BY: JELANI GRANT
At the back of The Spot inside Yorkgate on Jane and Finch, Dave Rankin and Shadow are referring to Dr. Yosef Ben-Jochannan’s A Chronology of the Bible, leading a lesson about the origin and evolution of religions and how they relate to African history.
Their mentor, Derrick Williams, began the African History Club in 2006 at the Knowledge Bookstore in Brampton. Once he left, Rankin and Shadow moved the monthly gatherings to Jane and Finch. “[African History Club] is about bringing our truth to light”, said Rankin. “We are making sure that our history is told by our perspective and taught by us, allowing us to be proud as a people. Not being forced into one line of thought, but now expanding your thoughts. We want everybody to leave here with a sense of pride and develop a sense of who they are in this world.”
Members of the group are given tasks to complete before the next class so they are able to better understand the content discussed as well as engage in the lesson by sharing their interpretations. “That interaction is important,” said Shadow. “It’s a study class, you don’t just study by sitting there listening.”
Though there are no assigned texts, the lessons do draw references from particular texts. They send out the presentations to everyone, included with the text references so they can build their own libraries of African history texts. “If we have something set that we want our class to read this specifically, so that they come prepared for the next one, but in most cases, we have references we just send out.”
In order to spread the knowledge of African history, Shadow suggests the best option is creating black-owned spaces that can provide relevant resources. “We have to own our own buildings, our own schools. We need to take ownership and put the right people in place to educate our children. We have to break free from the mentality that many of us are trapped in.”
Rankin agreed saying, “We have to now develop a sense of pride. “A lot of us love being black because we have a rich and deep history. We now have to use that pride to develop our own.”
“The education system we have today was not designed to educate African youth. It’s designed to teach white youth how to become leaders,” said Shadow.
In Toronto, there has been a demand for the inclusion of black history in the regular history curriculum. Last year, CBC’s Hadyn Waters heard from Torontonians who suggested that the contributions of black history to Canada are too significant to exclude. “We have become an additive to the education system. Even in the additive, it is selective when you are added and what information is taught to you”, said Rankin.
While school boards debate whether or not to add a part of history that represents more of Toronto’s demographic, Rankin and Shadow say they will provide an option for people to refer to. “I grew up in a predominately white area. They had Italian school on Saturday. We couldn’t find an Afrocentric school in my neighborhood. When we begin to not ask anyone else to help develop our own and just develop our own, we’ll be in a better situation.”
For the next couple of months, the club will be looking at and just recently looked at the origin and evolution of religions. They’ve also studied the historical journey of African people, invaders coming into Kemet (the Israelite Exodus), the lectures of Dr. Frances Cress Welsing and white supremacy. All are welcome to join the lesson. “We encourage everybody to come out, sit for an hour… you’ll see the gradual steps that are taken.” giving members of the Jane and Finch community a place to learn African history and discuss issues within the black community.
The Spot is where they gather, every last Sunday of the month, to conduct their classes. The Spot deals with immigrant and youth support in acclimating and excelling in school, finding work, housing, and assisting youth with legal issues. music studio.