarke Theatre from 8 p.m. to 10 p.m.     

Feature photo courtesy of Concordia University Archives


Their own Symbols of Resistance

In celebration of Black History Month, the Mile-End Gallery is hosting a month-long exhibition showcasing the works of eight black-identifying Montreal-based artists. Each of the visual artists is presenting works revolving around the expression of black identity. It is through their craft and personal stories of empowerment, representation and culture that these local artists celebrate the merging of black communities in Montreal.

Organized by the Critical Feminist Activism in Research (C-FAR) project based out of Concordia University’s Simone de Beauvoir Institute, the exhibition showcases works by visual artists Kay Nau, G L O W Z I, Sika Valmé, Valérie Bah, Po B.K. Lomami, Carl-Philippe Simonise, Aïssatou Diallo and Chelsy Monie. The exhibition is the culmination of a 12-week residency called Montreal Black Artists-in-Community.

Bringing the head scarf to another level, artist Chelsy Monie presents her project, CROWNING, which recognizes the resistance this cultural item symbolizes. It was after meticulous research and a 14-page proposal exploring the history of these cloths that Monie decided to translate head wraps into art.

Chelsy Monie contributed her piece, CROWNING, to the exhibition. Monie was inspired by the history of head wraps as a cultural symbol. Photo by Mackenzie Lad

“I’m really interested in seeing the experiences that we, as black people, go through every day, and then really uplifting that and taking that into another space so that we can view it from another perspective and see it as a unique cultural practice,” Monie said.

Although head wraps originated in Africa, they are seen all over the world. Monie said she intended her work to be representative of the head wrap’s history, because it is a powerful marker of identity. The idea to represent head wraps without bias and as an emblem of all black people was crucial to the artist. Her piece is comprised of six images of Monie wearing a head wrap, which have been placed onto pieces of wood. All of the images represent a distinct emotion.

The artist carefully burnt lines onto the head wraps in the images to symbolize how their history is engraved. The choice to work with wood came from the fact that head wraps appear natural to the black body and maintained significance throughout periods of colonization, slavery and emancipation.

Monie is also the founder of Ubuntu Talks, a platform through which members of black communities are invited to share their stories. “Ubuntu Talks really started with me not being satisfied with the representation of black people in the media. I didn’t see myself,” Monie explained. “It’s either someone who’s famous, like Beyoncé or Michelle Obama, which is great, they are black women I can look up to, but they’re not the black woman I am today.” The name Ubuntu comes from African philosophy, and loosely translates to “I am what I am because of who we are.” The idea relates to community and human virtue, which Monie said spoke to her as an artist but also as an entrepreneur.

Artist G L O W Z I’s piece, titled Reclaiming my space, is meant to bring attention to the beauty in the everyday black experience. Photo by Mackenzie Lad

Artist G L O W Z I, who merges various artistic mediums, is exhibiting two self-portraits combining photography, acrylic paint and golden metal wire. Her piece, Reclaiming my space, took its inspiration from her mother’s advice: “You’re a canvas, and you can model yourself however you want.” G L O W Z I explained how her evolving style as well as the media’s representation of black people fueled her artistic process. It was after the unsuccessful search for relatable representation in media that she felt the need to represent the ordinary black experience.

“What I wanted to represent is the idea that, even though we are not Beyoncés or not just people who are victims of police brutality, our experiences are important,” she explained. “The idea was just to remind people, while they look at the pieces, that no matter what [black people] are doing, they’re pieces of resistance. They are symbols of resistance because just going to school, just having a job, just following your dream is something that is really hard to do in this system.”

Symbols of Resistance will be on display at Mile-End Gallery (5345 Park Ave.) from 3 p.m. to 7 p.m. Thursdays and Fridays and from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. on weekends until Feb. 28.

Photos by Mackenzie Lad


The history too many of us were never taught

It’s that time of year again. No, not Valentine’s Day or reading week—Black History Month. As we all know, the shortest month of the year is dedicated to the important and integral topic of black history. We at The Concordian believe it’s not enough to confine the celebration of black history to a single month. Instead, it should be recognized throughout the year, and more importantly, black history should be taught in all school curriculums regularly.

