Unlike the many other cultural groups who have immigrated to Montreal over the last 100 years or so, we are a community with nothing. With the rest of the Negro Community Center lying in shambles we are left with nothing to show for our time here.
The Greek community has their own schools, churches, banquet halls, a cultural center, library, social services, senior residences and daycare centers; the Chinese have their hospital and cultural center; the Italians have their Leonardo da Vinci Center; and more recently the Sikhs have established their mosques in the West Island and LaSalle. The list could go on and on. And collectively we neither have a pot to piss in nor a window to throw it through.
With Christmas fast approaching, it is clear to me that we have to ask Santa Claus to somehow deliver us from this evil. Let us consider the case for an elder’s home.
Over the years Bob White has belaboured the fact that we do not even have a place for our seniors, which places us in a precarious position given the fact that our baby boomers are fast approaching the time when they would be in need of care.
Life as we knew it in the Caribbean, when our elders were cared for at home, is no longer the case. And neither are our elders prepared for the cultural challenge of living in a white elder’s home where the reality is maybe having a bath once per week, and having spaghetti, meat loaf, lasagna, scrambled eggs and fettuccini alfredo for supper. No green bananas, plantains, cassava, saltfish, cookup rice, fried bakes or bammy. Many will not survive!
How did we get to this position? What is it that other cultural groups have that we do not have? What is it that encourages them to think collectively and for the long-term benefit of their children and grandchildren?
For sure, I do not have the answers, but I am willing to speculate. The first thing that comes to mind is that we tend to think in terms of ‘I’ and not ‘we’. Individually we may have some worth but collectively we have nothing. Associated with this is the idea of “crabs in a barrel,” i.e. if we see someone trying to get ahead our tendency is to pull them down.
Secondly, our economic base is mostly ‘mom and pop’ shops selling food, as opposed to other cultural groups with large multi-million dollar companies in areas such as construction and manufacturing. Even the ethnic food that we eat is bought from the Indians and Chinese. We do not even own a large grocery store.
And then there are our priorities. There is the tendency to spend our money on things that are temporal in nature. A good example is carnival and parties. We seem to be contented with jumping, wining and getting drunk on the street, as opposed to thinking of how we could make our Caribbean carnival culture a profitable venture.
Currently, there is the Chinese show Shen Yun at Place des Arts. Prior to that there has been Indian, Brazilian, and South African and everyone else with shows running for several days (or weeks) and making some decent money. And for sure we have the talent to produce shows as good as or better than the rest.
Another good example is the black hair care industry which, according to the research firm Mintel, was worth $684m. in 2012. When weaves, extensions, styling tools and appliances are added the figure approaches half a trillion dollars or $500 billion. And without Doreen’s it is other cultures that are selling it to us.
The idea here is not to knock the sisters, but that figure represents a whole lot of bricks and mortar. Hopefully, loving ourselves more and the new natural hair movement would change this. As well, I refuse to believe that any other cultural group of women spends this much on hair care.
I am not sure what the prognosis is for the next 100 years, but if past performance is an indicator of future behaviour, then we are in serious trouble.