|November 22, 2013
Some Black History in Perspective
Fifty years ago in Mattawa on November 12, 1963, Dr. Firmin
Monestime was elected as Canada’s first black mayor. The news spread across
Canada and in key locations in the U.S. Mattawa, as seen in their museum, has
had some remarkable individuals for a community its size. National leaders,
athletes, artists, authors, entrepreneurs. Dr. Monestime is unique. Mattawa’s
main street and the town’s Council Chambers are named after him. He became
mayor officially on
January 1, 1964 and won 9
times until his death in 1977 . His achievements spread well beyond Mattawa. He
was a widely active member of the Consevative Party, a member of the national
executive and he ran to be president. The Algonquin Nursing Home which was
founded by him and his wife Zena and daughter Vala has been a significant force
in the community since 1975.
Mayor Monestime on the main street of Mattawa.
There is a plan in the works in
Toronto to recognize Dr. Monestime’s
achievement during Black History Month next February with a possible Mattawa
showing at the
Museum in the summer of 2014.
I have written several articles on Dr. Monestime and a book
about him – Where Rivers Meet: The Story of Dr. S.F. Monestime
Canada’s First Black Mayor (For
the articles Google Heritage Perspectives – Monestime and click on article
titles). The book is available in many bookstores and
online from our Past Forward Company
Martin Luther King Jr.
One of the stories in the book that has relevance today is
the 50th anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King’s Famous “I Have a
Dream” speech at the Lincoln Memorial in
Washington in August. A quarter million
people in 1963 heard what many have said was the greatest speech ever made in
America. King’s delivery style has
been analyzed and his words repeated many times.
Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
The large August 2013 assembly gathered at the Lincoln
Memorial along with President Barack Obama and former Presidents Clinton and
Carter to remember the speech 50 years ago.
The coincidence of the King/Monestime dates is echoed in a
reference in the Monestime book. Dr. Monestime’s family including his four
children heard the King speech50 years ago and were especially moved by one of
King’s statements. He said that he dreamed that he and his four children would
“one day live in a nation where they would not be judged by the colour of their
skin, but by the content of their character.”
King in another speech said “Deep in the history of our
struggle for freedom – Canada was the North Star – followed by the Underground
Railway”. King gave the prestigious Massey Lecture in Canada in 1965 and was
assassinated in 1967 at age 39. The struggle is not over but great strides have
been made for the 2.5% of
Canada’s 35 million population that
Long Standing Black Senator Retires
Apropos the great strides, Donald Oliver Canada's first
black male member of the Canadian Senate including several as Deputy
Speaker retired last weekend, as is mandatory, on his 75th birthday after 23
years-currently the 4th longest standing member. He was an active lawyer before
entering politics. Anne Cools was the first female black senator 4 years before
Oliver. For more on these Senators Google their names .
Heritage Perspective Home Page