There’s no such thing as “White History Month,” because every month is white history month. Our classes and our textbooks show the world through a white, Eurocentric lens. In elementary school, we were taught very briefly about Indigenous residential schools in Quebec, and our lessons of black history are limited to slavery—mostly in the United States, despite its prominence in Canada until it was abolished in 1834. This needs to change. We at The Concordian believe it’s time to start implementing courses that accurately include black history, and that those courses be taught by black professors. We think it’s about time to include black history as an integral part of Canada’s, Quebec’s and Montreal’s history.

In fact, it’s even an important part of Concordia’s history. In 1969, the largest student occupation in Canadian history occurred at Sir George Williams University, now Concordia’s downtown campus. Six black students accused biology professor Perry Anderson of racism, alleging their white peers received higher marks for identical work. The hearings for this investigation were a source of controversy among the student body, as Anderson was found not guilty of racism towards the six complainants. In response, the students led others to a sit-in on the ninth floor of the Hall building, in the computer centre. The protest lasted 14 days and resulted in the destruction of computers and windows, and the arrest of 97 demonstrators.

This example of institutionalized racism shaped Concordia into what it is today. We need to remember this, and we need to remember black history everyday. But our knowledge shouldn’t be limited to civil rights, racism and slavery. As Myrna Lashley, this year’s Montreal Black History Month co-spokesperson, told the Montreal Gazette, “We have always been here […] Black people have fought in wars here. Black people had their own hockey leagues. But nobody talks about that.”

We at The Concordian strongly believe we must stop separating black history from what is now understood as “white,” mainstream history. Black artists, educators, doctors, scientists, historians and athletes have made enormous contributions to the society we live in today. It’s unfair to limit their celebration to just one month, and to ignore them for the rest of the year.

To truly reconcile the mainstream history we’ve been taught with the history we never learned, Black History Month must be acknowledged more often. Universities, including Concordia, should implement more black history, culture and stories into courses. It also shouldn’t exclusively be the responsibility of black Canadians to publicize Black History Month.

One way to acknowledge this month is by reading more about black history; you can also watch the documentary Ninth Floor by Mina Shum that details the 1969 Sir George Williams University protests. You can take part in discussions and seminars that deepen your understanding of black history and black people’s contributions to our society. You can also view the Mois de l’histoire des Noirs committee’s website, where they keep a list of events held throughout Montreal.  And most importantly: keep Black History Month alive throughout the year. Not just in February.

It’s our responsibility to learn more about our own history—and that history includes black history. If we look outside of what we’ve been taught, it is not difficult to realize the massive impact black people have made in our society. It’s easy for us to look around and see the ways in which our society has become a better place because of black people and our shared history. And we can’t limit that to the shortest month of the year.


Sifting through the archives

Concordia course explores the history of the Negro Community Centre

Last year, Concordia history students who were enrolled in a course titled “Telling Stories” sifted through archives collected from the Negro Community Centre (NCC) for the first time.

“We asked ourselves: ‘What’s in the boxes, and how can we return those stories to the community?” said Steven High, the Concordia history professor in charge of the course. High is also a founding member of the university’s Centre for Oral History and Digital Storytelling, which offered support and resources to the students for this project.

The students detailed what they found in research papers that were showcased at the public launch of the NCC Archive at the Universal Negro Improvement Association (UNIA) Liberty Hall in Little Burgundy on April 11, 2017. A year later, new students enrolled in the course continue to explore the history of what was once a cultural and recreational hub for Montreal’s black community.

“The NCC was an important hub in that community from 1927 to 1992,” said High, whose essay “Remembering the Negro Community Centre” was published in the winter 2018 issue of Quebec Heritage News. After the centre closed its doors in 1992, “it was abandoned until five or six years later, when the NCC invited Concordia to go in and save all of these records,” High recounted. “They saved about 100 boxes of material.” The building that used to house the NCC was demolished in 2014.

