Final Lesson: Travel is a privilege.

Lessons from the 6ix: FINAL LESSON

Travel is a privilege.

 

Travel is a privilege. Not everyone can afford to travel domestically much less internationally. ¬†Passports are expensive and buying a plane ticket is like paying half your rent or mortgage to go somewhere! Tack on all the excess bag fees, seat fees, snack fees, pillow and blanket fees, movie/music and internet usage fees and the terrorist fees and that’s another couple of hundred dollars. They say travel is the only thing you buy that makes you richer, but that is NOT a literal saying.

I have traveled to Toronto by car (via Sarnia, faster customs), by Greyhound and by air. My definite airport preference is the Chicago Midway to Billy Bishop route versus traveling O’Hare to Toronto-Pearson. O’Hare is far from city center, has longer security and check-in lines and is more expensive to get to unless you’re taking the train, which I only do in extreme circumstances or unless I’m just doing a short weekend (i.e., small suitcase/bag). Similarly, YYZ (Pearson) has similar downsides. MDW is less hectic, shorter security lines and less expensive to get to from home. YTZ lands in downtown Toronto adjacent to the Toronto Islands and financial district and is thus, centrally located to everything. Duty free shopping (The shop just after US security line B has Icewine Tea for sale and frequently offers sample Icewine tastings ūüėÄ ) and a small cafe is available in the airport. While Porter planes are small, they make up for it with great snack options, adult sized beverages and a nice lounge area with variations of leather seating and tables with outlets. You don’t have to be first or business class to feel privileged sitting in a cushy leather armchair.

I’m thankful for the opportunity to travel…anywhere, but especially outside the country. It reminds me of how good I really have it at home even when it doesn’t feel like it.

Adieu for now, Canada!

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It’s Gonna Be Okay

Lessons from the 6ix: It’s Gonna Be Okay

5 July 2017 Day 8

 

 

 

Today is my last full day in Ontario until the next time and I found it hard to muster the energy or interest to do much. I think it started last night when I decided to stream news from the States, in particular from Chicago (WGN). That was a mistake because it brought me back to reality a little sooner than necessary! It brought me back to the the rollercoaster of emotions that is my daily life, usually marked by boredom which is why that Aquarius pouch at Indigo books caught my eye today. It’s Hump Day or Free (bike) Ride Wednesday as it’s known here in the 6ix, but I couldn’t find much to hold my fancy or anywhere that I wanted to go that I haven’t seen before. I found momentary respite in the grassy knolls between the residence halls and relaxed, but was disappointed that Mother Nature picked today and yesterday to be the nicest of the whole trip (weather wise anyway). I walked around the Annex and the St. George campus in lieu of going downtown or to the outlet mall to recapture previous trips and times in other residences. I smiled at a few areas that looked like spots I’d seen in 1 or more episodes of Orphan Black (I could be wrong, though, since they reference Scarborough more than Toronto). Nothing completely broke the melancholy, though. Reality had definitively set in about 6:30pm Eastern Standard Time. I am officially in transition mode (that unpleasant zone between vacation mode and work mode), but it’s gonna be okay. While I didn’t get to do all the things I’d hoped for months back when I planned the trip, I still had a phenomenal week and am richer for it. I am more appreciative of things I never had to think about before, like the ability to walk long distances without pain or the ability to walk up and down flights of stairs with ease. This has truly been a humbling experience. The challenge now is to make the life I’m living a life that I love….a life beyond just “okay.”

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The theme of the day

Independence is a misnomer

Lessons from the 6ix: INdependence is a misnomer

4 July 2017 Day 7

 

in = not

dependere = depend

de = from + pendere = to hang

“I am not included within the pale of this glorious anniversary! Your high independence only reveals the immeasurable distance between us…This Fourth [of] July is¬†yours, not¬†mine…What, to the American slave, is your 4th of July? I answer: a day that reveals to him, more than all other days in the year, the gross injustice and cruelty to which he is the constant victim..to him, mere bombast, fraud, deception, impiety, and hypocrisy ‚ÄĒ a thin veil to cover up crimes…”¬†What to a slave is the 4th of July? by Frederick Douglass

