| February 1, 2013
Last week, Barack Obama, the first black President of the United States, was sworn in for his second term on Martin Luther King’s birthday, a national holiday in the United States.
Later the same week, in Brampton, Ont., a black 9-year-old boy was shot dead while watching TV in his living room, probably the mistaken target in a dispute he knew nothing about. His family had just moved into that unit. This week in Toronto, 500 classmates and friends gathered for the funeral of a 15-year-old high school football player, a young black man, who was shot in an apartment building stairwell. These two killings are just the latest examples of young black people in the Toronto area becoming victims of violence.
Today, we are beginning Black History month. This month is meant to be a celebration of the achievements of black Canadians, and a time when all Canadians can learn more about the role that black people play in our culture and history.
As last week’s events remind us, there is much to celebrate, much to learn, and even more to live out.
As one with much to learn myself, I decided to look for some resources on the internet. There are many! You might like to explore a bit yourself. One story that I didn’t know before, although many of you will, is that of Maurice Ruddick, a miner who was one of those trapped in the Springhill mine for nine days in 1958. During the ordeal, Ruddick sustained the spirits of his companions by singing hymns, and getting them singing too. He was a hero. A footnote to the story was that after all the public attention about the survivors, the governor of Georgia invited all the survivors to enjoy a vacation with their families in a luxurious resort. It turned out that the resort was “segregated” and Ruddick and his family had to stay in a trailer nearby. Ruddick accepted this so as not to spoil the enjoyment of the others. (There’s a video clip about this story atwww.blackhistorycanada.ca).
It’s just one story, and there are so many stories. Some are uncomfortable to hear, like this one. Some are pure tragedies, like the young lives cut short by bullets. Some are grounds for celebration, like the accomplishments of President. Most are smaller stories than these, but important just the same.
As last week’s reading from 1 Corinthians 12:13 reminds us, “in the one Spirit we were all baptized into one body – Jews or Greeks, slaves or free – and we were all made to drink of one Spirit.”
May this month be a time of learning and journeying towards greater intercultural understandings.
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