It is the material from these 100 boxes that Concordia students like Neveatha Selvarajah continue to explore.

“We wanted to understand various social spaces that aid the development of children within the Little Burgundy region,” she said. In addition to the NCC archives, Selvarajah went through online databases documenting the history of childhood spaces for the project. “We interviewed Patrick Thornhill, a lifetime member of the Union United Church on Delisle Street. He explained his experience within the church and within the NCC helped him cope with racism throughout his life,” she said.

Selvarajah said she hopes to open up an online network to continue sharing the stories of the NCC and exploring the Little Burgundy community beyond the classroom setting. “My goal is to work with Little Burgundy when I do my master’s,” she said. “I hope to be able to do a public history through a website and have my thesis as a website.”

Kelann Currie-Williams, a fourth-year communication studies student, was also among the students enrolled in last semester’s edition of “Telling Stories.” She said the research and community work she did through the course did not fulfill all of her wishes to give back to the Little Burgundy community and the larger Montreal black community. In Currie-Williams’s opinion, so much more needs to be done in terms of networking and helping black community centres thrive in Montreal.

“The network needs to be strengthened between all of us,” she said. Currie-Williams’s goal is to create a network of various black community centres in Montreal in the hopes of developing a space similar to the NCC, but that focuses on teaching the long-standing history of blackness in Canada.

“My envisioning would be to see all of these communities working together in such a seamless way. I see that being the future,” she said, adding that she hopes to initiate this project with High during her graduate studies.

“I think Black History Month is really important because it shines a spotlight onto that history, but it should not be limited to February,” High said. “We should be doing it year-round. Montreal’s Black History has been overlooked, and it’s a rich history. When you study Little Burgundy, it’s connected to Harlem, Detroit and global decolonization movements. It’s amazing how interconnected the black diaspora is.”

Feature photo by Alex Hutchins


Legendary African-American jazz musicians

Influential African-American jazz musicians in honour of Black History month

We’re in New Orleans, in the early 1900s. An exciting new style of music has emerged, known as jazz. It is a style that is deeply-rooted in various African cultures. Jazz has always been evolving and was greatly influenced by a lot of African-American musicians. Below are recommendations of legendary African-American jazz artists that have composed incredible music.

Louis Armstrong

Known as “Satchmo” or “Pops,” was an incredibly influential jazz trumpet player and singer whose career spanned from 1920 to 1960. He is one of the first scat singers and is responsible for its popularization. One of his most iconic singles is “What a Wonderful World,” and even though it was released in 1967, it is still popular half a century later. Armstrong influenced some of the greats with his singing and trumpet-playing, including Frank Sinatra, Bing Crosby, Miles Davis and Dizzy Gillespie. Armstrong is known as one of the most important musical figures in American history, and was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1990.



Miles Dewey Davis III

Known as one of the great innovators of jazz. In a 2015 BBC poll, Miles Davis was voted the greatest musician of all time.The American bandleader, trumpeter and composer was at the forefront of many stylistic changes in jazz music, from be-bop, to hard bop, to cool jazz, to funk and techno. His five-decade career spanned from the 40s to the 90s. Throughout this time, he has helped jazz music evolve so much that he is considered one of the most acclaimed figures in jazz history. In fact, he is known as one of the key developers of jazz music, and his accomplishments were highlighted in the recent film Miles Ahead (2015). One of Davis’ most recognized songs is “Stella by Starlight,” which was released in 1958. Davis has received eight Grammy Awards, and was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2006.


Edward Kennedy “Duke” Ellington

Ellington is highly praised for making jazz an art form. Not only was he one of the most recognized bandleaders, but he was a hugely popular pianist and composer. He has more than a thousand compositions under his belt, with many of his works becoming part of the standard repertoire of jazz music. One of his most highly praised songs is “It Don’t Mean a Thing (If It Ain’t Got That Swing), which was released in 1943. Many artists, including Tony Bennett, have been influenced by this artist, and have covered his songs. Ellington has received many awards and honours for his music, including 13 Grammy Awards, a Pulitzer Prize, a Presidential Medal of Freedom, a NAACP Spingarn Medal and is featured on a Commemorative U.S. quarter.


