Beryl Dickinson-Dash


In 1949 Beryl Dickinson-Dash was a third year arts major attending McGill University in Montreal. At the time, only 150 of 8,500 McGill students were black. Most blacks were international students, Beryl Dickinson-Dash belonged to a handful of Canadian born black students, notedly a black Canadian woman who knew of no other black female Canadian students.

Beryl with her mother Maisy

Winter Carnival was a big deal at McGill, a mid-winter festival presided over by Carnival queen and four princesses. Keen beauties required 25 signatures from male students to secure nomination. Without her knowledge, the roommate of Beryl’s boyfriend (whom she later married) submitted a photo she’d given her boyfriend on his birthday along with 25 signatures from black male students. Beryl was shocked to find herself one of 26 official candidates.

Next came the ceremonial tea, an afternoon of polite white glove decorum and radio interviews. 26 were cut to 15, 15 became 5 finalists after a second round of interviews and struts. Beryl made the final cut. Each candidate was assigned a campaign manager.

Campaigns reached fever pitch, Beryl’s boyfriend, his brother, roommate and black students rallied behind her. Telegrams were sent to McGill posing as endorsement from prominent companies and organizations. Posters of Beryl appeared in every classroom. Voting booths with scrutineers proved seriousness of a fair vote. Results were leaked several days before official crowning. Beryl won by a landside, so much so final numbers wouldn’t be released as doing so might “injure the other girls”. Just past midnight, March 5, 1949 on her 21st birthday, Beryl Dickinson-Dash was crowned McGill Carnival Queen at the Montreal Forum in front of 8,000 spectators.

A newspaper clipping from March 5, 1949, announcing the pageant victory. (Submitted by Bradley Rapier)

Beryl doesn’t know why a predominantly white student body elected her Carnival queen. “Perhaps they were tired of how things were” she said. Regardless, she became a media sensation, front page news in papers and magazines. South of the border, Color magazine sponsored Dickinson-Dash (now Beryl Rapier) for a two week trip to West Virginia – her first negro college. A painting of Beryl standing in front of West Virginia state capital building by artist William Edouard Scott titled Spirit of Democracy was presented to McGill as a token of appreciation from people of America. I remind you – it was 1949!

Color magazine sponsored a two-week trip to West Virginia for Rapier. A press clipping from that trip features photographs of her at West Virginia State College. (Submitted by Bradley Rapier)

Sadly, few people in Canada know the story of Beryl Dickinson-Dash. But for stumbling upon her story last week courtesy CBC Radio Doc Project, I’d remain oblivious to a remarkable moment in Canadian history. More photos and history at the link below –

https://www.cbc.ca/radio/docproject/how-montrealer-beryl-dickinson-dash-made-history-as-mcgill-s-first-black-queen-of-carnival-1.5605944

Over Everything


Two of my favorite artists, Kurt Vile and Courtney Barnett buddy up to sing Over Everything.  “When I’m outside in a real good mood, you can almost forget ’bout all the other things, like a big ol’ ominous cloud in my periphery”. Know it’s okay to step outside by yourself to appreciate inexplicable subtleties of daily life all too often muddied by calamitous headlines. Sometimes we just need to breath. Enjoy….

What The Fudd?


On May 27,2020 HBO Max began airing a series of eighty, eleven minute reinvented classic Looney Tunes cartoons. Reinvented as in “we’re not doing guns” according to Peter Browngardt, series executive producer at HBO Max. Looney Tunes icon Elmer Fudd, bumbling shotgun wielding hunter of “wascally wabbits”  since the early 1940s, now chases “wabbits” with a scythe. A scythe? What the Fudd?

Browngardt is quick to assure cartoon aficionados – “But we can do cartoony violence – TNT, the Acme stuff. All that was kind of grandfathered in.” Dynamite, booby traps, falling anvils, bank safes and pianos remain, guns and get this, “bullying” are out. What the Fudd?

On one hand there’s the NRA giving storybook characters guns – https://notestoponder.wordpress.com/2016/04/05/little-red-riding-hood-has-a-gun/ on the other HBO Max replaces Elmer Fudd’s shotgun with a scythe – https://www.msn.com/en-us/tv/news/looney-tunes-has-taken-elmer-fudds-gun-away-for-hbo-max-revival/ar-BB158Dvu What the Fudd?

How about Yosemite Sam? Will HBO Max replace his pistols with machetes? If this is how American entertainment executives tackle gun violence, I give up. What the Fudd?

See the source image

See the source image

https://www.msn.com/en-us/tv/news/looney-tunes-has-taken-elmer-fudds-gun-away-for-hbo-max-revival/ar-BB158Dvu

Try To Live With Polite Spiders


Several months ago a tiny spider appeared on the bathroom windowsill. I said hello. Odd as this sounds, Spring doesn’t officially arrive until a polite spider homesteads on my bathroom sill. It’s been that way every year of twenty one lived in this house. Suffice to say welcoming spring spider, keeping her polite existence to myself is problematic. Mine is not a family of arachnid sympathizers. I clean around her, know that when startled she retreats through a vent in the aluminum window frame and hope for the best. In two months she’s doubled in size. Twice as large, neither a threat or concern – polite spiders know their place.

Arachnophobia is real, I get it. Expecting others to embrace polite house spiders is a big ask. That said it’s important to understand how vital spiders are to the balance of nature. Their prime directive is to control insect populations be it aphid, fly, moth or mosquito. Everyone needs to relax, understand house spiders are polite and predictable without a lick of animosity toward the human race.