I spent America’s Independence Day in Canada meditating on the etymology of the word independence and how you can’t celebrate the founding of a nation without acknowledging the contributions of the native peoples who were there BEFORE the conquest by Europeans AND further, without acknowledging the role of EVERY group that inhabits the land. So to call this INdependence day seems to suggest that you don’t need to depend on anyone to build and to grow. This is a misnomer in my opinion. I am not sure what word would be more fitting, but this just came to me as I reflected on the writings of several Black orators & authors:

Until the end of the day, I didn’t realize the ways that these works connect to the histories of African peoples in Canada. I was totally unaware of the influence of the American Revolution on Canada’s formation – that British loyalists (Black and White) migrated here after the colonies won their fight for independence from England. I was almost disappointed that my grad school research/presentation on Lord Dunmore’s 1775 “Emancipation” Proclamation (John Murray, the Earl of Dunmore of Norfolk, VA) yielded no mention of this connection. I knew that slaves were promised freedom to join the loyalists and that many stayed north after the war, but not that some moved to Canada…until I took part in AirBnB’s Toronto Black History Walk with Jacqueline Scott.

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We met at a subway station far down Bloor Street West away from the city centre – at the edge of Rosedale, one of the most affluent areas of the city. There were six of us (from various places in the USA and one from the Democratic Republic of Congo) and Jacqueline, our local scholar. Our first stop was in Cabbagetown – home to natives, then, affluent Canadians, followed by Irish immigrants and now, gentrified again. Here, we learned about Mathieu DaCosta, the first African to reside in Canada(1600’s) during the era of fur trading with the natives. At the time, DaCosta and others spoke a Basque-pigeon (Portuguese) dialect. ¬†Olivier LeJeune was the first Black slave sold in Canada in 1628. It was interesting to learn not only Black Canadian history, but also history in general – to stand inside a building that held a Prohibition Era distillery frequented by Al Capone and that also held a prominent jazz club; to visit the hall that hosted abolitionist rallies with Frederick Douglass and others; to learn that poverty is not automatically associated with being Black in Canada. Interestingly, there was even Black Canadian historical connections found in the affluent Toronto Necropolis down from a farm. The tour was interactive – Jacqueline allowing us time to ask questions and clarify ideas.

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Before ending at a Caribbean cafe, we were able to stop in one of Toronto’s oldest churches, St. James Cathedral, where slaves would celebrate (England’s) Emancipation Day every 1 August since 1833. You can even see references to indigenous interactions and the Crusades in Africa in the stained glass windows. Canadians still hold Emancipation Day celebrations throughout the country. Being a student of history with an interest in Underground Railroad and indigenous peoples, being able to learn from Jacqueline was an honor. It was an inspirational experience for me to be able to share and learn with other people of color and to think about publishing some sort of collection of my own travels and studies in these topics. When I travel, I try to find ways to connect with locals, to do something different and to learn more about the history of the area. This was a perfect opportunity to do all of that, but attending Shakespeare in High Park was just as meaningful. ¬†On the walking tour, we learned of the connections between the peoples of Asia, Africa and the indigenous peoples of the Americas due in large part to economic racism (i.e., slavery-era trading, New World trading,etc).

Similarly, before the production of William Shakespeare’s¬†King Lear, the audience was reminded of the fact that we sat on what was once First Nations land – home to the people of the Huron Nation, the Wyandot Nation, the Haudenousanee/Iroquois Confederacy (the Mohawk, Onondaga, Oneida, Cayuga, Seneca, and Tuscarora), and the Anishinaabeg (Odawa, Ojibwe, Potawatomi, Oji-Cree, Mississaugas, and Algonquin) Nations. This brought me back to the Canadian national anthem lyrics AND Canada Day performances and exhibitions around the theme, “Our Home on Native Land.” While I can’t say that King Lear is my favorite Shakespearean play, I’m glad to have had the experience because it broadened my understanding of independence. The Canadian Stage company made an interesting adaptation – electing to feature a woman as Lear vs. a king. With power comes responsibility and very little liberty. Thinking of the story from the perspective of Lear’s daughters – Regan, Cordelia and Goneril reminded me that women of the court weren’t really free to do as they wished. They weren’t allowed the independence of thought or action – an interesting notion when juxtaposed with current events and after having just seen Wonder Woman.

