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.
“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!
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.
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
This being her second visit to the grocery store, with its blinding fluorescent light and constant AC, she came prepared. The wool sweater, a gift from her best friend back in Nairobi, smells of incense and coal, the scent of safe secrets, closeness and familiarity. Its fabric caresses her chin as she exhales a memory not far away in time, but distant in space. She looks around to see if others too, had their breaths and dreams crystalized for a brief moment and ruthlessly stolen again and again as they aimlessly rummaged for deals on frozen dinners.
She used to anticipate talking and touching vegetables; a cabbage in the palm of her hand, its aroma sharing stories of sun and soil. “Best One!” The boy-seller cajoled, regardless of her selection. She kissed teeth, he smiled. The first time she brought a cantaloupe to her nose in Toronto, the entire display cascaded onto the floor, causing everyone to stare, which made her feel small.
Today, she was on a mission and briskly walked to the produce section. She picked up a plastic container of spinach, leaflets cut from the roots and incarcerated in a cold transparent cell. She abandoned the idea of being able to feel, to brush her hands across living surfaces. She had to trust what the new gods declared; that all these packages are uniform and that uniformity is good. Trust that since it says “Triple-filtered wash”, that the machines prepped it like how gran-gran did back home. Word is Bond.
In the express cash, she pulled out a five dollar bill. “$4.99, plus tax ma’am.” Said the cashier.
She didn’t have enough.