The Blacker the Berry the Redder the Flag
Canada has come a long way from its confederation in 1867 and has grown into a very diverse and cultural country. A major part of our diversity comes from our African and Caribbean heritage that has influenced our country in many different ways. Black Canadians have helped to define Canada’s diverse heritage and identity through their cultural influence, achievements in sports and history within the country.
To commence, black culture is celebrated across the country through language and food. In the GTA “patios” is a dialect spoken by Jamaicans and is heard all over the area and phrases such as “tingz” and “real talk” have become a part of everyday language in Canada. On another note if you have ever had the opportunity to attend Caribana, then you probably have had a hot Jamaican patty in your mouth as you listened to local musicians playing ska, literally a little taste of Jamaica right here at home. In my own home you can always find my mom or aunt cooking ‘diloŋ(a type of dough that originates from Africa) as they listen to their favourite Kuku choir songs from South Sudan.
Black Canadians also influence our nation through sports. These athletes inspire young Canadians to strive for success and achieve their dreams. Sports like basketball and track and field are starting to be infiltrated by these athletes. It’s one thing to watch athletes from the states tear up the NBA as well as the Olympic track, but when we see people from our own neighbourhoods doing that exact same thing, it changes our perspective and lights fire to the dreams of young Canadians everywhere. This is exactly what happened to me and millions of other Canadians in 2013 when Anthony Bennett became the first Canadian to be drafted number one in the NBA draft. Donovan Bailey a Canadian hero who flashed his way to victory in the 1996 Summer Olympic Games, is another inspiration who motivated my younger self and millions of other young athletes to reach their goals on the track. As he was probably one of the kids inspired by Bailey, Andre De Grasse won a silver medal in the 200m dash as well as bronze in the 100m dash and 4x100m relay in the 2016 Summer Olympic Games. Just as Bailey, Degrasse now inspires Canadians across the country to follow in his footsteps.
Lastly and most importantly the historical influence of Black Canadians has helped paint our past into a captivating story. Fascinating Canadians like the Nova Scotia loyalists, the all black regiment in the war of 1812 and the escaped slaves from the underground railroad are all very influential people from our past. During the American revolution, around 30,000 escaped slaves had fought alongside the British Loyalists. After the Americans won the war these Black Loyalists were either relocated to the West Indies, Europe, England, Canada, or unfortunately were recaptured as slaves. The British army sent over 2,000 of these Black Loyalists to Nova Scotia. A community of blacks in Birchtown was soon established and became the largest population of free Black Loyalists in the world. In an effort to defeat our Southern neighbours and essentially not return to slavery, many Black Canadians volunteered to fight for their new home. This effort included a Black regiment known as the Coloured corps. This regiment included a number of escaped slaves who fought in the American revolution and lived in the Niagara area. More importantly, the Underground Railroad is a true testament of the bravery, faith and humanity we are known for across the globe. With the help of Canadian abolitionists and conductors, our country was able to help an estimated 30,000 slaves find freedom. These former slaves migrated to colonies all over Canada.
To conclude this piece, whether during Caribana, in the Olympic games or more prominently in the past Black Canadians have largely impacted our society through their diversity, talents and hardships. I have never really thought to spend time finding out about the influences of Black Canadians. But looking at the past and present of our beloved country from sea to sea, I am not only proud to be Canadian but I can tell you from the bottom of my heart that I am also proud to be a Black Canadian. Thank you Baba and thank you Mama for choosing Canada, It was definitely one of the best decisions you could have ever made.
Black History Canada - Departure of Black Loyalists, www.blackhistorycanada.ca/events.php?themeid=21&id=2.
Black History Canada - War of 1812, www.blackhistorycanada.ca/events.php?themeid=21&id=5.
Black History Canada - Underground Railroad, www.blackhistorycanada.ca/events.php?themeid=21&id=6.
“Andre De Grasse.” Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, 24 Nov. 2017, en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Andre_De_Grasse.
Freeborn, Jeremy. “Donovan Bailey.” The Canadian Encyclopedia, www.thecanadianencyclopedia.ca/en/article/donovan-bailey/.
Lambie, Kristen. “6 Torontonian Slang Words From The Jamaican Vocabulary And What They Really Mean.” Narcity, Narcity, 12 Aug. 2015, www.narcity.com/ca/on/toronto/lifestyle/6-torontonian-slangs-from-the-jamaican-vocabulary-and-what-they-really-mean.