Building the future with Black history

There is general agreement on the need for building institutions to record, safeguard and showcase the various facets of Black history, Black culture and the Black community. So our city’s Mayor John Tory was right on target at the recent Black History launch hosted by the Ontario Black History Society, when he is reported to have called for the establishment of a permanent facility in Toronto to celebrate Black history.

Moreover, it is only logical that such a facility should also serve more than one of the following   purposes: Black History Museum; Caribbean Carnival Museum; Centre for Black Culture and the Arts; and Black Community Centre.

At one time or another, these were the dreams and long-term objectives  that inspired Black icons of our modern era – Dudley Laws, Charlie Roach, Lincoln Alexander, Jean Augustine, Rita Cox and Gary Warner, among others – as well as the leading lights of our Black community organizations, notably in the GTA, Hamilton, Guelph,  the Niagara region  and London. More specifically, Caribana (now the Caribana Arts Group), the Festival Management Committee and the Ontario Black History Society have been singing this cherished mantra for many years.

That mantra is even more relevant and valuable today, as more and more of our icons and community leaders cross over into the Great Beyond and some of the organizations they created slowly fade away.  The old and new initiatives meant to convert those dreams into reality need to be strengthened with the continuity and permanence which younger people and youth groups bring to the table.

An appropriate formula for consolidation and continuity could be to aim at having at least 60% of the management team comprised of persons under 50 years old. Other key sources of continuity and of material, financial and logistic support are the private sector companies, along with the provincial and municipal government departments and agencies responsible for tourism, education, culture and the arts, youth, and community development.

The key word there is “support”. No one owes us a facility and no one will give it to us on a platter. We have to plan, strategize and plug away at it.

One of the additional reasons for the insistent emphasis on the leadership and continuity role of the younger generations of activists is the desirability of casting away the rivalry and personal animosity that handicapped and even killed some previous initiatives. Let our senior and very experienced activists of yesteryear focus on being our “supporters” and advisors of today, not our decision-makers.

Similarly, the various organizations and groups will need to join forces with each other for the greater good. The critical mass of several organizations working together will redound to our benefit as we seek to mobilize resources.

Cooperation rather than competition increases our weight and influence as we pursue our goal of acquiring a multi-purpose complex that is as relevant to the aspirations of our Black community as it is to the elevation and consolidation of Canada’s national identity.

As we set out towards those noble aspirations, let us also give a shining example of collective self-reliance.