Canada


I watched a fascinating discussion on Sunday afternoon on a program on BBC World called “The World Debate”. The panel, which was made up of Carl Bernstein, the award winning journalist who helped uncover the Watergate scandal; Sergey Brin, one of the co-founders of the internet giant Google; Dan Gilbert, a Harvard Psychologist; Queen Noor of Jordan and the Ugandan journalist and broadcaster, Andrew Mwenda, discussed the role and influence of the “New Media”, via the IT revolution, specifically the dissemination of information and the pros and cons associated with this democratization of journalism.

What I found interesting was how the old guard and protectors of the status quo, embodied by the views of Bernstein and Gilbert, were openly condescending and somewhat alarmist in their opinions concerning what they referred to as the “citizen journalism” via the internet. Berin, Queen Noor and Mwenda were more understanding and supportive of the value and need of alternative voices, who aren’t “trained or schooled” at some recognized institution for journalism and therefore don’t hold the standard eurocentric prejudices, but in many ways provide a more realistic, personal and honest view of events in their environment. 

As I listened to the discussion I came to realise once again the power of the internet in sharing information (especially real time events), views, beliefs and opinions among people throughout the round corners of the world. We have all heard the adages: “The Pen is Mightier than the Sword and Knowledge is Power”. This is truer today than any time in the history of humankind and whomever controls knowledge, and more importantly the access to knowledge, as well as controls the pen (or today the keystrokes), is the master (or chief manipulator) of reality. This is why regimes such as China and Myanmar have such strict controls on their populations access to the information highway. This is why during periods of civil strife and unrest in countries such as Pakistan and Kenya, access to certain sites such as Youtube by their citizens, which may show videos of the brutality of the regime against those protesting for their political and human rights, are shut down. This is why the Bernsteins and Gilberts are fearful of the “New Media”, because the power to shape ideas, beliefs, values (and henceforth culture)… and the power to control (and restrict) information and knowledge, are no longer in the hands of the elite or a select few with common interests to maintain and perpetuate the status quo. This rise of the “New Media” is much more than a democratization of information sharing, it is more of a revolution in “people participation”.  

It is this participation, or the potential of the power of this participation, which makes the blogosphere in general and the “Afrosphere” in particular such a potent force. It brings people together who would have never had the opportunity to connect before and through these relationships, we have the ability to expand our focus, influence and experiences. Through blogging, I have been able to communicate with many people throughout the world. People I have never met face to face and most likely, never will. People from different countries, as well as a variety of political, religious, economic, cultural and social backgrounds, beliefs, values and opinions.

This gathering of people of African descent — whether born in the U.S. or Africa or elsewhere, whether descendants of slaves or free men, whether rich or indigent –this gathering arises out of a need for self-determination and a history of forced subordination and removed relativity to an abstract outsider. We face each other under a banner of survivalist solidarity because regardless of our differences — whether they be our sexualities, our disabilities, our religions or our interests — we are viewed as one. What jerks at one of us sends tremors through all of us. So we need to understand each other.”  From the Mission Statement of the Afrospear, written by Sylvia.

Powerful! The above statement is truly a call for those of African descent throughout the world, who have the ability to utilize the “New Media”, to come together for the advancement of our people, regardless of our “isms” ! It is a challenge to revolutionize our way of thinking, and rise to the higher and uncharted territory of focusing on the value in our different perspectives. We need to do away with the mindset that because we are all not of, and/or from, the same social or economic class, political beliefs (or affiliations), religious or spiritual sects, continent, country, tribe, ‘hood, gender, sexual orientation etc., that we can demonize, dehumanize, disrespect, define and declare who belongs to our community and who does not. We need to do away with egotistical and self-righteous declarations that those who do not think, believe or live like us… are not with us… they are against us. We need to do away with intellectual tribalism… which like Sudan, Rwanda, Burundi, Liberia, Sierra Leone and most recently Kenya… leads only to our communal genocide. The only requirement is that one is sincerely working for the benefit and advancement of people of African descent, whether in the local, national, international and/or virtual arena.

I am not so naive to believe that all people of African descent will agree, get along with each other or come together for the greater good of the community. It won’t happen! I am resigned to the fact that it will never happen! Selfishness and self-centered interests are chief among the reasons which makes this impossible. I have already seen it within the Afrosphere and Afrospear, how differences in beliefs and opinions, as well as self-interests, have caused very smart and committed Black people to refuse and/or decide that they cannot… will not… work with other very smart and committed Black people.

