In Africa, one is immersed in the sights, sounds and smells of ancient cultures that are living side by side with the 21st Century. It can seem overwhelming in both its richness and oldness.
Newcomers to Canada often comment on “the emptiness”. The lack of people on the streets, the distance from your neighbors and even your friends. There is also a huge hole, a noticeable gap for those with eyes to see in telling the story of Canada’s Indigenous peoples.
The team at Bring on the Sunshine has been sharing this story for many years in our schools: “Why do we learn about the Mennonites only when we know there were others here before them?” The Indigenous people have been represented only as shadows in a name, or the installation of a canoe sculpture to speak of their enduring presence on the land – even though they are still here. Frankly, to an outsider, its weird.
As Africans and newcomers to Canada, we are very conscious that we are stepping in the footsteps of the Colonizers and settlers of the past. This matters to us because many of us are Indigenous peoples in another land, and were also displaced. This matters so much that we teach our children of the African Diaspora their own history, as well as the truer history of the land we now live on. Unfortunately, they will not hear either of these histories in school.
We support #landback for indigenous people in Victoria Park in Waterloo Region.
Bring on the Sunshine celebrates Africans and their contributions in Waterloo Region, and has done so for over 10 years in many forums and formats across the tri-cities and townships. Our team is on the front lines in the community, be it the Black Lives Matter march or in the living rooms of African and Black families across the region.
The recent violent arrest of a Black man with mental health issues on the streets of Kitchener is extremely worrying and raises many questions. Witnesses say the man was restrained by 10 police officers (as seen in the video), and repeatedly punched by one of them with no intervention by his colleagues. If this man was white, would he have been treated this way? In the midst of strong verbal assurances by all levels of government that Black Lives Matter, how could this take place? How could the officer involved feel that he could act this way in public view? What was the purpose of the officer who stood with the youth that filmed the incident?
The systemic racism entrenched in the Justice system does not treat people equally. What is the role of police in our society? The incident does not show any effort to de-escalate by the police, and begs the question: what is the goal/purpose of hitting a man who is already on the ground? It does not respect the rights and freedoms of Citizens and creates fear and distrust of this system. Such incidents validate Black Canadians fears and the cycle continues into the next generation.
We are calling for an immediate suspension of the officer involved and a full and public external investigation into the situation. We call on the WRPS and the officers involved to take part in a restorative justice process that involves genuine conversation – and not platitudes – in order to effect the change you say you want to see. Genuine conversation involves listening and action. Listening alone is not enough.
The Bring on the Sunshine Board and Leadership Team.
Alice Penny, Director
Jacqui Terry-Carroll, Board Chair
Priscilla Muzira, Board member
James Kandoje , Board member
Thulani Mangoye, Board member
Tapiwa Ziyenge, Board member
James Kandoje, Board member
Yes, Defunding the police seems an absolutely radical thought. Perhaps it is radical if you have only joined the conversation after George Floyd. Back in 2018 the Ontario government announced their response to social issues by investing an additional $25 million in funding for the police force. “Boots on the ground” they called it. Systemic racism has always existed within the police force. Therefore ask yourself when there is an increased police presence on the streets and in our schools who is impacted the most?
While we have seen police funding increased we have seen social services funding get reduced. Mental health services, arts and culture programs, many of which address the social issues from a prevention angle go largely un- or underfunded. Many organizations that work with marginalized communities are forced to compete with each other for the token funding available.
If you’re serious about solving social problems… giving the police more money is clearly not the solution. That is why Bring on the Sunshine has been intentional about engaging with the youth of our community in ways that build them up, support them, and give them a place to belong. They get to celebrate something they may have previously seen as a burden, their Africanness. Many of our kids and families have had run ins with the police and social services because of cultural differences, that neither agency has the competency to deal with. Why should we expect them to? And why wouldn’t you compensate the organisations who have both expertise and track record?
Through our education programs in schools, Africa Camp each summer, our youth leadership program or our annual African festival we are looking for ways to establish a sense of identity and hope in our youth, to find common ground through our celebration of diverse cultures, and the willingness to learn and listen. Our children should not have to work hard to find positive associations of their culture and skin color. They should not have to find their way in a system and a society that stigmatizes them based on their skin colour.
