The Woyingi Blog

Black Canadian History Quiz: Test Yourself

Posted in Black Canadian History, Black Firsts by the woyingi blogger on May 29, 2011

The following quiz was published in the Ottawa Citizen. I have made some updates and corrections-The Woyingi Blogger

Background: February is Black History Month. Test your knowledge of the significant contributions made by Canadian blacks in this quiz prepared by the black history committee of Ottawa. Answers, in bold, follow the questions.

THE ARTS

1. This internationally recognized artist was appointed artistic director of the prestigious Ballet British Colombia.

John Alleyne

2. This renowned Canadian singer-songerwriter was the first black Canadian to achieve major international success in popular music.

Dan Hill

3. This jazz composer and pianist has received numerous awards including Juno and Grammy awards. He was also named a Companion of the Order of Canada.

Oscar Peterson

4. This Jamaican born, African-Canadian artist received Juno awards for her albums Revolutionary Tea Party and Conditions Critical.

Lillian Allen

5. She came to Canada in 1967, has been active in women’s groups and jazz music. She is also the creator of Jazz message and Black Arts production.

Ayanna Black

6. She was in a singing group called “Andy and the Bey sisters” .

Salome Bey

7. Who was the founding director of Montreal’s Black Theatre Workshop?

John Antonio Cayonne aka Jamaica Johnny Cayonne

BUSINESS & PROFESSIONS

1. They started one of the first black owned businesses in the Ottawa area in the 1950s.

Estelle and Herbert Brown started Brown’s Cleaners

2. This African-Canadian was the first black person to be called to the Bar in Canada.

Delos Rogest Davis

3. This first judge of African descent in Canada was Maurice Alexander Charles, in what year was he elevated to the Ontario bench?

1969

EDUCATION

1. What world leader, frequently in the news throughout the summer and fall of 1994, studied at the University of Montreal in the 1980s?

Haitian President Jean-Bertrand Aristide

2. Marcus Garvey is renowned for his back to Africa ideology. His son Julius studied in Canada and graduated with a medical degree. What Canadian university did he attend?

McGill

3. In 1952 he became Toronto’s first black public school teacher. He served as principal at various schools from 1966 to 1986.

Wilson O. Brooks, who was one of the first black commissioned officers in the Royal Canadian Air Force

HISTORY AND DISCOVERIES

1. One of the Canadian West’s best known black settlements was established at Amber Valley, east of Athabaska, Alberta, by this 22 year old man.

Jefferson Davis Edwards

2. This African American arrived in Canada in 1825 from Virginia and formed Ontario’s first Baptist Church.

Elder Washington

3. Many blacks were among the Loyalists who fled the United States after the American Revolution. In which area of Canada did most settle?

Some black loyalists settled in Upper Canada (Ontario), however the majority settled in Nova Scotia.

4. What is the Underground Railroad and what is its significance in the settlement of Canada?

The term refers to a secret operation to help slaves in the Southern U.S. escape slavery for freedom in some northern States and Canada. A large number of the slaves who travelled on the “Underground Railroad” settled in Southern Ontario, others settled in New Brunswick and Quebec.

5. In what year was slavery abolished in Canada?

In 1834 Britain abolished slavery throughout its empire, including Canada.

6. The Elgin and Dawn Settlement were two of the earlier black settlements in Ontario. Name the persons most associated with these settlements.

Josiah Henson, upon whom Harriet Beecher Stowe is believed to have based the title character of her novel Uncle Tom’s Cabin, was one of the founders of the Dawn Settlement. The Elgin Settlement was the brainchild of Rev. William King, a Presbyterian minister.

7. Who is the first recorded black resident of Canada?

Oliver Le Jeune. He was an eight year old boy from the island of Madagascar and was the slave of David Kirk, the English privateer who attacked Quebec in 1628.

JOURNALISM AND THE MEDIA

1. This highly respected black newspaper was founded by Trinidadian-born Arnold A. Auguste in January 1978.

Share, which is now the largest ethnic publication with a readership of over 75,000.

2. This former member of the Canadian Women’s Olympic Basketball team produced a TV special in 1992 about her famed Uncle Oscar Peterson.

