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Black History : Oro Siso Intelligent and Expert Use of Language

“Mastery of language affords remarkable power.” – Frantz Fanon
In Windsor and Essex County today, we can find many examples of African Canadians who have used their language skills to benefit the community and even the world beyond. We are blessed to have among us some great contemporary poets and authors such as Christopher Paul Curtis, TeaJai Travis, Edward Watson, Fartumo Kusow, Amina Abdulle, Mbonisi Zikhali, and Erik Johnson. Individuals who understand and live by the tenet that as Alice Walker expressed, ‘‘literature is the lifeblood of rebellion, revolution, and the raising of consciousness.”

Consider the examples of greats such as Elise Harding Davis, Milo Johnson, and the late Fred Johnson, whose writing about history has had a positive impact on so many. Our community also owes a great deal to the tremendous playwright and actor, Leslie McCurdy, who has dedicated the bulk of her career to bringing fascinating historical figures to life. For more than twenty years now, McCurdy has been portraying Harriet Tubman on stages, museums, community centers, in schools here in Windsor and Essex County, across North America, and even in Europe. Using their voices to inform and inspire others, these individuals perfectly express through their work what James Baldwin once wrote: “For while the tale of how we suffer, and how we are delighted, and how we may triumph is never new, it always must be heard. There isn’t any other tale to tell; it’s the only light we’ve got in all this darkness.”

Black communities in Windsor and Essex County have been represented capably by gifted orators such as the late, great Dr. Howard McCurdy, founder and long-time President of the Windsor District Black Coalition, former Windsor City Councillor, former Member of Parliament, and the first African Canadian to run for the leadership of a federal party (NDP).

Dr. McCurdy was a strong voice whether it be in the House of Commons, representing Canada on international missions, leading the discussion at a meeting of local concerned citizens, or advocating for the rights of African Canadians in small, closed door meetings with police administration or perpetrators of institutionalized discrimination. Dr. McCurdy constantly demonstrated that mastery of language afforded remarkable power, including the power to create positive, meaningful change in the lives of others.

The lesson can best be summarized in the words of Quraysh Ali Lansana and Georgia A. Popoff, “Words are power. The more words you know and can recognize, use, define, understand, the more power you will have as a human being… The more language you know, the more likely it is that no one can get over on you.”

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