Mary Lou Williams

As the first female jazz musician to be ranked among the greatest jazz musicians of all time, Mary Lou Williams was a pioneer. Not only was she a prominent jazz pianist, composer and vocalist, but she began her career as a child musical prodigy. Even before she was in her 20s, she was writing and arranging music for bandleaders such as Duke Ellington and Benny Goodman. Williams was also a friend, teacher and mentor to legendary jazz musicians such as Miles Davis, Dizzy Gillespie and Thelonious Monk. One of her most popular songs is “Roll ‘Em” which was released in 1945. Williams’ legacy continues to this day, at the Mary Lou Williams Centre for Black Culture at Duke University.


John Birks “Dizzy” Gillespie

Gillespie along with Charlie Parker, is recognized for ushering in the era of bebop in America. Dizzy founded Afro-Cuban and Latin jazz music. He also fused Afro-American jazz and Afro-Cuban rhythms to form a Cubop sound. The artist toured the world, from Africa to Latin America, and brought many musicians back to America to play with him on stage. While he incorporated many different styles of music from around the world into his performances, he was particularly drawn to music with African roots, as he was very proud of his heritage. One of his most recognized songs is “A Night in Tunisia.” The legendary jazz musician was inducted into the Big Band and Jazz Hall of Fame in 1982.


Canada’s history half told

Black History Month remembers the half of the story that was never told and recognizes ongoing oppressions

This month marks Black History Month, an observance established in 1995 through a motion introduced by Jean Augustine, the first black Canadian woman elected to Parliament. This month not only celebrates black people and their culture, but also remembers black history—a history with half of the story that’s never been told, according to Michael Farkas, the president of the Montréal Black History Month Round Table, a non-profit organization which advocates black culture and education.

“Obviously, in terms of blacks, you really have to check history to understand all the things that have happened to us and that are still happening to us,” Farkas said.

“There’s so much to uncover,” said Farkas. “Every year I personally learn something new.”

“We have a chance right now to have a beautiful month. Yes, it’s the coldest one, and yes, it’s the shortest one, but who really cares? I care about getting the information,” said Farkas.

“White people and people in the world show little or no interest to Black History Month—the little month we have,” Farkas said. “It should be in schools, it should be part of the curriculum.”

Concordia has yet to develop a Black Studies program, which Sophia Sahrane, the Concordia Student Union’s (CSU) academic and advocacy coordinator and a strong supporter of black activism on campus, believes is vital to be a major and not just a minor.

Sahrane is involved in the Black Studies Collective, which is responsible for bringing the Black Studies event series to Concordia. Sahrane has also organized a BIPOC (black, indigenous and people of colour) committee, open exclusively to racial minorities on campus, which recognizes and addresses barriers faced by BIPOC students and groups at Concordia.

The first talk in the Black Studies event series, held in September 2016, featured guest speaker Dalton Anthony Jones, a black scholar from the United States, who is known for developing Black Studies programs in American universities.

“The talk was on the importance of Black Studies,” said Sahrane. However, she said a main critique amongst some educators within Black Studies is that it should be integrated into general studies.

“When the Black Studies initiative was brought up to the Concordia senate and the university a couple of times, one of the things [Shepard] said was there’s no interest in a Black Studies program,” said Sahrane. “We’re trying to prove that there is by having this Black Studies event series—people are showing up,” she said.

She said the senate meeting revealed that the university didn’t have black professors to teach this program. “If we want a Black Studies program, we want a majority of the professors to be black, to be of some type of black culture. We want them to be able to relate to course curriculums,” said Sahrane. “But the thing is, [Shepard] just admitted to the lack of diversity at Concordia.”