Sylvia Sweeney

3. This Canadian born woman was the first black to produce a TV series here.

Betty Riley

4. One of the first black newspapers in Canada was published by Henry Bibb at Sandwich Ontario between 1851 and 1853.

The Voice of the Fugitive

LANDMARKS AND SITES

1. What important monument to black civilization is located in Amherstburg, Ontario?

The North American Black History Museum

MATHS & SCIENCES

1. During his lifetime he patented more than 50 discoveries; his first in 1871. Name him.

Elijah McCoy

MEDICINE

1. Dr. Anderson Ruffin was the first black Canadian to graduate from medical school in 1861. What medical school did he attend?

Trinity College, University of Toronto

MILITARY

1. During the war of 1812 this all black company of soldiers participated in several battles including Queenston Heights and the battle of Stoney Creek.

The Company of Colored Men

2. This Canadian of African descent was made an officer of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire (OBE) by King George VI for his distinguished service in the Second World War.

Beresford Augustus Husbands

POLITICS & SOCIAL ACTIVISM

1. Who was the first African Canadian to be elected mayor in Canada?

Dr. Monestime Saint Firmin who was elected mayor of Mattawa, Ontario in 1974.

2. This black woman coordinated the first National Congress on Black Women in Canada.

Kay Livingstone. Born in London, Ontario, Livingstone travelled across the country, contacting organizations for women of color and informing them of their rights. She was also a successful radio broadcaster on CBC and CFTR.

3. In 1959, this man became the first black Canadian to run for the Ontario Legislature.

Stanley G. Grizzle. Grizzle was defeated in the election and four years later Leonard Braithwaite became the first black elected to the Ontario Legislature. He also held a post with the Ontario Ministry of Education.

4. What do these six Canadians of African descent-Isaac Phills, Harry Winston Jerome, Oscar Peterson, Winslow A.S. Case, William White and Dr. Carrie Best-have in common?

They have all received the Order of Canada.

SPORTS

1. Who was the first Canadian baseball player inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame?

Ferguson Jenkins

2. This black Canadian is a Vezina Trophy winner and a member of five Stanley Cup winners with the Edmonton Oilers. Who is he?

Grant Fuhr

3. Who became the first Canadian woman to run the 800 metres race in less than 2 minutes in 1990?

Charmaine Crooks

Further Reading:

Canadian African Heritage Month Document available online

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Day in the Life: May 7th 2011 Receiving Leading Women Building Communities Award

Posted in Day in the Life, The Woyingi Blogger by the woyingi blogger on May 15, 2011

On May 7th 2011, I had a lot going on. At 1pm I had to be at the Old Ottawa South Fire Hall on 260 Sunnyside, in order to receive the Leading Women Building Communities Award from Yasir Naqvi, MPP, on behalf of the Government of Ontario. I was nominated by Albanian Canadian  Shano Bejkosalaj and Palvashah Durrani. According to the later I received informing me of my award: “The Award was designed of honour women and girls who have made a real difference in their communities-females who have gone above and beyond to make the world a better place for everyone.”

The Award was originally launched on International Women’s Day on March 8th, 2006 by Sandra Pupatello, Provincial Minister Responsible for Women’s Issues.

Moji and Shola Agoro, daughters of Abiola Agoro who helped me find my father were also honoured with this award earlier this year.

I was able to take two youth who I’ve been mentoring to the award reception.

I didn’t really know what to wear. I never have any fancy clothes. I borrowed a traditional Sudanese form of attire for women, called a thobe. It is similar to a sari in that it is a large piece of cloth wrapped around the body. I don’t think I wore it well.

Yasir Naqvi, Sabrina, Myself, Khalid, Palvashah Durrani, Shano Bejkosalaj

I was one of about 20 recipients. Other women who received the award along with me included: Manjit Basi, Dr. Alia Dakroury, Faye Brunning, Marlene Floyd, Josephine Palumbo, and Jo-Ann Poirier

BBC Radio Play Review: Choice of Straws

BBC Radio 4 rebroadcast an adaptation of Afro-Guyanese writer E. R. Braithwaite’s novel Choice of Straws. The BBC Radio 4 website describes the radio play as follows:

Choice of Straws by ER Braithwaite. London’s East End 1960. Twins Jack and Dave Bennett are a happy-go-lucky, rootless pair of Teddy boys. If they do occasionally rough-up a black guy it’s just a game to them. Until a victim in Whitechapel fights back and Dave pulls a knife. From the writer of To Sir With Love.

