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Black History in Ontario – Part I – A Guest Post by John Fioravanti

I have been blessed by Jill Dennison as a guest on her blog. Please stop by her site and consider following this excellent blogger whom I’m proud to call ‘friend’.

Filosofa's Word

Friend, author and fellow-blogger John Fioravanti  graciously accepted my request to do a guest post to wrap up Black History Month! It quickly became apparent that one post was inadequate, so John has agreed to do a series of two posts about the history of African-Canadians.  Today I share with you John’s excellent and informative Part I.  I hope you enjoy and I know you will learn something new, for I certainly did!Text dividers

Black History In Ontario – Early Years


This series of articles is inspired by the revelations of my research into Black history in Canada for Black History Month. I am impressed beyond words by the courage and resourcefulness of so many people of African ancestry that escaped to Canada as slaves or freely chose Canada as their new home. Ontario is my home province, hence the focus of this series. It is my hope that…

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Black History Month In Canada… Bruny Surin

Bruny Surin, emigrated from Haiti to Quebec at the age of seven. He became an Olympic runner and gold medalist along with relay teammate Donovan Bailey.

Bruny Surin – Olympic Athlete

Bruny Surin, athlete (b at Cap Haïtien, Haiti, 12 July 1967). Surin was just seven years old when he immigrated to Québec. At the age of 17, he took an interest in the long jump and the triple jump. As a member of the Canadian team, he finished 15th in the long jump at the 1988 Seoul Olympic Games. However, the 100 m sprint would be the defining event of his career.

At the 1990 Commonwealth Games in Christchurch, New Zealand, he finished 3rd in the 100 m and 7th in the long jump. Surin placed 4th in the 100 m at his second Olympic Games in 1992, missing the podium by five one-hundredths of a second. After winning the 100 m sprint at the 1994 Jeux de la francophonie [Francophonie Games], Surin would go on to place second at the 1995 world championships.

Surin and his teammates won the gold medal in the 4 x 100 m relay at the 1996 Atlanta Olympic Games after dominating the race at the 1995 world championships. The Canadian team would successfully defend its title at the 1997 world championships.

He became the Canadian 100 m champion in 1998 with a time of 9.89 seconds, his fastest up until then. The highlight of his career came in 1999 when he ran the 100 m in under 10 seconds six times. Three of these times were at the world championships. In the final, he recorded a personal best with a time of 9.84 seconds, winning silver and missing the gold medal won by Maurice Greene by four one-hundredths of a second.

In 2009, a biography co-written by Bruny Surin and Saïd Khalil entitled Bruny Surin, le lion tranquille was published by Éditions Libre Expression in Montreal. The book covers Bruny Surin recounting 17 years of his sports career. In the book, Surin criticizes doping, describing it as a gangrene that ails athletics and all other sports.

His father lost his family in the 2010 Haiti earthquake. His oldest daughter is a professional tennis player and attends Penn State. His youngest daughter is a professional track and field athlete and recently committed to the University of Connecticut.

Founded in 2003, the Bruny Surin Foundation’s mission is to promote and encourage the adoption of a healthy lifestyle amongst youth in order to fight school dropout.

In addition to organizing seminars featuring well-known public figures for students and underprivileged children, the Bruny Surin Foundation coordinates training camps to encourage youngsters to adopt an active way of life.

The Foundation also provides direct financial support to elite athletes through annual contributions to the Fondation de l’athlète d’excellence du Québec. Thanks to the FBS Gala and the “Demi-Marathon Oasis de Blainville”, $1.5 million has been raised over the past 15 years.

Donovan Bailey (L) and Olympic teammate Bruny Surin (R) training for the relay.
Donovan Bailey (L) and Olympic teammate Bruny Surin (R) training for the relay.

Today’s Sources:

* CBC News Canada                                                     

* The Canadian Encyclopedia                                              

John’s Believe It Or Not… February 24th

* 1905 – Members of the Ottawa Silver Seven boot the Stanley Cup into the Rideau Canal. * 1917 Zimmermann Note presented to U.S. ambassador * 1988 Supreme Court defends right to satirize public figures * 1991 Gulf War ground offensive begins * 1786 Wilhelm Grimm is born

It’s Saturday! Did You Know…

* 1905 – Members of the Ottawa Silver Seven boot the Stanley Cup into the Rideau Canal.