Why is it I embrace the annual appearance of polite bathroom spiders while my family feels obliged to eradicate them with insecticide, wads of tissue or unceremonious suction of a vacuum hose? All because house spiders are demonized as vile marauders!  Oh my goodness, they’re not malicious, it’s so disheartening. I’m not asking you to hug spiders, I’m asking for restraint. Share your home with spiders, they mean no harm and conduct themselves with polite propriety if left alone. Sigh.

 

Rumsfeld On Looting


In April 2003 following the U.S. invasion of Iraq,  then Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said this of looting and lawlessness in Baghdad –

“While no one condones looting, one can understand the pent-up feelings that may result from decades of repression and people who have had members of their family killed by that regime. And I don’t think there’s anyone who wouldn’t accept it as part of the price of getting from a repressed regime to freedom.” – https://edition.cnn.com/2003/US/04/11/sprj.irq.pentagon/

Another time, place, defense secretary and president in U.S. history. Words spoken by a man who orchestrated invasion of Iraq,  the man who authorized waterboarding, deprivation and torture of prisoners in violation of the Geneva Conventions. A man who said “stuff happens” when asked about unrest in Iraq. The same man who said he didn’t think anyone wouldn’t accept looting and lawlessness as part of the price of getting from a repressed regime to freedom.

Ponder Rumsfeld’s words in the context of what’s happening in America tonight.

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Archie Williams


In 1982 Archie Williams was charged and convicted of a crime he didn’t commit – rape/stabbing of a white woman. Despite three witnesses testifying he was home, no crime scene fingerprint match, he was sentenced to life without chance of parole. Case closed, white justice, black man in jail. Archie was sent to Louisiana’s Angola State Prison, arguably America’s most brutal institution. Archie wallowed in Angola for 37 years. But for the Innocence Project reopening his case, using modern DNA technology and fingerprint data bases proving the crime was committed by a serial rapist – Archie Williams would have toiled in Angola chain gangs to his dying breath.

Last night Archie Williams told his story on America’s Got Talent. Everyone needs to watch this clip, ask themselves how many more Archie Williams fill U.S. prisons for no reason other than they’re black men.

Quarantine Playlist


Music is a powerful elixir, tonic capable of lifting spirits with inexplicable harmonic energy. Tonight’s quarantine playlist started with Casual Viewin’ by iconic Canadian band 54-40, a curious choice considering their vast catalogue and undeniable place on my top ten list of favorite bands. 54 40 could sing the phonebook and I’d be happy, Casual Viewin’ makes me smile, if that’s not quarantine tonic I don’t know what is.

Next played Over Everything by Courtney Barnett and Kurt Vile. Two fav artists joining to produce a song that makes me feel good –

For no discernible reason I turned to old school hip hop. Beatie Boys and Salt N Pepa –

Currently I’m digging Who Will Save Your Soul by Jewel –

Quarantine playlists are fascinating. What we listen to speaks volumes about our mindset.

Staff Infection


As quarantine restrictions ease across North America, restaurant owners leapt on reopening despite regional restrictions on capacity and seating distance. On May 19th British Columbia allowed restaurants to open at 50% capacity. Enthusiastic public response filled patios to the brim, patrons wait in long lines hoping for a seat at normality’s table. Overnight, a palpable transformation played out across the city. Akin to getting out of jail, an inch of freedom gave way to miles of opportunity. I can so I will took root.

Yesterday, youngest son returned to work at a trendy Yaletown eatery.  Normal need not apply, patrons are splurging on bottle service, tipping with wild abandon and filling available seats until closing bell. His observations aren’t unique, permission to sit at restaurant tables amounts to viral imperative for familiar social surroundings.

Rejoice, sit with friends, drink draft beer, take comfort in health regulations requiring service staff to wear face masks. So great, right? Not so fast. What about the rights of service staff? Patrons don’t have to wear face masks, they’re not touching plates, glasses or cutlery of others. They don’t languish in a steamy dish pit, sweltering behind mandatory face masks as scalding steam covers them in particulate moisture. No big deal, what’s a handful of service staff compared to optics of economic revitalization?

Actually it’s a very big deal and frankly I’m appalled.

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Incel Terrorism


Incel stands for involuntarily celibate, hash-tag/moniker of a profoundly misogynistic online community united by feelings of sexual rejection. Long simmering Incel hatred of women took root years ago in shadowy forums and alt-right chatter hubs. Amid a plethora of mass shootings and violent crime the Incel movement went largely unnoticed until now. Today, Canada elevated Incel aggression to criminal act of terrorism.

In February 2020 a 17 year old machete wielding male entered a Toronto massage parlour, killing Ashley Noelle Arzaga, seriously wounding two more women. Ontario police arrested the suspect on site, initially charging him with first degree murder and two counts of attempted murder. Further investigation brought in the RCMP Integrated National Security Enforcement Team when evidence indicated the attack was motivated by Incel ideology. On May 19, 2020 RCMP updated charges to, “murder – terrorist activity.”

Incels favour “Chad” and “Stacey” as namesakes for hate and envy.  Chad men are attractive but intellectually flawed, Stacy are women who reject incels for Chads. Don’t scoff, this is deeply messed up psychology.  Serious enough for Canada to lay terrorism charges against a young man attacking women at a Toronto massage parlour.

Incel motivated violence against women isn’t new. The link below illustrates numerous atrocities directed at women by awkward inductees of this murky online movement. What’s new, dare I say historical is Canada’s interpretation of the offence.

Ours is not a Chad and Stacy world. Ours is a online world where Chad and Stacy loathing involuntary celibates bloom in basement solidarity. Right, wrong or knee jerk Canadian perspective, as of May 19, 2020 intel motivated violence is an act of terrorism in Canada.

What is the ‘incel’ movement that police allege inspired a terrorist attack at Toronto massage parlour?