Jack…..Harry Hepple

Dave…..Luke Norris

Michelle…..Gugu Mbatha-Raw

Mum…..Ellie Haddington

Dad…..David Hargreaves

Ruth…..Annabelle Dowler

Mr Spencer….. Alex Lanipekun

Officer…..Stephen Hogan

Dramatised by Roy Williams

Director Claire Grove

About the Play

Edward Ricardo Braithwaite is best known as the author of To Sir, With Love, the 1959  novel that was adapted into the 1967 hit film To Sir, With Love, starring Sidney Poitier, and the hit song To Sir, With Love, sung by Sidney Poitier’s co-star Lulu. His lesser known novel, a Choice of Straws, was originally published in 1965.

Choice of Straws is told from the perspective of Jack, a White East Londoner, who usually follows along with his Twin Brother Dave, who, while being inadvertently stabbed while attacking and killing a Black man, ends up dying in a car crash in a car driven by another Black man, a Medical student named Bill Spencer. Jack tells the truth to his parents about what happened and tries to dodge police inquiries. He also begins to discover himself as an individual, no longer in his brother’s shadow. This involves getting a girlfriend (Ruth) and losing his virginity while pursuing a romantic relationship with Bill’s sister Michelle.

Through Jack’s relationship with Michelle, Braithwaite revisits the divisions that race and class construct in people’s lives that he explored in To Sir with Love. In To Sir, With Love, the educated and sophisticated Afro-Caribbean Teacher is a victim of racism, however his pupils are victims of classism, which has meant that they have received a completely inadequate education to prepare them for anything but work as common labourers. Jack is working-class while Michelle is middle class and has a university education. She ends up ending their relationship for fear that Jack is just using her in order to experience dating a Black girl. This has happened to her before. Even the issue of Jack and Dave attacking the Black man is complicated by the fact that late in the radio play we learn that their father was assaulted by Black men during the 1958 Notting Hill Riots.

Choice of Straws doesn’t provide any easy answers to the racial and class conflicts that still divide Britain into many small islands, but it is a great exploration of these divisions and is itself an action of walking in the “other’s” shoes.

About E. R. Braithwaite

E.R. Braithwaite was born in Guyana in 1920. He was raised in a relatively privileged Afro-Guyanese family, both his parents were graduates of Oxford University. He served in the Royal Air Force as a pilot during World War II. He attended the University of Cambridge where he earned a doctorate in Physics. Like many people of colour in Britain after World War II, despite his qualifications, he found it hard to find employment in his field so was forced to take a job as a teacher in East London. The book, To Sir, with Love, was based on these experiences. Braithwaite pursued a career in social work and ended up getting a job finding foster homes for non-White children for the London County Council. He based his second novel, Paid Servant, published in 1962.

E. R. Braithwaite, photographed by Carl Van Vecten

Braithwaite’s books were banned in Apartheid-Era South Africa until 1973. At this time, Braithwaite applied for a visa to visit South Africa. His visa as granted and he was given the status of “Honorary White”, which gave him far more freedoms  and privileges than the indigenous Black population. He wrote about his experiences traveling in South Africa in the memoir Honorary White, published in 1975.

Braithwaite has worked as an educational consultant and lecturer for UNESCO, as the permanent representative for Guyana to the United Nations, as the Guyanese Ambassador to Venezuela, and as Writer in Residence at Howard University. Most recently, he has been a visiting professor at Manchester Community College. He now lives in Washington, D.C.

About the Notting Hill Race Riots

The 1958 Notting Hill Race Riots raged over the August Bank Holiday in Nottingham. Although dismissed by police at the time as just hooliganism perpetrated by White and people of colour alike, In 2002, theLondon Internal Metropolitan Police released documents related to the riots which told a different story:

The Met commissioner was told that of the 108 people who were charged with offences ranging from grievous bodily harm to affray and riot and possessing offensive weapons, 72 were white and 36 were “coloured”.

