February has become a time to reflect on and honour the history of the black experience in Canada. It is a legacy of both tragedy and triumph, of both hope and frustration, of bold dreams and relentless perseverance. We remember freedom-seekers sidelined from our collective memory because of the colour of their skin, and recognize that for all the progress we have made, the marginalization continues. This is a month where we renew our vows, enshrined in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, to challenge the scourge of racism and embrace one another with dignity and respect.
February has become a time that inspires new heroes to step forward and persevere toward this dream. This year more than most. As powerful new voices drive social justice to the fore, they are opposed and frustrated by forces still representing the tragic side of our Canadian legacy – a history that made declaring a Charter of Rights and Freedoms necessary, and leaves us with a long way to go before we can reconcile with the Truth. This year we find ourselves in the position of making a choice – between stagnating and repeating our frustrating tragedies, or stepping forward into the dream of what Canada could be: the shining light of hope in the hearts of freedom seekers on an underground railroad, who envisioned a verdant land, lush with promise.
So when I reflect upon the Canadian black experience, when the cold air of February fills my lungs and swells my chest, I lift my chin and face its frigid wind. Because I choose to remember the triumphant spirit of freedom seekers and hopeful dreamers persevering through frustration and tragedy. I choose to join a diversity of powerful voices in bringing what was underground to light. I choose to persevere and progress toward a vision of Canada hoped for, and so doing fulfill that promise of pastures lush and Green.
Kevin Sutton is a community organizer, spoken word performer, equity and diversity facilitator and Guelph Greens volunteer coordinator.