There have been some initiatives to diversify Concordia’s faculty. The Student Association of Graduates in English (SAGE), for example, has brought in a racial bias specialist to help make the English department’s staff more diverse. “He sits down with the hiring committees and he helps them identify their biases and helps them work around them,” Sahrane said. However, she added that the English department is the only department to have taken this initiative so far.

There are not only issues concerning lack of diversity within schools, but as well the lack of education towards certain language and pop culture references.

Farkas said the N-word has been greatly appropriated, identifying an example as the way the word is represented in rap music. “They dehumanized the word in a way—and that’s their thing—but often they don’t know their history,” said Farkas. “The name comes from a very rich heritage.” He added that in the Americas, as well as parts of Europe, the word has been used to dehumanize black populations.

“There’s a very strong history of oppression and persecution and racism in Canada and I think that Canada worked really hard to try to erase that history, and being known in the international community as the peacemakers and a multicultural mosaic society [that is] accepting of all,” said Sahrane. “I think that because there’s this general belief that Canada is great and we don’t have a recent [racial] problem—I think the event on Sunday proved that we do,” she added, referring to the shooting in Quebec City on Jan. 29.

The N-word actually originated from an Ethiopian dialect called Amharic, Farkas explained. “When you really study the etymology of the word, it means that it’s close to niggus, it’s close to Nile, it’s close to Niger and it’s close to Nigeria—it is a very highly regarded name in a different language.”

Farkas referenced Sahle Selassie, who ruled Shewa, Ethiopia between 1813-47, who was dubbed the title “The Negus,” which translates to king or ruler in Amharic.

Things have improved with the advancement of people being more politically correct, as well as being in times where anyone can be videotaped, said Farkas.

“We’re all human beings and we all sometimes have ideas or prejudice in ourselves towards others,” Farkas said. “We all have to work on it, regardless of your colour.”

“Most of the microaggressions I have experienced have been in interpersonal relationships, such as being fetishized [for being black],” said Sahrane. “As much as I am very proud of my identity—can’t I just be a woman?”

“Some people aren’t comfortable around people of colour,” Farkas said, comparing this to the discomfort some people have towards people of other religions.

“Stigmatization can happen to anyone for any kind of reason—whether you’re a gay, whether you’re obese—people can make you feel very uncomfortable and you can feel intimidated,” said Farkas. “I’m not just going to say it happens to blacks, but sometimes, if you’re a black woman, maybe some people will make you feel uncomfortable and you’ll have to fight back for your right.”

“I think we need to retain some kind of values to pass onto our kids, and the ones we should pass on are respect and nonviolence,” Farkas said. “In that respect, we all can grow, I believe.”

Graphic by Florence Yee


Celebrate Black History Month in Montreal

Montreal Black History Month Round Table organizes events to  honour the black community

Every February, Canadians are encouraged to take part in a variety of events to commemorate the legacy of black Canadians, past and present.

The Montreal Black History Month Round Table, a non-profit organization which promotes black culture and education, held a press conference on Feb. 2 at Olympus Stadium to kick off this year’s festivities.

“February shines a light on all of the joint efforts made by various actors who are working to share a taste of their culture with the general public,” said Michael Farkas, the president of the Montreal Black History Month Round Table.

The theme weaved into this year’s series of events is “Here we stay, here we stand!”

According to Farkas, the theme aims to highlight the achievements of Canada’s black community and the contributions they have made to our society. Montreal Black History Month Round Table’s 26th edition of Black History Month will feature more than 100 social and cultural activities that highlight the achievements of black communities.

Black culture will be celebrated throughout the month with events such as a blood drive Feb. 18, a panel discussion, and a conference at Concordia University titled “Tell Them We Are Rising: The Story of Black Colleges and Universities,” led by Stanley Nelson on Feb. 25, among others.

Photo by Alex Hutchins.

“Black History Month began in February 1926, when Dr. Carter G. Woodson coined ‘Negro History Week,’ which blossomed into Black History Month,” Frakas explained. February also marks the birthdates of notable historic figures such as Frederick Douglas, Abraham Lincoln and Bob Marley, who helped with notable black movements in North America, he added.