We want to see everyone in the Black community given the opportunity to magnificently thrive, on our own terms.
We are in full support of redirecting funds from a system that has oppressed the black experience.
Alice Penny, C.E.O.
Jacqui Terry-Carroll, Chair
Bring on the Sunshine Board and leadership team.
This mural was created with the children of Africa Camp, a partnership between Adventure for Change and Bring on the Sunshine, and local artist Jacqui Terry-Carroll.
The theme is about the African diaspora and their many different journeys to Canada. On the right we painted planes and boats as the carriers of people to North America. In the center of the yellow board is a river, as many African Canadians followed the rivers North, into Canada escaping slavery. The central board shows the family arriving in Canada and being welcomed by a First Nations person to the left. On the yellow board to the far right there are many spirals painted by the kids – this represents the Ndoro which is a flat, spiral shape that is the result of grinding down a sea shell, and which often washes up on the East Coast of Africa. Ndoro were worn as symbols of rank and authority and as signified wealth. Because of its scarcity, the Ndoro were much sought after. (Zimbabwe)
In the sky of the center and the left panels you see the stars. Stars were followed by Mariners in the ocean and by people escaping from slavery who would “follow the gourd”, or the big dipper as they traveled north in their search for freedom. On the far left there also many little spirals painted, this time representing the fiddlehead, the first greens of spring. This simple spiral design ties our cultures together across oceans.
The First Peoples of Canada welcomed the first colonists and made a treaty with them that our cultures would travel alongside one another but not intersect, respecting each other’s rights, freedoms, culture. This treaty was remembered through the wampum belt which is the design across the bottom of all three boards. To the left of the wampum belt are the beads in the traditional design but to the right, the beads become the bodies of the many millions of people who died in the oceans during the transatlantic slave trade.
As newcomers we must never forget that we came from places were land was taken, and we were the displaced indigenous people of that place. We remember that as new Canadians we too are treaty people.
African Youth Leadership program finds new leadership in Alice Penny, local community activist. Bring on the Sunshine African Festival has run for 8 years and has grown and prospered. Each year, over 5000 people of diverse origins celebrate their differences in a one day dindindi (African family Party!) right here at Kitchener City Hall on Family day in February.
In fact, its next stage of growth is to transition Alice Penny to the role of Festival Director, whilst Jacqui moves into an Operations role.
While the festival is an amazing day of fun for family and friends during the dark month of February, it has an important role in providing mentorship and leadership opportunities for young people aged 18 – 35 years old who come from marginalized and often diverse communities. After migrating to North America for College Alice Penny has first hand experience and can relate to youth struggling to see themselves as leaders in a world that often does not see that in them.
Penny says, “The festival provides a wonderful platform for folks whose voices are often not heard, and whose faces are not seen in the wider community as well as celebrating the best of our African cultures! However I see the Festival’s role as being more than a great day out for the family – but a chance for our youth to shine. My goal is continue to grow and develop opportunities for our youth as we enhance the festival through our creative and community partnerships.”
Alice commented “The first big change is that we are moving the event from Monday to Sunday – it gives us more freedom to expand the event AND our volunteers get a day off before heading back to work or school!” Alice Penny has been a core team member of the event from year one, and brings many years of training and experience in Finance and accounting as well as community development to the role.
Terry states, “ The community has really owned this event, which started out in a church basement 10 years ago. I’m so excited to continue supporting our youth from a different spot – and thrilled to see how far we can go with this event – our 10 year anniversary is in 2020, so expect great things! We know the community loves this event – so now we need the community to stand behind us and support us financially through sponsorships to find the funds to support it – we would like to raise $10,000 in sponsorships to make it continue to work! ”
Bring on the Sunshine is a community organization hosting a Family day Festival, celebrating Africa, Culture, community and Family during Black History Month and a week long day camp in the summer, called Africa Camp designed to share in the riches of all of our African cultures with youthful Canadians of every origin with a direct focus on those of African heritage. We work closely with the K-W Multicultural Center and with Adventure for Change. These organizations do exceptional work with newcomers and youth in our region. Giving them roots so they can grow wings!