It is official: 2020 is history. The world seemed to have let out a collective exhale after a year that felt like many years in one.
We decided to title this project The Great Humbling because we feel that is what 2020 did to us all. We were reminded of so many uncomfortable truths and each of us dealt with those in the best ways we knew how. Some resisted, some avoided, some accepted. Regardless of how we managed, we couldn’t ignore the reality of the uncomfortable truths staring us down.
In 2020 we collectively remembered some painful facts:
- We will all die, and rarely when we expect it.
- Racism is so real that it’s almost invisible. Like air, it’s integral structure to our present eco-system.
- Anti-Indigenous & Anti-Black violence is as Canadian as maple syrup, and can be used in countless recipes for discrimination, suppression and marginalization.
To those who forgot or didn’t know these facts, 2020 was incredibly shocking, painful, and scary. To those who live with the knowing of these facts in their bones, 2020 may have been all those things, but with less of the novelty that others in the country felt. It was a firm and intense reminder of what is, and what we know deep down to be so.
As a curious and cautious student of history in a Black body, I cannot escape the everlasting pang of pain and grief that comes with knowing all the death it took to get me here. My life, my countries, my freedom and my history are all built on the death of so many millions.
In the case of my freedom, it was hard won thanks to the bravery, courage, determination and desperation of my ancestors and their allies, who resisted in small and large ways, taking back what was stolen from them. Freedom is arguably still being won by those very same elements, and we press on today as we always do.
As I look into the present moment I see so many descendants, all with the same bravery, courage, and determination, making ways out of no ways, solving problems their communities face, doing their work with excellence, style, and grace and I’m reminded why we as Black people have continued to survive despite incredibly coordinated efforts to destroy our lives. If it’s one thing we know how to do in the face of tyranny, it’s survive.
As we begin the next decade, chapter, era, it is my prayer that Black families finally get the opportunity to begin and learn how to thrive. It is time. In fact, I will argue that unless we begin to thrive as a people, we will no longer be able to really survive as a people. Survival can only serve us so long—like say, 500 years, and it feels like we’re reaching the end point of that way of life. It’s just not sustainable.
As a community we must exercise the same courage and commitment our ancestors demonstrated to find a better way to Be, to create it, to organize for it, to vote for it–not just with a ballot, which can feel frivolous, but with our choices on how we show up, how we eat or care for ourselves and others, where we spend our money, or to what and whom we give our time.
In 2020 we collectively witnessed a global death and a birth. The death of the old and the birth of something new. The stories and ambitions of the people in this project are some of the ways descendants of freedom fighters, hard labourers and lovers, are moving through their world here in Ontario.
While I’m painfully aware of Canada’s skeletons, I’m equally aware of her better intentions. I truly believe she wishes to be good, kind, and fair. SO intend to keep my expectations high about her ability to to achieve such nobility. I’m so confident that if any of these Americas will get the diversity and inclusion experiment right, it will be Canada.
The stories enclosed will confirm the potential for progress available to us here. These stories are for our great-grandchildren. To remind them that here in Canada, during one of the wildest years of all our lives, Black people were thriving. Yes, we were dying at disproportionate rates to the virus as we always have, we were still being brutalized and murdered by the bad boys in blue as we always have, we were still experiencing state violence in myriad ways as we always have–and yet–many of us were thriving, resting, loving, leading amidst the chaos that surrounded.
Those same descendants have the right and the responsibility to participate in the creation of our new Canada–one that includes, considers, and cares for all lives.
It’s about time. History is watching and happening, right now.