“The month of February marks an important aspect of our history and is important for educating Canadians,” Farkas said. “Learning about one’s history is important because it is [vital] to know where one is coming from and where one stands and where one wants to go.”

Farkas discussed the importance of educating students about black history and culture in order to improve the future. “We’ve come a long way and it is important to note that Black History Month doesn’t just start Feb. 1 and end Feb. 28, but that it is an ongoing process.”

Montreal Black History Month Round Table is presenting a variety of activities for the city’s 375th anniversary, said Farkas. “All year long, let us discover and mention the contributions and achievements of Canadians of African origin and descent who, thanks to the brilliance of their accomplishments, bring honor to our place in this land.”

Notable black Montreal figures such as Henri Pardo, the founding president of Black Wealth Media and the producer and director of the Black Wealth Matters documentary series, and R&B singer-songwriter Shaharah Sinclair gave speeches about Black History Month at the press conference.

“Black History Month is very important to me because I feel that it gives us the opportunity to focus on parts of our history that have been neglected,” said Sinclair.


Cinema Politica- Murder: racism and homophobia revisited

In 2008, 15-year-old Lawrence “Larry” King was shot during class. The murderer was Brandon McInerney, a boy that Larry asked to be his Valentine. The incident rattled the community of Oxnard, California, a small town of nearly 200,000. This ignited a national conversation on why racial and gender-provoked bullying exists among youth. Consequently, teachers, parents, mentors and the people in the justice system collectively scrambled to address this unfortunate event.

Still from YouTube

Valentine Road gives us the story behind the headlines. This 90-minute documentary immerses us into the controversial shooting by weaving together a balanced combination of narrative interviews as told by the people related to the young men in question and the case itself. The documentary also features archived television news footage talking about the incident and presents the viewers with scenic views of the town, creating an in-your-face, yet relatable kind of film.

What makes this documentary interesting to watch is how both sides of the case are presented. To illustrate King’s perspective of the incident, the filmmakers have represented him in a hand-drawn animation based on narratives told by the interviewees. The drawings portray King’s character in a nostalgic, light-hearted and respectful manner.

McInerney’s perspective is also told through accounts by guardians, teachers and his defence lawyers explaining how and what might have provoked the boy to commit this hate-crime.

One of several interesting turning points in the film presents viewers with the kind of readings McInerney was interested in before he committed the murder, mainly neonazi and white supremacy articles, as well as drawings made by McInerney himself of a hand clenching the Star of David, dripping with blood.

Putting together these two perspectives helps to assemble the pieces of the puzzle. However, it can also become an emotional watching experience, potentially triggering folks who are sensitive to issues regarding gender and race-provoked bullying.

The culture in which these two individuals lived was hostile to begin with and created a polarizing environment when it came to being, or even mentioning anything queer. California, at that time, was also at odds with state legislations regarding gender issues and their expression. Ultimately, the question remains as to why freely expressing one’s own gender can become a taunting experience, especially for teens that are experiencing a crucial time of self-discovery.

Still from YouTube

Valentine Road has no voice-over narrator per se, and relies on a well-thought out blend of ambient sound, vivid visuals and authentic storytelling making it easy to follow without any sensationalizing, and without being obnoxious.

Through these stories, Valentine Road points to LGBTQ issues still being addressed today from a unique and contemporary perspective. Watching this film has the potential to help push these discussions forward and understand where everyone stands.

However, it is highly suggested to learn more about the incident first online in order to gain a better understanding, as this film goes into a lot of detail into the origins of the main characters. Watching the documentary more than once also helps as there is a lot information to grasp. After all, this is a murder mystery that still needs (and still is in the process) of being solved and put to rest.

Valentine Road will premiere in Quebec by Cinema Politica on Mon. Feb. 3 at 7 p.m. at the D.B. Clarke Theatre — 1455 de Maisonneuve W. A virtual Q&A with director Marta Cunningham will be featured. This screening is a part of Black History Month Montréal. For more information visit


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