By Sydney Ririe
Westwind Weekly News
I don’t know about you, but for the past month, my social media feed has been protest videos, #blacklivesmatter, and petitions to sign. It’s awe-inspiring to me that one man’s unjust death has caused anti-racism protests in all 50 states, and many other countries across the world. Canada joined this list three weeks ago when a protest was held in Calgary to, “honor the life of George Floyd and all other victims of police brutality and violence,” as reported by CTV news.
Racism can be a difficult subject to tackle for adults, never mind children. It is a portrayal of the darkest side of humanity, that human beings can casually believe they are better than other human beings because of the pigment in their skin. It has a deep and painful history in America, but Canada has its own skeletons in the closet. Deportation of peaceful immigrants, residential schools, and legal limitations for specific races, including a 62-year voting ban for Chinese Canadians, provide a disturbing backdrop to the history of our nation.
I don’t intend to provide any answers here, but I can offer suggestions to help you and your family become better educated about racism in Canada. I’ve found personally that literature has been my main tutor to better understand the reality of racism today, as well as it’s history. I offer my book suggestions this week in the hope that I can provide some insightful, family-friendly literature to help you start or continue the conversation about racism in your home.
When I was Eight by Christy Jordan-Fenton and Margaret Pokiak-Fenton, illustrated by Gabrielle Grimard (Annick Press, 2013).
This simplified version of the bestseller “Fatty Legs” is based on the true story of Margaret Pokiak-Fenton and her experience in a residential school. At eight years old, Olemaun disregards the warnings of her father and attends a school far from homel because of her desire to learn to read. She is treated with cruelty, and scorned by the head nun. But her strength and courage allow her to teach lessons of empathy and dignity.
The Journey of Little Charlie, by Christopher Paul Curtis
This Newberry Medalist author writes a both endearing and heart wrenching story of Little Charlie, a teenager in the deep south. Little Charlie is down on his luck after his father’s death leaves him unable to pay a debt. Little Charlie must strike a bargain with the fearsome Cap’n Buck, and is tasked with bringing home a family of escaped slaves. Little Charlie has to grapple with his conscience and his need to survive in order to make the right choice, before it’s too late.
The Skin We’re In: A Year of Black Resistance and Power, by Desmond Cole
Desmond Cole became a known face for black activism in 2015, when he published an award-winning essay in the Toronto Life magazine about the many times he had been stopped and questioned by police. Cole questions the attitude that racism in Canada “is not as bad as it is in America” through The Skin We’re In, a year’s worth of documented racism experienced in Cole’s life.