In my opinion, La Fête Nationale tragedy shines light on the mindset of the organizers with regards to the intersecting issues of race and the environment. In particular, it unveils how white french Québec grapples with its changing climate and evolving identity. Within the limited boundaries of the pure-laine vision of a sustainable future, it is clear that the desired transition to a low-carbon economy will not object to the unabashed sequestration of energy from melanin bodies. This green vision binds these black bodies to low-status work on behalf of the environment. The “forever-immigrants”, many born on this land, in this environment, can never fully rid themselves of the brand of “Les Autres, là” burned onto their skin with white-hot iron. This blurry condemnation has been written in quebecois prose onto black bodies for centuries, to the point where ink and grit collude to usurp skin and culture. To what extent does the green imagination of the white Quebecois and the white Canadian couple greenhouse gas reduction with the subordination of black and brown peoples?
Black Internet is well versed in decoding the care-free gesturing of matantes but is it not their nieces and nephews, (the organizers) that whisper the racist rigaudon?
“On a mis le nègre au travail pour l’environnement,
Mais l’environnement du nègre,
On l’a négligé volontairement!
Vive la développement durable!”
This is organic racism clothed in eco-friendliness. This is white sustainability. A sustainability where what stands the test of time is not the well-being of the planet and the people who populate it, but the tense relation between those who benefit from unjust decisions and those who are forced to carry the weight of those same decisions.
Mon cher Quebec, you can paint di ting green…but the issue remains black and white. Ya nuh foolin’ we.
We leave tomorrow,she says, by noon, in order to harvest enough bullets before dark. I flinch. I hate harvesting, taxing on both the knees and the blood. Plus, by then, baby will be starving, our few supplies depleted and frankly the bartering of bullets alone won’t fill our stomachs. Still, I follow her, like we followed stars when there were stars. Early morning, we pack what few belongings we have, steal the ones we lack and set forth at high noon. This particular sun is vengeful and the other grounders find shelter in cement cavities and abandoned catacombs. Warily we venture above,vulnerable. The heat curses our trio heading towards the Fields, meandering around metal and bone carcasses. So hot. Heat drums incessantly at my neck. Sweat and soul release, my feet forget. I drop to my knees and look at She who carries baby. They haven’t realized that I stopped, and I can’t don’t tell them. I’m fucking done. I can’t. I love you both. I love you too Sun and I am so sorry. Forgive me. I reach down into my tattered pocket; a bullet. Probably worth a dozen seeds on the line but that it is not this bullet’s purpose. Genuflect, I force it to the back of my mouth. And press. Till I hear crack, till I crack. She turns, and her face is frantic. She puts baby on the floor and her eyes stay on me, on my body as it freezes in burning ataxia. I cry no tears. She beckons no words. I give my body up to the essence…I..I..
Hello Sun. I am yours now.
Duckey face yullower than ever. I know she born high-yulluh but cheez-on man, she face ain’t right at all. I don’t know how after all these decades you can still love her like so.
Cuz the way I does see it, she shoulda dead years ago. Her legacy crush wit she plastic bones in a toxic tomb in whatever left of old Emerson Town. Long gone.
But look she here now, Jesus be Christ. Fucking resurrection. Face swell-up, reeking of ass, eyes bulging and bloody. Disgusting. And you have the audacity and sheer nerve to bring this nasty piece a-ting in the hotel bath with we? Nasty is what it is.
Is like you don’t know what romantic is. You know how much hotel cost in Barbados? I here at Seacrest Hotel, paying exuberant tourist prices for towels and fucking strawberries from Miami, I must be di ass.
I said do not bring she in this bat ,woman!
Look, wunna fine as ass but I having regrets now. Hear me.
We promenading along New Orleans and you say you miss yuh old house. I watch you cry all typa ugly in front the new water plant, the ghost of your old village hissing, and I stand next to you like a proper gentleman. My lips seal when by some miracle you find Duckey mash-up body, wing broken and get all typa feels.
Valentine’s Day now and we in this bath, wunna sweet bubbies covered in soap and I can’t get buddy hard cuz Duckey there staring at me. And I can’t tell if it she or the hotel water that making my skin itch so.
“Barry Pulankoli’s boy is the one that stutters.” That’s the teachers’ go-to phrase. Many find solace in using the condition as the identifier. To some, the label provides a sense of hope that perhaps one day, Modern Science can cure the poor child and liberate his coiled tongue to exalt a system that he should be forever indebted to. Sure beats calling him the very black one. No, not that one the very black one…from Africa.