On a lighter note today:

If you know anything about the early history of the Stanley Cup, you’ve probably heard this story: The Cup, hockey’s most famous championship trophy, was once kicked into the Rideau Canal in Ottawa. The tale has been passed down for generations — but it probably isn’t true. Continue reading “John’s Believe It Or Not… February 24th”

Black History Month In Canada… Carrie Mae Best

Carrie Mae Best was born in Nova Scotia where she dedicated her life to the improvement of race relations in her province and Canada.

Carrie Mae Best – Human Rights Activist, Author, Publisher, Broadcaster

Carrie Mae Best (née Prevoe), OC, LLD, human rights activist, author, journalist, publisher and broadcaster (born 4 March 1903 in New Glasgow, Nova Scotia; died 24 July 2001 in New Glasgow, Nova Scotia). Sparked by incidents of racial discrimination, Carrie Best became a civil rights activist. Co-founder of The Clarion, the first newspaper in Nova Scotia that was owned and published by Black Canadians, she used the platform to advocate for Black rights. As the editor, she publicly supported Viola Desmond in her case against the Roseland Theatre. Best used her voice in radio and print to bring positive change to society in Nova Scotia and Canada.

Carrie Mae Prevoe grew up in New Glasgow, Nova Scotia, in an era of racial discrimination. Although discrimination in Canada was less pronounced than in the United States, it was just as damaging and humiliating. Prevoe and her two brothers were encouraged by their parents, James and Georgina (Ashe) Prevoe, to study the history of African-Canadians and be proud of their Black heritage. Although they had not received good schooling themselves, the Prevoes emphasized the importance of education.

An intelligent child, Prevoe wrote her first poems at the age of four and often submitted her opinions in letters to the editors of local newspapers as a teenager. Unhappy with the racial stereotypes portrayed in popular books and local culture, Best sought out the work of African-American poets and historians.

Observing the calm strength and dignity of her mother, Prevoe knew from an early age that she would not accept the restrictions to which Blacks were subjected. Career choices for young women, in general, were limited, and even fewer options were available for non-white women. Prevoe considered nursing, but no Canadian schools accepted African-Canadians. She wasn’t interested in a teaching career in one of Nova Scotia’s segregated schools. And she refused to be a housekeeper for anyone other than herself.

Carrie married railway porter Albert Theophilus Best on 24 June 1925. They had one son, James Calbert Best, and later welcomed several foster children into their family: Berma, Emily, Sharon and Aubrey Marshall.

In December 1941, Carrie Best heard that several high school girls had been removed by force from the Roseland Theatre. The Black teens had attempted to sit in the “white only” section. Best was outraged. She vigorously argued against the racist policy to the Roseland Theatre’s owner, Norman Mason, in person and by letter, but her argument fell on deaf ears. It was time for Best to go to the movies.

A few days later, the 38-year-old and her son, Calbert, attempted to purchase tickets for the main floor of the theater. The cashier issued tickets for the balcony, the area reserved for Black patrons. Leaving the tickets on the counter, the mother and son walked into the auditorium. When the assistant manager demanded that they leave, the Bests refused and the police were called. Roughly hoisted from her seat by the officer, Best and her son were charged with disturbing the peace, convicted and fined. Best could now take legal action against the theater.

Filing a civil lawsuit that specified racial discrimination, Best claimed damages for assault and battery, damage to her coat and breach of contract. Mason and the Roseland Theatre Company Ltd. claimed that the Bests were trespassers without tickets. The case, heard on 12 May 1942, failed: the proprietor’s right to exclude anyone won out over the bigger issue of racism. The judge not only ignored the discrimination but also ordered Best to pay the defendant’s costs.

However, Best was not defeated. The persistent problems of racism and segregation would be publicly addressed by something arguably more powerful than the legal system: Best started a newspaper.

In 1946, Carrie Best and her son, Calbert, founded The Clarion, the first Nova Scotia newspaper owned and published by Black Canadians. Initially a 20- by 25-centimeter broadsheet, The Clarion reported on sports, news, social activities and other significant events. Incorporated in 1947, the paper placed emphasis on better race relations. For a decade, The Clarion covered many important issues and advocated for Black rights. In 1956, it was renamed The Negro Citizen and began national circulation.

Carrie Best slide with brief biographical information
(University Settlement)

* CBC News Canada                                                      

* The Canadian Encyclopedia                                             

John’s Believe It Or Not… February 23rd

* 1893 – Lord Stanley Donates Dominion Hockey Challenge Cup  * 1945 U.S. flag raised on Iwo Jima * 1885 A remarkable reprieve for a man sent to the gallows * 1954 Children receive first polio vaccine * 1861 Lincoln avoids assassination attempt

It’s Friday! TGIF! Did You Know…

* 1893 – Lord Stanley Donates Dominion Hockey Challenge Cup 

Was there ever a “golden age” of sport? Lord Stanley hoped to contribute to one when he donated his famous Cup in 1892.