The biggest realization on this 4th of July is that you are NOT free if you don’t know your history, understand your place in the world and have the wisdom to pass on that knowledge to future generations. The road to TRUE¬†independence is paved with knowledge, wisdom & understanding.

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Today wasn’t exciting…and That’s Okay!

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Lessons from the 6ix:

Today wasn’t exciting…and that’s okay!

3 July 2017 (Day 6)

Today was a beautiful, sunny laid back day – I did my walk, did a little shopping, made some social media connections, started packing and am about to watch a movie. Just because I’m on vacation that doesn’t meant that every day is going to be perfect or magical. LIfe is still life no matter where you are on the planet…there are going to be good days and bad days. It’s out of your control really and that’s okay. ¬†I was thinking about the holiday today and got a little sad thinking about how they just won’t be the same anymore with mom having been gone almost 3 years to the day (12 July) and now, with Uncle Al not being around, but someone reached out to me about¬†Imerman Angels today – an organization that supports cancer patients, survivors and caregivers. They provided me with a mentor (Becky) a few years ago and it was a lifesaver. Being able to chat or email with someone in the wee hours of the morning kept me sane during the worst time of my life. Then, being able to connect with my mentor even after mom’s passing was beautiful (She even ran in honor of her mom, my mom and a few others for the Chicago Marathon in 2015).

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Today, just from a random comment on someone else’s Instagram post, I have a connect to the founder of that organization! That turned my sadness into a little bit of joy.

They say that exercise is also a cure for the blues so I walked as much as I could today and then, public transit when I got too tired. I got to see a bit more of the city today/went in a different direction and through some different neighborhoods on the way to another mall and that’s good. I went to regular stores, not the touristy ones and rubbed shoulders with everyday Torontonians – even popping in a Walmart SuperCentre!

 

I was initially really disappointed that my shopping haul wasn’t as “big” as I’d expected (I fell in love with a bunch of shoes that couldn’t come home with me), but even that’s okay ¬†– less things to stuff in the suitcase on the way back in a couple of days.

I’m okay with a somewhat boring day after days of excitement and activity because it gives me time to reflect and rejuvenate for my¬†AirBnB Experience: Black History Walk with Jacqueline¬†tomorrow starting in another part of T.O. that I’ve yet to explore-¬†– the Castle Frank/Rosedale area.

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Life is Sweet & Good People Make it Sweeter

Life is Sweet & Good People Make it Sweeter:

Lessons from the 6ix

2 July 2017 (Day 5)

When you’re a solo traveler, it can get lonely at times. You come across something magnificent and you want to share it with someone. You go to a party and see people in with their groups or cliques and you wish you had your own. The past 3 years years have been even harder since I can’t pick up the phone and share my daily adventures with my mom, who had a love of all things French so she especially loved when I was in Canada. It can be a challenge, but the reality is that you can’t wait on someone to ask you to go anywhere or to do anything because you may miss out on something cool or on meeting some really great people.I’ve never been a narcissist so I’ve never wanted a big entourage. It takes me awhile to trust people, so my friend circle has never been huge. However, since my first trip in the Spring of 2004, I’ve been privileged to meet and become friends with some pretty cool people here in the 6ix….