Barry Pulankoli’s boy’s first day of preschool was terrible. That is why Barry now sits in the waiting room, having to leave work early, on behalf of his son.
In front of the administration, Barry awkwardly smiles that safe new immigrant smile where lips retreat eagerly to expose black vulnerable gums pleading for mercy. He has perfected the smile, although he hates it so. But for his boy, he will smile till they feel smug and validated. Just keep cool and smile.
“Your son had a horrible episode in class, yesterday.”
“Surely, you can foresee the challenges Max will have in this fast-paced learning environment..don’t you?”
Yes. He is burning up again.
“Yes?” She retorts igniting the chain reaction.
As he jolts from his chair, his thin frame absorbs all light from the room. Darkness surrounds his now orange body.
“My boy Max, follows his Mother and is learning the Holawi. He is what you people call a time traveller. Call him that and do not call me back to this environment again for I can no longer channel the patience of his mother.”
The lights flicker back on as he exits. The fire alarm wails.
The question my father ask me is whether or not these people dem is fear the blackness they see or the blackness they cannot. `Is it the blackness..Or the lack of blackness..That cause the slackness`..(decades done pass but i just find out that my man spent his adolescent Sundays behind the church writing dub prose while the proper West Indian boys sung hymns of the Second Coming to the preacher`s daughters in the front row). Father tend to ask questions that he already know the answers to..sorta like when police ask for license and registration as em reachin pon hip for back-up… either the walkee-talkee or the ‘no-walkee-no-talkee’, whichever machine the hand reach first. Naturally, I am hesitant to answer.
So when he say `I not askin you, I askin the sky“ my nostrils relax tough and shoulder blades ease up. The sky don`t talk much nowadays, not like (so I heard) back when father was young and the air clean. But today, my first day on the job, the sky was chatty-chatty and ready feh talk. Wunna must ask the right question. She did snap at my father,` you hear Sun talk `bout brightness? Or she just do what she haffi do every morning, praise god? Nuh mind dem.` My father tightened his grip around the shovel. `Jason. Grab yuh fuckin hoe and start planting man before the hotel fire we.`
I comply, deflecting the invisible probes of tourists staring at we-the-help without staring at we-the-help. One day, I gunna reason with sun and sky and handle all this talk of slackness both up there and down here.
Wow, It’s great to be here again in front of you all.
Friends, colleagues, leaders and trailblazers of the Green Conquest, I am so thrilled at the turn-out tonight for the 29th annual Sustain to Gain Gala event. I was asked by the organizers to say a few words about the Gala, and how profitable our crusade to green the globe has been. Next to blocking out the sun, and we’re working on that, there is pretty much nothing we can’t and won’t do to make this world a better place for us!
Before you get to your meals, I’d like to give a..what do the bl..inner-city kids call it again…sorry, I’m not quite “down”..ah yes…I’d like to give a shoot-out to the First Nations and the rest of those rag-tag group of indians. That’s why I’m wearing this feathery thingamajigger on my head, because, fellow venture capitalists, we need to remember that they’re humans too..kinda like us. And a special shoot-out goes to my main beeyatch, Mama Africa! Right, amirite? C’mon, give it up!
Providing us with superfoods and super villains, we couldn’t have made it to where we are without ya, tuts. Shell, you gotch yourself a keeper, buddy. Lucky bastard..
But enough with all these pleasantries, it’s not like any of these people are actually here, right! So go ahead and dig-in to your heart’s content. We have enough polar bear roast to feed an entire army of child soldiers and a endless flow of red wine dark like the blood-stained streets of Bahia. You earned it! Together, let’s leverage the world for a brighter future!
In Ayiti’s Cité Klere-Klere is where you and your sisters will find les Mango Nwa. Literally black-flesh mangoes growing downwards past the crumbling slabs of cement, past the shards of blood-stained glass, past what your father`s ancestors used to call soil (soul?) and blossoming by some dark miracle in the buried skulls of the Dessous-Nu. You will know them by their roots. At the surface, these same finger-like roots claw at the sediment heavy fog and rigidly gesture profanities to the sun-killers of past days.
When you reach Cité Klere-Klere or whatever is left of it, take a moment. Stand there in the debris and touch the cold skeleton army of lamp posts that once made the city the heart of the Caribbean. Taste the steel, press your tongue against its frame till your saliva is saturated by its grime. What does it taste like? Foreign aid? Innovation? Salvation? Old shit, perhaps.