It is popularly believed that the riot began on the night of Saturday August 20 when a 400-strong crowd of white men, many of them “Teds”, attacked houses occupied by West Indians. Among the victims was Majbritt Morrison, a young white Swedish bride of a Jamaican. She was pelted with stones, glass and wood, and struck in the back with an iron bar as she tried to get home.

The internal police witness statements provide graphic evidence of the motives of the mobs – at one point crowds several thousand strong roamed the streets of Notting Hill, breaking into homes and attacking any West Indian they could find.

PC Richard Bedford said he had seen a mob of 300 to 400 white people in Bramley Road shouting: “We will kill all black bastards. Why don’t you send them home?” PC Ian McQueen on the same night said he was told: “Mind your own business, coppers. Keep out of it. We will settle these niggers our way. We’ll murder the bastards.”

The fact it is believed one of the first people attacked by Whites was  a White woman in a romantic relationship with a Black man  just demonstrates how subversive such unions were perceived as at the time. My own mother used to be called a “Nigger Lover” and “Race Traitor” jokingly by her family members when she married my father. The level of contempt that White women who agreed to be in romantic relationships with men of colour at this time, and in some places even now, is a phenomenon which I feel has not been explored well enough in anti-racism circles’ discussions around White Privilege.

The Notting Hill Carnival, an annual street festival led mainly by Britain’s Trinidadian and Tobagonian community, began in 1959 as a community response to the Notting Hill Race Riots. The first festival was organized by Claudia Jones, a Trinidadian American Communist and journalist who had been granted asylum in Britain in the late 195os after having been imprisoned and eventually deported from the United States due to her communist activities. In 1958, she founded the West Indian Gazette, the first newspaper printed in London for the Black community. She is considered “The Mother of the Notting Hill Carnival”. Black Academic Carole Boyce Davies has written her biography, Left of Karl Marx: The Political Life of Black Communist Claudia Jones. The title of the book refers to the fact that Jones, who died in 1964 due to heart disease and tuberculosis, is buried in London’s Highgate cemetary to the left of Karl Marx.

About Gugu Mbatha-Raw

Mixed Race British actress Gugu Mbatha-Raw has recently gained recognition in the United States as the star of the cancelled J.J. Abrams’ TV Series Undercovers. I can’t help but suspect that Undercovers partly failed because it had two Black leads playing “non-traditional Black roles”. Of the top of my head, I can’t think of any American TV Series with Black Leads, other than comedy series, that have survived very long. Despite this, Gugu’s beauty and talent has been “discovered” and we will be seeing more of her on the American screen. Gugu was born in 1973 in Oxford, England to South African doctor Patrick Mbatha and English nurse Anne Raw, who met while working together at a hospital .  Her full name, Gugulethu, means “Our Pride” in Zulu. She is a graduate of the Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts in London. I first saw her in the British Sci-Fi  TV Series Doctor Who, portraying Tish Jones, the sister of Doctor Who’s First Black Companion, Martha Jones. In 2009, Gugu played Ophelia opposite Jude Law in Donmar West End and Broadway Production of Shakespeare’s Hamlet. We will  be seeing her  on the big screen soon in the comedy drama  Larry Crowne starring Tom Hanks and Julia Roberts and in the American Supernatural Thriller “Odd Thomas“.

Further Reading:

E.R. Braithwaite

To Ricky with Love by Caryl Phillips (2005 Guardian article available online)

Notting Hill Race Riots

After 44 years secret papers reveal truth about five nights of violence in Notting Hill by Alan Travis (2002 Guardian article available online)

The Forgotten Race Riot (2007 BBC article available online)

Long History of Race Rioting (2001 BBC article available online)

Profile of Claudia Jones available online

Gugu Mbatha-Raw

Interview (2009) in The Guardian available

Interview (2009) in The Telegraph available online

Video Interview (2010) available online

Black British Literature

Black British Literature since Windrush by Onyekachi Wambu (BBC History article available online)