Lord Stanley of Preston, who was Governor General of Canada from 1888 to 1893, was one of those devoted British sportsmen who helped create the world of organized sport that dominates our culture today. The British gave the world football (soccer), rugby, golf, cricket and many other sports — all in the name of developing healthy bodies and minds that could hold the far-flung British Empire together. Continue reading “John’s Believe It Or Not… February 23rd”

It Comes Down To Reading

Jennie Fitzke has gifted us with an article about the benefits of reading aloud to young children that will prepare them for success in life. Please share.

A Teacher's Reflections

Children who were in my class many years ago are now making decisions on college acceptances.  They stay in touch, and I feel the worry and joy right along with them.  And guess what happens?  They are accepted into the school(s) of their choice.  And, I know why.  I do.

It’s not me.  Really.  It comes down to reading.  Hang onto your hat for these statistics, and one of the best stories about a kid from Russell, Kentucky.

Jim Trelease was spot on when he said “Reading is the heart of education.  The knowledge of almost every subject in school flows from reading.  One must be able to read the word problem in math to understand it.  If you cannot read the science or social studies chapter, how do you answer the questions at the end of the chapter?”

Parents tell me all the time about their child’s struggles in…

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John’s Believe It Or Not… February 22nd

* 1813 – George Macdonnell leads raid on US Fort Ogdensburg. * 1980 U.S. hockey team makes miracle on ice * 1819 The U.S. acquires Spanish Florida * 1847 Battle of Buena Vista begins * 2006 Gang commits largest robbery in British history

It’s Thursday! Did You Know…

* 1813 – George Macdonnell leads raid on US Fort Ogdensburg.

The Battle of Ogdensburg was a battle of the War of 1812. The British gained a victory over the Americans and captured the village of Ogdensburg, New York. Although small in scale, it removed the American threat to British supply lines for the remainder of the war. Continue reading “John’s Believe It Or Not… February 22nd”

Thursday – A Little Personal – Lucy and Bailey Get Motivated

Lucy and Bailey are independent-minded furry kids in this delightful episode brought to us by author John W. Howell. Please enjoy and share.

Fiction Favorites

Lucy and Bailey

“Hey, Lucy. The sun is out.”

“Wa—huh. Oh, it’s you, Boss.”

“Come on let’s go outside.”

“Aw Boss. You know I’m still recovering from that teeth extravaganza.”

“How about you Bailey?”

“How about you Bailey what Pops?”

“Outside. You and me. Toss around the old tennis ball.”

“Mmm. Sounds delightful but I’ll pass.”

“Here. Take this toy. We’ll play fetch.”

“Gee Pops. Ever hear of siesta.”

“Sure, but you know I have a post tomorrow and I thought we could get some photos of a man and his dogs having a great time.”

“Hey, Lucy. You hear Pops. You in?”

“Oh yeah. I have the toy which you tucked under my paw. Now if I could only get up and take it to you, Boss.”

“Okay, you two. I can see we are going to have to spin this story in a different direction.”

“What are you doing, Pops?

“Bringing out the props.”


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Black History Month In Canada… John Ware

John Ware, born into slavery in South Carolina, was raised in Texas became a skilled cowboy before settling in the Alberta area in Canada.

John Ware – Cowboy and Rancher

John Ware, cowboy, rancher (born 1845 near Georgetown, SC; died 13 September 1905 near Brooks, AB). John Ware was born a slave on a cotton plantation and apparently grew up on a small ranch in northern Texas, although the historical record of his life is far from clear. He gained his freedom at the close of the American Civil War (1865) and drifted west, eventually finding work on a ranch near Fort Worth, Texas.

Ware lived in what we may consider the golden age of the ranching frontier and achieved heroic status for his impressive physical strength, remarkable horsemanship, good nature, and courage. The true story of the man is difficult to discern from the legends built around him. Documentation about his life is rare and most of what is known about him comes from commentaries written by fellow cowboys, but those accounts did not begin to appear until the late 1930s. Ware was predeceased by his wife and died while his children were very young.