However… this does not prevent me (and others) from working to create a “new deal” among us. To be a part of, connected to and add our collective voice to the variety of other Afrocentric/Black individuals, cells, conglomerations and collectives out in the AfroSphere. I am indeed hopeful because I have also seen the potential and practice of the power of the “New Media” in the past successes of the Afrosphere surrounding the issues of the Jena 6, Kenneth Foster and Shaquanda Cotton. Furthermore. I have foreseen the potential power of the Afrosphere spurring the future successes that are to come, regarding issues such as BET, Dunbar Village, Darfur and even the election a person of African descent as the President of the United States of America.        

 

I wanted to do this post last week but I was just too busy with doing “da life thang” to blog. I was inspired to get it done after reading this post by brotherpeacemaker: The “N” Word.

The Queen-Mother informed me of a news story she saw that in the southern U.S., they are using the term “Canadian” as a code word to refer to Black people. It replaces the publicly unacceptable term “nigger”. Huh!? Apparently in 2003, after a prosecutor in Houston, Texas got a double manslaughter conviction, his boss sent out a congratulatory email to the whole office, commenting that the conviction and stiff sentence was secured although the jury had some “Canadians” who were feeling sorry for the defendant. There were no people from Canada on the jury but there were some African Americans. There was also a story of a Black store clerk who kept overhearing patrons complaining that they were always being served by the “Canadian”. She didn’t know who they were talking about and finally asked a co-worker, who was this “Canadian” she kept hearing about? She was enlightened that it was her and it was a new code word for “nigger”. But why the term: “Canadian”… because Canadians aren’t Americans… they’re “outsiders!” See news story here.   

I have also been made aware that another code word for us Black people is “Mondays”. Why “Mondays”? Because people usually don’t like Mondays! I was mistaken to believe this was just an American phenomenon. I was telling a friend who lives in Toronto, Canada about this and she told me of an incident she recently had on the subway. She was standing and holding on to a pole on the train with 4 other white people who knew each other, when one of the guys started talking about “Mondays”. She didn’t know what he was referring to, but she thought it was strange because it wasn’t a Monday. She stated that one of the white women with them gave her a “look” and she felt strange, so she moved.  She later came to realize they were referring to her.    

WOW! It makes me wonder what other new age references and/or derogatory terms they have for “us”? Ignorance is never bliss! 

“Tell me why I don’t like Mondays…. I want to shoot the whole day down.” The Boomtown Rats.   

It’s thanksgiving here in Canada, which spurred me to reflect on some of the things I am thankful for. Here are 10 things I came up with:

  1. I thank God for His Son Jesus Christ and the sacrifice he made for me.

  2. I thank God for my life.

  3. I thank God for my wife.

  4. I thank God for my son.

  5. I thank God for my family.

  6. I thank God for all the people he has brought into my life…. the good, the bad and the indifferent. I have learnt from them all.

  7. I thank God for all that he has provided for me and my family materially and financially.

  8. I thank God for my health.

  9. I thank God that I live in Canada.

  10. I thank God that I don’t live in Iraq, Darfur, Afghanistan, Israel or The U.S.A.  

Those of African descent have populated all parts of this planet, voluntarily or by force. Here is a brief history and some other information on those of us north of the 49th parallel in North America. Click on the image below for article. 

A participant of BOD forum is attending a conference on business ethics and one of the topics for discussion concerned 50 Cent. They presented a number of questions that are to be used to focus the debate and asked other members to comment. Below are the  questions and the response by a member of the forum which I found enlightening. I need to add more Canadian content to this page!

1. Should 50 Cent be allowed to perform in Toronto?

If he has the right work permit, proper security clearance from the Canadian authorities and can guarantee there will be no violence before, at and after his performance, then why not? Especially if he generates income for Toronto businesses!

2. Should he be refused entry to Canada, given his criminal record and the nature of his music?

Hmmm…didn’ t he spend time in jail for offences involving narcotics trafficking, guns and violence??! Some older jazz and pop musicians have been denied entry for more trivial reasons and to perform at larger, more reputable events (Jazz festival, anyone??!) Fitty shouldn’t get a pass just because!! And if his music is objectively found to be violating decency and anti-hate laws, then we don’t need to have him come across our border!

3. Would the concert encourage violent and misogynistic behaviour?

Thing is, folks who’d be easily swayed into “behaving badly” by a so-called musical artist who is barely literate (in standard English anyway) and can’t write proper lyrics already have issues with “boundaries” and will exhibit violent and misogynistic behaviour whether or not Fitty raps about it in his songs…

4. Was there racial bias involved?

You have to wonder: The Rolling Stones have been here Lord knows how many times despite several members having been arrested over the years. Ozzie Osborne’s been here, as have an assortment of country music “bad boys” and pop music misfits….

