Black History Month

 When you ask someone to describe the average Canadian, what adjectives do you think they would use?

I am thinking some things along the lines of a lumberjack, or a hockey player would be the average response. Or some might refer to the Indigenous people of our country. Internationally, we are seen as harmless and outdoorsy. And white. Very wonder bread. 

We can't help our reputation, but we can certainly do more when it comes to acknowledging the contributions that people of colour have made to the country as a whole. Seeing as it is Black History month here are a few people I would like to introduce you to. 

1. Artis Lane nee Shreve is a black, female sculptor. She was born just outside of Chatham, Ontario in 1927. Her birthplace, North Buxton is known for being a community that was a final destination for the Underground Railroad. Her work is well known and has been featured at the Smithsonian. She designed Rosa Park's Congressional Medal of Honour in 1999. She may be best known though for the bronze bust of women's rights activist Sojourner Truth that was unveiled by then-first lady Michelle Obama at the US capitol in 1999.

2. Elijah McCoy was born in either 1843 or 1844 in what was then known as Colchester, Canada West (Canada West was later renamed Ontario). Elijah left home to attend college in Scotland and later moved to America after finding it difficult to find work as a mechanical engineer in Canada. McCoy's first invention was an oil drip cup that administered lubricant to a train engine through a spigot which allowed for trains to move without the need to stop and lubricate. By the time of this death in 1929, he held over 50 patents. He had also become a prominent activist for women's rights. 

3. Marie-Joseph Angelique was born in Portugal in 1705 and died in Montreal on June 21, 1734. Angelique had been sold as a slave twice before she was brought to Montreal by the Francheville family. After asking for and being denied her freedom, she was accused to have started a fire that destroyed the merchant's quarter in Montreal. After being found guilty of the fire, she was hanged and burned. Many believe that she either didn't set the fire or if she did it was not meant to destroy the area. She is now thought of as a symbol of freedom and antislavery. 

There are many more stories that could be told, and they should be. We are home to many people, with many different tales to tell, and everyone has contributed in some way. It's time to widen the way we look at our country and to make the rest of the world see us as more than one culture, one race. 

Black Canadian Musicians are world-class. Oscar Peterson is one name that will always be one of the first-mentioned. Oscar was born in Montreal on August 15, 1925. He was surrounded by jazz music. His dad played the trumpet and piano and the neighbourhood he grew up in was known for its many nightclubs. 

Oscar first played the trumpet but switched to the piano after a bout with tuberculosis. Peterson was called the "Maharajah of the keyboards" by Duke Ellington and played with just about every artist you can think of from that period. I picked my favourite song of his Stormy Weather for your listen of today.

 


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