In the many stories told about John Ware, his strength and skill with livestock are central features. He was said to have walked over the backs of penned steers without fear and that he could stop a steer head-on and wrestle it to the ground. It was also said that he could break the wildest broncos, trip a horse by hand and hold it on its back to be shod, and easily lift an 18-month-old steer and throw it on his back for branding.

Regardless of the level of hyperbole extant in the stories of John Ware, his status as regional folk hero gives testament to how well-respected he was. The characteristics attributed to him are those shared by the frontier heroes of cowboy subculture. What distinguishes him the most, however, is how successfully he, as a Black man, established himself in the Eurocentric society of 19th-century Canada.

Ware’s freedom came at the same time that ranching spread across the Midwestern United States. He traveled west and honed his skill as a cowboy. An experienced cowhand by the late 1870s, he was employed driving herds of Texas cattle northward along the Western Cattle Trail to the distant ranges in Wyoming and Montana territories. In 1882, he was hired to help bring 3000 head of cattle from the US to Sir Hugh Allan’s North West Cattle Company ranch, commonly known as the Bar U Ranch, in the foothills southwest of Calgary. Ware found that experienced cowboys were much in demand in this northernmost edge of the ranching frontier. He remained in the area and worked for several large cattle companies. In 1884 he started working for the Quorn Ranch on the Sheep River; it had a large herd of cattle but it also raised horses for the English market. Ware was put in charge of the horse herd.

In the spring of 1885, a large round-up was undertaken from Fort Macleod to search the foothills from Calgary to the Montana border. It involved 100 cowboys, 15 chuckwagons, and 500 horses. Ware represented the Quorn Ranch and was described in the Macleod Gazette as “not only one of the best natured and most obliging fellows in the country, but he is one of the shrewdest cowmen, and the man is considered pretty lucky who has him to look after his interest. The horse is not running on the prairie which John cannot ride.”

Before the round-up began, Ware registered his own brand, which was known as the four nines (9999) or walking-stick brand. In 1898 he re-registered it as three nines. He started his own ranch in the foothills in 1890 and in 1892 married Mildred Lewis, who had come to Calgary with her family from Ontario. In the face of increasing settlement in 1900, Ware moved to a new ranch site along the Red Deer River east of Brooks. His home was destroyed by the spring flood of 1902. Ware re-constructed the cabin for his wife and five children (a sixth child had died in infancy) on higher ground overlooking a stream, which is now called Ware Creek.

The family did not occupy the new home for long. In April 1905, Mildred died of pneumonia and typhoid. The following September, Ware was killed when his horse tripped in a badger hole and fell on him. His funeral in Calgary was attended by ranchers from around the region; John Ware was mourned by the ranching community as one of its most respected members.

John Ware was known to his friends and neighbors as “N—er John.” The racism of Ware’s time was enacted with thoughtless disregard for the individual; even though people liked and respected Ware, they referred to him in a way that we today would immediately label as pejorative. N—er is a potent word; it conveys the sense of inferiority and ignorance even as its historical context reveals the tragedies and triumphs of American history.

There are several places in southern Alberta named for John Ware, including Mount Ware, Ware Creek, and John Ware Ridge (formerly N—er John Ridge). Calgary is home to John Ware Junior High and at the Southern Alberta Institute of Technology, the John Ware Building houses the Four Nines Cafeteria.

John Ware Postage Stamp (Canadian Postage Stamp Catalogue)
(Canadian Postage Stamp Catalogue)

Today’s Sources:

* CBC News Canada                                                      

* The Canadian Encyclopedia                                              

Honoring The Hero Aaron Feis Of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School In Parkland. FL.

Gronda Morin has gifted us with a moving commemoration of the self-sacrificing actions of Coach Aaron Feis at the Parkland school shooting last week. Please share.

Gronda Morin

There is a cartoon garnering widespread attention for its touching portrayal of a hero who shielded his students from bullets at the 2/14/18 mass shooting tragedy at a Parkland, FL. High School.

Here’s the rest of the story…

On February 20, 2018, Samantha Schmidt of the Washington Post penned the following report, “This single cartoon about school shootings is breaking people’s hearts”

As news of the deadly mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., unfolded last week, Pia Guerra, a 46-year-old Vancouver-based artist, felt helpless. She couldn’t bring herself to go to sleep, so she began to draw.

“About 6 a.m., she came up with an idea. One of the first victims identified among the 17 people killed was Aaron Feis, an assistant football coach and security guard. Feis was shot after reportedly throwing himself in front of students during the rampage. Guerra was moved by the thought of this heroic…

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