Black History Month

Black History Month

Posted on February 16 by Craig Shreve in Interview, Non-fiction
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Black history is something that surrounded me every day as a youth. I grew up in North Buxton, a mostly black town in southwestern Ontario that was a popular destination for slaves escaping from the southern U.S. via the Underground Railroad. The original one-room schoolhouse from the Elgin Settlement still stands near the center of town. I can recall one year, during Black History Month, my class at the mostly white school I attended in nearby Merlin had arranged to visit North Buxton on a field trip. We were given an assignment to find certain historically significant names in the cemetery, and shade the headstones on to paper. I can clearly remember the surreal disconnect of watching my classmates sketching the headstones of people who I knew as not-so-distant relatives — my great-great-grandfather, and a few great-aunts and great-uncles. I’m fortunate enough in my life that race is not an ever-present thought, but here was one of those moments that reminded me quite jarringly that I was different from those around me. Those moments always come with the realization that had I been born 25 years earlier, or 200 years earlier, the freedoms and opportunities which I take for granted would not have been available to me.

Being born in the place and time that I was, I know that I’ve been spared the worst elements of racism. Certainly there have been isolated occurrences and individual confrontations, but I have never felt that I have been discriminated against in any significant or systematic way. I also know that I owe this fact entirely to the strength and courage of those who came before me. My research during the writing of One Night in Mississippi reminded me that generations of black men and women lived with the fear of violence as part of their daily lives, and that they chose to not let that fear hold them back from demanding the rights and respect that we now commonly acknowledge are due to all. Much like Remembrance Day, when I show my appreciation for those who have fought and sacrificed for my freedom, Black History Month is an opportunity for me to show my appreciation for those who have fought and sacrificed for my equality. In both cases, a simple thank you seems wholly inadequate, but from the bottom of my heart I offer it nonetheless. Thank you.

 

Craig Shreve

Posted by Dundurn Guest on December 6, 2014
Craig Shreve photo

Craig Shreve

Craig Shreve was born and raised in North Buxton, Ontario, the final destination for slaves escaping the United States via the Underground Railroad, and is a descendant of Mary Ann Shadd Cary, a nineteenth-century anti-slavery activist. He is a graduate of The School for Writers at Humber College and was a semi-finalist in Amazon’s Breakthrough Novel Award in 2010. Craig lives in Chatham, Ontario.