  • It was a film student who told me where to go and hang out on those cool spring days and recommended that I come back in the summer to visit the Toronto Islands or for Harbourfront fests…or in the fall for the TIFF.
  • The couple that owned the Victoria Inn on Rice Lake were amazing! I’m so appreciative of their recommendations of where to learn more about the Hiawatha and Alderville First Nations.
  • Random strangers helped me find my way around the Rice Lake in the days following that when I was trying to make it to the ancient First Nations burial (serpent) mounds in Keene Ontario when I pulled over on the side of a rural road to read the map.
  • I was ever grateful for the hipsters that made me feel welcome in the Beaches area and recommended a respite in Kew Gardens with the black squirrels after our long day of walking in the Distillery District.
  • I was warmed by the friendly faces of British Islanders as I meandered the streets of Vancouver and the Vancouver Islands on those cool, windy days years ago.
  • Hamiltonians are equally amazing – ¬†the people who were hiking the waterfalls a few years ago and the cabbie that drove me to the dorm at McMaster University, took me to and from the Janet Jackson concert AND dropped me off at the Greyhound when I was ready to head to Toronto a couple days later.
  • I can’t forget that Windsor cab driver that drove me and Morgan around the ENTIRE DAY after finding out that our luggage was lost and that we we wanted to engage in an unguided tour of a number of underground railroad stops between the Detroit/Windsor border and Toronto. She drove us around Windsor, Amherstberg, Buxton, Dresden, Chatham-Kent and dropped us off in London without breaking the bank! She even joined us on a tour of the Uncle Tom’s Cabin Historical Site and old school houses in Buxton area.
  • After that journey, I was inspired to see the other routes along the Underground Railroad in the coming years. While I still haven’t seen the uppermost Ontario stops, I was so honored to meet Lezlie Harper-Wells, the founder of NIAGARA BOUND TOURS. I was literally in tears during various portions of the tour – walking in the footsteps of Harriet Tubman and others…walking through and seeing the hidden passageways around Niagara, St. Catherine’s. To have studied the Niagara Movement and UGRR in school and to, then, stand in the churches and various meeting places of prominent Black leaders was inspirational! I’ll never forget that experience and am ever grateful for her words of kindness/friendship over the years. If you’re in the Niagara or Toronto area and want to learn more from a 5th generation descendant of fugitive slave from Kentucky, please reach out to Lezlie.
  • Being an MJ fan, you can find fan-mily pretty much anywhere in the world and I met Toronto fan clubs leaders + members years ago and have remained in contact with a number of them. They have always made me feel like part of their families/friend circle – exposing me to great food, venues between Toronto and Peterborough. Thank you Shari, Leslie, Gabi and Renata!

I can’t name every single person that’s been great and detail every amazing experience, but suffice it to say that America’s “Neighbors to the North” are true and loyal. I rarely feel like a stranger here. Local Canadians have made my travels sweeter and that’s a godsend for a solo traveler!

 

Communal. Artistic. Natural. Arboreal. Diverse. Authentic (C.A.N.A.D.A.)

Lessons from the 6ix: Day 4

1 July 2017

Today was a weird day. It started off really nice – no rain, warm, sunny and then, out of nowhere the thunderstorm came in the afternoon. After a few hours, however, the rain dissipated and left behind a cool breeze – even cooler along the harbourfront, but Canadians paid the weather no mind. It’s Canada’s 150th birthday/anniversary and they are going to celebrate! And so, with millions of others (Canadians, tourists and everyone in between), I headed down towards the waterfront to see the big yellow duck, the vendors, grab some freebies, see some local performing artists and the TWO fireworks shows slated for the evening. So, I hopped on my streetcar, drooled as I watched people get on with their Krispy Kremes (a few blocks away from the residence hall apparently…I will be investigating that on Monday). We passed Kensington Market and its hipsters…Queen Street West and its shops. On through King Street West and it’s many clubs no doubt preparing for the crowds that will head their way after the downtown festivities. Then, not too long after we pass by Rogers, we round the bend to Queen’s Quay (pronounced “key”) and I realize that there was no way I was going to make it from the RedPath Festival down to the main stage area in time for Vox Sambou at 9:30pm given the crowds and me limping along, so I waved to the world’s largest inflatable duck as it bobbled in Lake Ontario.¬†duck

I was only slightly disappointed at the fact that I was missing the bulk of the waterfront vendors down on that end. The fact that the 510 streetcar was crowded on the way down didn’t phase me as much because all I could think about was heading to the Jamaican food stand for that grilled corn…then, maybe grabbing poutine from somewhere if I was lucky. While the vendors near Harbourfront Centre weren’t as plentiful as the area near the duck and even though all the freebies were gone, it was nice hear local musicians on the small Round Stage, before strolling through the gallery exhibitions inside. I always find a way to “nerd out” when I travel. It really didn’t matter because there’s something here for EVERYONE – young and old alike, long-time residents and newcomers.