Make sure, great-grandmother, that you cry deep astro black tears…and when the moment of mourning is fleeting and the surface still damp , you grab your sisters and start digging. Dig like you truly are the first and last line of defense for Rne La.
That night, I promise, you will understand why I sent you forward to the Cité. Why I asked that you bring your sisters. Why I asked that together you harvest every last mango nwa in Cité Klere-klere and throw them deep into the acrid cesspool that is zone C3 of the Sans-Poisson Sea. That would put the odds in our favour.
And, please, bring your rifle. After all these centuries, the piecekeepers still lurk amidst the rubble.
If you were to ask tomorrow’s farmers, they would all agree that the White Ahaw is no myth but a very real entity. They would say it comes in the form of a thick cloud, sagging with unwanted remorse only to burst one time on dry black soil until the seeds dead of overdose.
Ask the indoor field workers and they would all profess, that the White Ahaw is not a thing of legend, but a breathing and living mess. They would say that it is like the frenzied pangs of torrential winds, forcefully licking through window panes and door panels. Pure licks on any type of structure, on any type of history as it bawl-out ‘Progress! Progress!’
Ask the Mystic Man Dem on Fielding Avenue and they will all attest, that to them the White Ahaw is no new-age theory but an ancient bona fide threat. It is like bad inside-outside smoke, the kind that clings to your lungs and muffles your voice, hiding the road to your own terms.
But see you now, looking for the White Ahaw..have you not been warned? Do you believe that you can invoke this creature and expect not to be scorned? You cannot eat its meat nor will it work your land and it will grin as it teef resources from your hand, what business do you have feeding this beast, child? For the sake of tomorrow`s farmers, of the indoor fieldworkers, of the mystic man dem who will always watch over your children, kill it and leave it there on the side of the road to rot in a pool of its own self-righteous promises.
They didn’t tell her this like so, but everybody know that she get fired cuz her backsee stick out hard-hard in them cheap uniform pants. Hear the joke; yuh think a fast food franchise that make nuff money off of dealing fat and sugar to people would have simple common sense to acquire staff uniforms with a little more waist, a litte more hips for the thickly-inclined? They can’t afford it? More like they don’t want to afford it! So she now have to hold her breath tight to squeeze-up in dem two piece of ting they call leg pants. And every morning she praying to Jesus that they put her on cash and not on clean-up.
You know what rotund does mean? She get fired because of that type of backsee…round and rotund. Suggestive, they say. In trut, I find it to be quite regular, but I work fries and ain’t get promoted to consultant just yet..
Backsee big and bad. But not too-too bad cuz assistant manager keep calling her into the back office. Dropping sweet lines left and right. Lines of a promising future in the service industry. Telling she to stand tall and all typa mess like reach for the top as he recline nice in the manager’s leather chair. Nasty snake. No wonder she scratch up he face like that. Good for him.
So they fire she. One time.
That’s why me, I here in this breakroom and I keep to myself, smile when called and yam-up these white people salad we selling now so that my frame tight like they like, and wallet fat like I need.
Interviewer: What do you recall the most about the Congress?
Interviewee: The space.
Interviewer: The room?
Interviewee: Yes, child. The room. The room to think and answer. The room where for once, we could walk around freely. I haven’t had room like that since my Queens College years back home.
Interviewer: Was it packed?
Interviewee: Child, how much memory you got pon dat? Pack to the brim. Pack like Lionel-Groulx on Friday at 5:15pm and everybody siting down pretending that the newspaper they readin and the game they playing on phone make ’em blind to old ladies standing in front of them. Place was pack. Pack with “That’s right’s” and “You telling me’s”. Even in the ladies washroom when I gone to pee cuz your uncle’s big head pressing against my insides.. pack-up! Foundation saying “its about damn time”, Eye liner cussing “too much man talking” Lipstick vowing “Burn it all down”.
Interviewer: But you said you can finally walk freely..in a space so packed?
Interviewee: Never feel so free yet! I remember space and time like just just now . Felt like flying when Walter talked about the groundings. And when Stokely stopped..and repeat the same thing again…lord we moving now! Get up or get out! I swear, I was good and ready to buy a leather jacket..but the belly was swollen tough! And what you gonna do with all my talkin recorded on that..whatchu u call it?
Interviewer: It’s a seedLinq BM. And I’m going to eat it so that I’ll never forget what you’re saying.
Interviewee: Cheez on..we living in different times in trut.
***Dedicated to the organizers of the Congress of Black Writers – Montreal, 1968