I'm grateful that we appear to be in another era of athletes who aren't afraid to speak out about the social issues of the day after a couple of decades of rising salaries, lucrative endorsements and mostly silent superstars. Kaepernick et al are not the majority yet, but they're using their platforms to draw attention to police brutality and other issues, like Jim Brown, Muhammad Ali, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and other icons before them.
A good friend of mine asked me to write a charge to be read at his newborn son Langston's baby dedication (called a christening in some churches). I was honoured and at first struggled to write anything, but one morning I was dreading going to work, depressed because of how disrespectfully my co-workers were treating me and I began thinking about everything Black boys and Black men go through trying to make something of ourselves and it all tumbled out on the subway. This is the most important thing I've ever written and when I read it everyone loved it, so I thought I'd share it. My own godson Diego is pictured above.
The following short story was inspired by the song "I Gave You Power" on Nas' second album It Was Written, which was released on this date twenty years ago. As a 14-year-old, this album made me fall in love with hip-hop, and after reading reviews about it (which I disagreed with wholeheartedly), I went back and listened to a dubbed copy of Illmatic and became a Nas fan for life. I'm posting this now to pay tribute to the cassette tape that changed the course of my life.
Morgan Lane, the most infamous street in the notorious Grant's Pen neighbourhood in Kingston, Jamaica.
I spotted this sign buried in the bush on the way to my family's ancestral home in Rock River, St. Mary, Jamaica. My dad hit the brakes and I pulled it out and brushed it off. When I couldn't get it back up on its post, I rested it against the curb as my small act of community service to the place where my story began, so other travellers can find the place where I found myself.
A Google Street View image of Parliament and Oak St in Toronto's Regent Park neighbourhood. The (in)famous public housing community, Canada's first, is in the midst of a 20-year revitalization and the new condos, affordable apartments and townhouses on the right, and the last remaining 70-year-old tenements on the left make for a stunning mix
The iconic "East Side" mural outside of Lawrence East station in the Scarborough area of Toronto.
Three of my very best friends, D, Steph and Maggie, enjoying the view of downtown Toronto from Humber Bay Park last summer. The wintry April weather of the last week or so got me reminiscing about days like this one and looking forward to summer in the city.
I have many complaints about the mainstream publishing industry, especially the Canadian publishing industry, which is even more stuffy, exclusive, white and male than it is south of the border. My biggest complaint is that it appears to me that Black novelists only gain mainstream recognition when they write historical fiction, while Black authors who tell more contemporary stories are either ignored or classified as "urban lit" or "street lit." For example, Esi Edugyan's Half-Blood Blues, about a legendary, but forgotten jazz musician in World War II-era Europe, and The Polished Hoe, Austin Clarke's story about the bleakness of womanhood in colonial Barbados, have both won the Scotiabank Giller prize. Lawrence Hill's epic Book of Negroes won CBC's Canada Reads and Afua Cooper's retelling of the execution of the African slave Marie-Joseph Angelique in The Hanging of Angelique was shortlisted for the Governor General's Awards. Even everyone's "it" book by a Black author in the U.S. and U.K. in 2015, Marlon James' A Brief History of Seven Killings, is a crime tale set in seventies, eighties and nineties Jamaica.