During this time of isolation, we are sharing prayers, poems, inspirational music, videos and quotes that uplift our spirits in a special email newsletter each Tuesday. Here is an excerpt from our March 2 edition.
The Conflict: Assessing the Damage
In our reflection this week, we explore the Canadian scene as told by well known brothers Dan and Lawrence Hill. They grew up as biracial children living in the neighbourhoods of Newmarket and Don Mills.
Excerpts are from:
My Pain was your Pain, article published in The Globe and Mail on February 6, 2021; written by Dan Hill, singer- songwriter, author of I am my Father’s Son
Black Berry Sweet Juice by Lawrence Hill, author of The Book of Negroes.
Their childhood experiences
“In suburban Toronto of the 1950s and 60s, racism followed us wherever we went. In 1955, the three of us moved to Newmarket, which was then a filthy, rat-infested backwater town overflowing with bullies and perverts. The trouble began even before we arrived. The neighbours, upon hearing that a Black man with a Caucasian wife and a bi-racial child had just bought a house there, began a petition to prevent us from moving in. The petition was enthusiastically taken up. Despite the petition, we moved in.”- Dan Hill
“Almost every day, another racist event was visited upon us. Sometimes I wasn’t aware of them until years later. I’m thinking now of my kindergarten class – how every morning my teacher would produce a nail file to scrape the dirt beneath my fingernails, explaining, “I’m scooping out the dirty niggers.” It was a word I didn’t yet know.”-Dan Hill
But it wasn’t the only time that word was used casually in our presence. The deep inner reflex of racism of our neighbours manifested in shocking ways. When mom asked our next-door neighbour what colour she should paint our kitchen, she responded “nigger brown.”-Dan Hill
“I experienced the odd incident as a child, such as being called a nigger at the hockey rink or at school. I used to play pick-up games of lacrosse at the local recreation centre, and I remember worrying, as I headed over there, whether the others would let me play. One time, as I walked a bicycle with a flat tire, two older boys approached me and spat in my face. For a long time, I wondered why they had done that. Was it because they saw me as black or as different from them? The incident shamed me and I didn’t tell anyone about it.”-Lawrence Hill
“I knew I had to confront how I felt not just about George Floyd’s killing but also about the 400 years of murder, lynching, brutalization and demonization of my brothers and sisters. As a singer/songwriter all my life, how else could I respond than by turning to my greatest gift? It was only after I had written and recorded What About Black Lives? that I realized that this song was my way of reaching out, my way of wrestling with my racial inheritance while trying to connect with others who may share a similar need to find connection amid the frightening, ever-rising spectre of COVID-19 as well as the chaos and turmoil that is currently bedevilling all of us.”-Dan Hill
“My children stand on the shoulders of a world that has demonized, enslaved, and raped countless people exactly like them. Today in Canada, black people still contend with racism at every level of society.”-Lawrence Hill
“The point is that every incident of racism diminishes us all. It diminishes the racist, the target of the attack, and all of us in the human family, regardless of our race. If our neighbour has been attacked, them so have we.”- Lawrence Hill