I can hardly see the Black in the light

Montreal isNovel New like some of those perennially “under construction” websites. And it has been that for a decade or more.
Travel around the city by bus, car, bicycle, or on foot and you will see ubiquitous orange cones closing off various thoroughfares and detouring people.
But to make all this inconvenience possible, multiple millions, say billions of dollars have been contracted out to different engineering and other related companies, but I can hardly see the Black people; they… I mean we, never [seem to be in position to] benefit from the contracts being doled out. Which I concluded is the fact that there are no Black construction companies worthy of consideration, or Black people simply lack the requisite expertise to merit contracts.
The evidence is visible, or, if you like, as invisible as Ralph Ellison’s Invisible Man. The only other black face I’ve seen this summer in the beehive of construction – at least in the west end – is a Black man in civilian clothes, not the usual orange, green or yellow construction site overalls; he was in a pick-up truck.
As I move around on foot or otherwise, I do not any Black men or women on the myriad construction sites—roads, office, condo construction sites around the city. We’re invisible people, all I see are white men for the most part, with an occasional female in the mix… but no Blacks need apply?
Aside from a rare Black sighting on this or that construction site, we are non-existent, which means we’re not accessing any of the construction money through gainful employment.
But let’s be fair. In that ongoing orgy of construction around Montreal, the only Black person I know to have benefitted, big time, from the bountiful construction largesse—albeit some in dubious way—is the late Dr. Arthur Porter.
Funny thing, everyone loved the bow-tied-get-things-done-velvet hands brother and gentleman, Dr. Porter. Everybody was scrambling to get close to him, for obvious reasons; he was the driving force behind the construction of the recently opened MUHC hospital in Westmount/NDG. As such, he was in close proximity to the $1.3 billion construction largesse.
The irony of it all is that Dr. Porter was Montreal’s most famous and favourite Black man for years (until towards the end of the construction phase and verging on opening) rumors began to fly about “corruption in the construction industry.” And Porter’s name came up (at the Charbonneau Commission inquiry into bribery, corruption, etc.). All those who were riding the Arthur Porter bandwagon began to jump off, disassociating themselves from the now deceased bow-tied gentleman.
Yes, it was confirmed; he did die in Panama earlier this year. They found the official death certificate.
There’s another lesson there somewhere for Black people with ambition who are lucky enough to have access to state money to beware (of friends of convenience). But remember, Arthur Porter was an aberration. And, notwithstanding all the dubiousness and the whirlwind of corruption talk surrounding him, if he weren’t “good” at what he does he would never have been charged with getting the new hospital built.
Oh, by the way, how about the other people who wallowed in and enjoyed that filthy lucre? How are they faring?
Then there’s this one.
I just couldn’t ignore it; it’s not tainted with corruption or anything, but there’s a hint of disrespect [blatant omission of an historical institution from the STM app]. If you use public transportation you know what I’m talking about.
If you have a so-called “smart phone” the app can be downloaded, and I, a public transit user and virulent STM critic, must give the organization credit; the app is truly helpful.
Among the obvious information about bus routes, times, etc. the app also highlights important historical sites and institutions on certain routes. So once, while paying close attention, I realized that an historical landmark, Union United Church at Lionel Groulx Metro station (St. Jacques and Atwater, an important convergence point in the transit system), doesn’t appear. Funny, the historic church has been at 3007 Delisle St., for over a hundred years. Even Nelson Mandela drew an overflow crowd when he was finally freed from South Africa’s notorious apartheid-era Robben Island prison the beginning of the 1990s and made a stop at Union.
Many other notable religious and other historical landmarks are also listed on the STM app. Reiterate, why isn’t Montreal’s Union United Church?
So I contacted Dr. Gadfly, who sometimes boasts about his “Phd. in white people”—he graduated from the School of Hard Knocks cum laude—and brought it to his attention.
I told him it was a blatant oversight… omission; but he quickly corrected me, saying it is a “deliberate oversight.” A more apt words selection. And we discussed some more.
If the [new] mayor and other high-ranking officials in the city administration know better, then they should do better, I told the doctor. But something tells me the mayor (who loves Oscar Peterson, Oliver Jones, and a few other Black people like Frantz Benjamin (Wonder if he’s familiar with Union United Church?) who maintains order at city council meetings) could care less.
What do Black people have to do to be noticed and acknowledged in this city? A question populist mayor Denis Coderre should talk to Frantz about, and ponder on.
So let’s make him correct this blatant omission, “deliberate oversight.”
One thing can be said, if an STM app were available when the late Jean Doré were mayor, or even during former mayor Pierre Bourque’s reign, Union United Church would’ve been listed, just like l’Oratoire St. Joseph and other historic (ethnic/cultural) landmarks around the city. Those two men were politicians who cared not just about the interests of some but all Montrealers.
The hell with all that Black History Month of lip service, Mr./Ms. Politicians and [always] “do the right thing.” Save the specious annual pandering and patronizing…
As someone else said, “they don’t give a damn… or care about us…” We’re invisible people who are taken for granted. A literary commentator recently made that point.
If the people who created the app were told by the city powers-that-be to correct the STM oversight, they would’ve included Union United Church, important to Black people, yes, but unquestionably a city landmark, part of Montreal’s history.
So what is longtime Cote-des-Neiges/Notre-Dame-de-Grace Snowdon city councilor and STM vice-president, Marvin Rotrand, doing about (the omission)? Clearly nothing. If he knew of it or were aware of it maybe he would’ve had his people act on it (the Union United omission) expeditiously. After all, he professes to be a “friend of the Black community” at election time. In fact he’s considered an honorary Black, and member of the community. He’s loved by some, maybe many, Black people. They must then implore, force him to correct that “deliberate” Union United oversight. After all he’s the STM vice-president.
There’s also a gentleman named Philippe Schnobb; he’s the president of the STM. Black people use public transportation too, and we read, notice when we’re disregarded, made invisible.
Politicians, if they think of us at all, believe all we’re good for are votes come election time; whenever we have an opportunity, we must remind them that we’re (and expect) more than that.
So here’s “one” for city councilor Rotrand to add to his file, which includes a portion of Queen Mary Road where pedestrians and motorists alike have been complaining about the painting of the lines for automobiles and walkways for pedestrians, banning cigarette smoking around city parks, on terraces, etc., and taxing soft drinks. The app issue requires a directive to correct… that’s all. It should be an easy fix.
I live in the southwest and called my borough representative and discussed my displeasure; if you live in the Southwest (or elsewhere in Montreal) you could/should also voice your displeasure with this blatant omission, oversight.
Call the borough mayor, Benoit Dorais and express your displeasure also.
The Sud-Ouest borough of Montreal, which includes Saint-Henri, where Lionel-Groulx Metro station and Union United Church are located, should be familiar to Mayor Dorais, I hope. Don’t know if he has ever entered Union, though. Sophie Thiébaut and Craig Sauvé (a pleasant gentleman) are also councilors. Get their coordinates online, call and ask them to address that “deliberate omission.” It’s wrong!
And as I continue to travel by metro and bus, or on foot, I will be checking to see if any Black people, even a token, have joined the construction crews, and if Union United Church is finally listed on the STM app. If you’re a transit user you should too.