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

Vancouver Street Names


This afternoon a friend sent a link to origins of Vancouver street names. Researcher Justin McElroy used City of Vancouver open data sets to eliminate numbered avenues/streets and duplicate names to arrive at 651 unique street names.

https://newsinteractives.cbc.ca/longform/streets

McElroy determined 90% of named streets had documented stories linked to specific events, persons or things. 62 street names had no discernable origin, names like Adanac (Canada spelled backward) or Little, a one block East Vancouver pipsqueak.  I live on the corner of a numbered avenue and Willow, one of 38 named tree/plant streets. To the east I cross 11 streets named for Canadian provinces, to the west a wave of 20 streets named for military battles. Explorers (31), royalty (20), dead Europeans (28), B.C. places (19), places in the United Kingdom (25), geography (56), industry (22),  B.C. landowners (46), prominent railway persons (27), B.C. politicians (27), golf courses (26), connection to George Vancouver (12), universities (6), indigenous names (11), North American places (8), ships (6), hotels or houses (7), characters in novels by Walter Scott (12), Canadian historical figures (11), civic politicians (28), city/government officials (13), B.C. pioneers (6), forestry (11), business owners (9) miscellaneous persons unrelated to other categories (11) and a police dog named Valiant round out the list.

Valiant Street was named for Valiant, the first of eight Vancouver Police Service Dogs that have died from injuries suffered while on the job. (VPD)

Valiant was Vancouver’s first police dog to perish in the line of duty, shot in 1967 by an escaped prisoner on the run from authorities.

McElroy determined over half of Vancouver’s unique streets fell into 5 categories –

I’ve always taken street names for granted, history didn’t unfold until pausing to ponder nomenclature of the place I call home.

Peter Mansbridge


Not outraged, overly surprised or angry – I’m disappointed, as in let down – the feeling you got as a kid when promises gave way to reality and circumstance. Wishing with all your heart explanation and apology made sense of crushing disappointment – wanting to trust the bearer of bad news because you loved and counted on them, yet knowing deep down  unconditional faith could be shaken. That moment when young perspective feel victim to harsh reality.

Peter Mansbridge is chief correspondent for CBC News, The National, a position of “news anchor” held since 1995; the longest running anchor in Canadian history, a household name for decades – the voice of Canada – an icon representing fair unbiased journalism, the epitome of a nation set apart by our conviction and principles. The face of CBC, an organization I’ve championed for honest reporting in our misinformed,  media circus world.

All grown up now and not so naïve as to think any news corporation actually escaped government, corporate or religious tentacles – news of Mansbridge accepting healthy pay checks to speak at oil and gas interest extravaganzas left me questioning my Canada.

http://o.canada.com/business/peter-mansbridge-capp-conflict-of-interest/

CBC is a government funded “crown corporation”. Established in 1936 with radio, adding public television in 1952 – under direction of a president, appointed by Canada’s Governor General on “advice” of the Prime Minister – CBC (despite supplemental advertising money) is ultimately controlled by Federal dollars. Canadians have become so accustomed to cultural, artistic and no nonsense investigative reporting – we forget who signs the checks.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Canadian_Broadcasting_Corporation

Getting back to Mansbridge – Canadian tongues are wagging over reports his presence is for sale as key note speaker to oil and gas interests. For a price, which he defends as “being entitled to activities in my private life”, Mansbridge head lined the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers (CAPP) at an Investment Symposium in 2012. Reports have him cashing a check from Cenovus at the Association of Canadian Oil Landmen in 2011. CBC spokesman Chuck Thompson stated Mansbridge is “encouraged” to speak, and all speaking engagements are cleared with CBC management.

Hmm – ponder that a moment; correct me if I’m wrong – management (our government) encourages Mansbridge – arguably one of the most recognizable Canadians, to accept money for speaking in the interest of  energy shenanigans. The same government hell bent on rolling out the red carpet to foreign investment, environmental white washing and “end justifies the means” tactics.

Far from being in any position other than gut reaction – this is one disillusioned Canadian with less than fuzzy feelings towards my formerly sacred CBC.

CBC news anchor Peter Mansbridge poses for a photo at Toronto studios as the television network announces its 2013-14 season preview on Wednesday May 22, 2013.

Ponder John Ware


Following the George Zimmerman verdict my thoughts turned to considerable ponders of the differences between the United States and Canada .Slap you in the face points like gun legislation, healthcare, employment standards or education have been beaten to death. I searched my mind for just the right angle to approach the subject from a different perspective.  The name John Ware kept floating to the surface; not one to discount a gut feeling, John Ware stands as my attempt to clear rather muddy ideological waters.

John Ware was born a slave on the cotton plantations of South Carolina.  A free man after the civil war he made his way to Texas, finding work as a ranch hand. In 1882 he was part of a cattle drive moving 3000 cattle across the border to the North West Cattle Co. Bar U Ranch outside Calgary Alberta. Ware decided to stay in Canada; in 1884 he found work at Quorn Ranch, and put in charge of raising horses destined for the English market. The legend of John Ware was born.

In 1885 Ware took part in a massive cattle round-up from Fort Macleod  to the Montana border. An article in the Macleod Gazette wrote “not only one of the best natured and most obliging fellows in the country, but he is one of the shrewdest cow men, and the man considered pretty lucky who has him to look after his interests. The horse is not running the prairie which John cannot ride”

Hard work and saving every penny allowed Ware to register his own cattle brand; by 1890 he had his own ranch. Two years later he married Mildred Lewis.Their first home was wiped out in the flood of 1902, they resettled with their five children near Brooks, Alberta. In 1905 Mildred died of Pneumonia, the next fall Ware died when thrown from his horse after it tripped in a Badger hole.

Held in Calgary, the funeral of John Ware was the largest in history up to that point. The minister is quoted as saying – “John Ware was a man with beautiful skin. Every human skin is as beautiful as the person who wears it. To know John Ware was to know a gentleman – one of Gods gentlemen”

Ask yourself, in what corner of 1905 America would a black cowboy have received this tribute?

http://www.calgarymemories.com/index.php?view=article&catid=5%3Aclancys&id=30%3Atall-in-the-saddle&option=com_content

John Ware stamp

John Ware stamp issued by Canada Post in 2012

Canada’s Residential Schools


Misguided pondering by the Canadian government at the turn of the century, believed aboriginal children could best be assimilated into society by removing them from their families,  sending them for 10 months of the year to church run residential schools. At first, just over 1000 children attended 69 schools across the country. By the time the program reached its zenith in 1931, there were over 100 schools operating in every province. Estimates put the number of children forced into this system at 150,000.

Separated by gender, forbidden to use their native language, often physically and sexually abused, they emerged broken and dysfunctional. The last school closed in 1996. On June 11, 2008 Prime Minister Steven Harper gave an official apology to victims, in a House of Commons speech. After much legal wrangling a compensation package worth almost 2 billion was agreed upon. Broken down, each victim would receive 10,000 for their first year at school, 3,000 for each additional year. Cases of sexual abuse will be dealt with separately. The churches involved have all given public apologies, and were ordered to pay 100 million towards “healing” initiatives.

http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/story/2008/05/16/f-faqs-residential-schools.html

CBC News: Stolen Children June 8-21, 2008

The above link and photo – CBC News