Entertaining to Educate

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By Claudia De Simone

His calculated rhythm and emphasis on certain words paint a clear picture. He knows exactly when to breathe and how much breath is needed to recite a verse. His hands move back and forth, helping to tell the story. Dwayne Morgan’s eyes don’t blink.

“I want to show people another perspective to something that’s ordinary,” says the spoken word artist, who won the Best Spoken Word Recording Award at the Urban Music Awards.

The Toronto resident has been doing his spoken word thing, “rapping without the music,” he says, for nine years. And on Friday, Feb. 22, Morgan will perform as part of Black History Month’s Educational Day (2 p.m. in the Olive Baker Lounge, A-144). Organizers include RACA, Ryerson’s African Caribbean Association and NSBE, National Society of Black Engineers.

Black History Month is an opportunity to explore and share the historical and present day contributions of African-Canadians. It began as Negro History Week in the United States in 1926, and expanded to Black History Month in the 1960s.

The celebration was brought to Toronto by the Canadian Negro Women’s association, in the 1950s. Black History Month has been officially proclaimed by the City of Toronto since 1979, largely due to the efforts of the Ontario Black History Society. In 1995, February was officially recognized throughout Canada as Black History Month following a unanimously adopted motion in the House of Commons by Jean Augustine, Member of Parliament for Etobicoke-Lakeshore.

“I think we should have black history days every day,” says Fathia Are, v.p. of RACE. Are says the purpose of the Educational Day is to promote an understanding of the interest of Africa and Caribbean people at Ryerson.

Neil Thompson, president of NSBE’s Toronto chapter, says that Black History Month focuses too much on entertainment and not enough on educational events.

“To me, it just reinforces the stereotype that Blacks are only good at dancing and singing! I think that the combination of education and entertainment often fails and that people only see the entertainment component and miss out the educational side,” he says.

But Morgan brings the flavour of traditional African and native cultures’ oral storytelling to his audiences.

“I like to try and inspire people to write and explore language and use the language, not necessarily to perform, but to get things down. The society that we live in bases everything on what’s written,” says Morgan.

He writes about love, oppression, racism and how people treat each other.

Are says she hopes for a good turn out. That way, events like this could take place every couple of months, instead of waiting for Black History Month.

“Black people, more than any other race of people, need to believe that, in spite of slavery and current systemic discrimination, that they’ve come from a storied history.

Other races do not have that problem, since they’ve kept their history,” says Thompson. “Black History Month serves as a cohesive force that brings blacks of different origin together; it makes them realize that they’re more alike than they are unalike.”

RACA president Bukola Okuribido chose not to comment.

Aside from entertainment and a book display, the day provides an opportunity to sample East African and Caribbean dishes and a screening of the film, Red-X, about the life of Peter Tosh, one of the three original Wailers of Bob Marley and the Wailers. Cover is $5 for RACA members and $7 for non-members.

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