5. Should the entertainment company promoting his tour not market the concert on ethical grounds? 

The only ethics these days that many “urban entertainment promoters” seem interested in is the ethics of…cash… so, if there are enough “consumers” who enjoy the “Fitty” product and will pay whatever to get it in Canada, who are these “promoters” to deny them?? Entertainment companies should use their judgement. If they’re planning on limiting their market to “Fitty” type entertainers and can survive and thrive financially doing so…then more power to them. But if they want to expand into other more discerning clienteles, then they need to clean up their act…and do the right thing!

6. What about freedom of speech? 

Freedom of speech??! Puhleeze! Remember, many of these gangsta rappers’ lyrics are hardly intellectually stimulating and are appallingly unimaginative and repetitive. Luckily some of their “songs” have a good beat otherwise I don’t see how they’d sell! I doubt that those who boycotted buses in Montgomery, Alabama and marched on Washington for basic civil rights had envisioned “Fitty music” as the type of “freedom of speech” worth dying for! Besides, freedoms come with responsibilities…

7. Who has the right to censor whom and why?

Tricky indeed. The courts? The CRTC? Canada Customs? Tricky indeed…


 

  

I’ve been tagged by both Aulelia and Angie to share 8 randoms facts about myself….

  1. I live in Ottawa, Ontario which is the capital of Canada.
  2. I am a Oakland Raiders fan(atic).
  3. I have 3 tatoos. On my right upper arm I have an “Anhk”; on my left upper arm, I have an Arabic script which translate to “Allah is gracious”; on my right neck I have a west African, Adinkrah symbol for the supremacy of God called “Gye Nyame”, which means “except for God”.
  4. My 3 favorite movies are Apocalypse Now, Braveheart and Scarface.
  5. My 3 favorite musical artists are Bob Marley, Femi Kuti and Prince. 
  6. My 3 favorite actors are Denzel, Robert Dinero and Johnny Depp.
  7. My 3 favorite blog pages are Charcoal InkNuvision for a Nuday and SmuloSpace
  8. Today is my birthday.

Now I am suppose to tag 8 people. hmmmm…. John Smulo, Field Negro, Tafari, Refined One, Ensayn, Ronald Albright, Shaheen and Darius T. Williams.

Peace!  

On this date at approximately 2:30pm, I began to receive the first of three phone calls that would change my world. They went something like this:  

1st Call: Hey…. do you know where Shelly, John’s wife works?

Asa: No… I don’t know exactly where or the name of the company…. but it’s an agency that looks after developmentally disabled kids.

1st Call: Ok…. (Hang up). 

My first impulse, as my heart started racing, was what a strange and unsettling conversation. I began thinking that something is definitely up but I avoid thinking the worst. Why would they call me looking for Shelly? Although John is my partner, I have been away on a special assignment for the last 2 weeks. Maybe he got hurt…. probably in a car accident (I’m hoping) and they just want to let her know he’s okay. 

2nd Call: Hey we need to get in touch with Shelly. Do you have a cell number or work number for her?

Asa: No…. what’s going on?

2nd Call: (Silence)…. John is hurt and we need to talk to her.

Asa: How bad is he hurt?

2nd Call: I’m not sure… I gotta go…. Talk to you later. 

Now I am getting that feeling of dread. It has got be really bad if they are scrambling to find Shelly. I try not to think the worst. I try to get the last two phone calls out of my spirit and bury my head in reading reports. I can’t shake this feeling though. I’m calm. It’s an unsettling calm though. I go to find a colleague who may have more information. I see that he is on the phone…. deep in conversation. I get an eerie feeling. I walk back to my office. This isn’t good.   

3rd Call: Hey…. where are you?

Asa: What do you mean? I’m at the office.

3rd Call: I’m sorry to tell you…. John is dead. He was shot and killed earlier this afternoon.

Asa: (Silence. I go numb. I feel like I’ve been placed in a vacuum. My soul goes blurry…. disoriented). Ok…. thanks.   

I leave the office and go out to the back of the building. I break down. I had never felt anguish like that before. Even when my Father had died earlier that year. His death was a surprised but not totally unexpected. An unexpected violent death of someone close to you brings a different dimension. It takes you to a dark place.  

I heard someone say recently that God can make something beautiful out of tragedy. I have had to search deep, for a year, to find the beauty in John’s death. I guess for me it’s appreciating my friends and co-workers. It’s easier to see the value in familial relationships. Now, I make the time to sincerely engage with those I work with. Now, I don’t take the moments I spend with my friends for granted. Now, when I say to a friend or co-worker: “stay safe” or “see you later”, it takes on a different significance.

I have also come to realize that the most sacred thing we possess in life…. is life itself. Cherish it. Don’t waste it. Share it with others. Make it count for something. 

One year later, I still ache. 

See you in heaven brother. 

 

John Charles “Sparky” Atkinson.

Born: 28 May 1968.

Died: 05 May 2006.           

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