As the 7:30 show on the main stage was ending, it became clear that there was no way I’d be able to sit anywhere within the line of sight of the stage so I opted instead for a spot east of the staging area, but perfectly in the middle of the CN Tower (fireworks at 10:30) and the lake (fireworks at 10:45). So, from there, I watched, ate and waited – cold, but drawn to the way people seemed to be celebrating their country in every way possible – tattooes, flags, earrings, shoe laces, random toys/glowing objects, blankets, crazy hats/headbands. ¬†I chatted with people that sat on the benches nearby as they shared their stories of holidays past before and after both sets of fireworks shows which were spectacular!

As the throng seemed to file towards the streetcars, Union Station, various parking lots and 24-hour restaurants in an almost orderly fashion, they broke out in song – the national anthem, O Canada! ¬†I was certainly amused, surprised by this – I’ve never been to a fireworks display in America or at a 4th of July celebration where people randomly started singing the “Star Spangled Banner” no matter how good the fireworks were! The best way to end the night, after waiting an eternity for the 510 heading home & helping a woman and her dog get across the streetcar tracks, was overhearing a conversation between some locals –

“This was the best one yet!”

“Well, it’s been 150 years so, what do you expect, eh?!”

 

O, CANADA…

38.5 million residents

6,775,800 foreign-born residents

200+ languages spoken across the country

10 provinces

3 territories

1 out of 5 Canadians is foreign born.

#Canada150 #CanadaDay #celebrateeverything

 

Canada: A M√©lange of Culture

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Lessons from the 6ix: Day 3 (30 June 2017)

I am struck by all the beautiful faces I see. It’s like I stepped into the BIG box of Crayolas! Every shade and hue more captivating than the next coupled with a genuine sense of friendliness and the best part – Canadians embrace their diversity! Ever since my first visit over 13 years ago, I’ve been impressed by the way in which they commemorate the many ethnic groups represented here with celebrations like, Caribana, Pride, Emancipation Day, IndigenoUS or this year’s Canada Day theme, Our Home On Native Land. ¬†Even the commercials pay homage to the global tapestry represented across Canada’s 9.985¬†million¬†km2 (That’s¬†3855230.053 square miles -for my American readers)!

Last night, while strolling the galleries and exhibit halls of the Royal Ontario Museum I couldn’t help, but marvel at the millions of years of history on display there and even moreso, at the array of people taking it all in with a mix of alternative, hip hop, pop and EDM in the background.

I won 2 VIP entry tickets and invited an Emirati man of Dubai to be my guest. I chatted with an elderly mother and her daughter in the Middle Eastern exhibit as we studied the ways in which indigenous cultures adapted to the growth of Islam and Christianity across those regions. ¬†I brushed shoulders with a cultural cornucopia of millenials in the Ancient Kemet (Egypt) exhibit halls – sharing a bit of what I’d learned over the years from scholars at Chicago’s Kemetic Institute, notably how Imhotep wasn’t an evil character from a Hollywood film, but a noble advisor to the Pharaohs! We talked about the glyphs on the walls of a replicated pyramid/tomb and how pictographic or logographic writing systems are more common than they realize and that today’s graff writers/muralists are, in a way, paying homage to ancient scribes.¬†I took a stroll through “Jurassic Park.” I bowed to Chief Sitting Bull. I said a prayer near the sarcophagi of Kemetic peoples. I stood on the Nile and smiled at Nubia. I took photos of stone dragons near a pagoda. I sampled the flavors of the Phillipines. I got a free (make-up) touch up from a Somalian and in the end, walked the streets of midtown Toronto with a friendly crowd of international ambassadors in the wee hours of the morning. I couldn’t help but smile the entire evening because it was like traveling the entire world in 4-5 hour time span!

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Limits aren’t the End of the Journey¬†

Lessons from the 6ix: Day 2

29 June 2017 (Day 2), 11:09pm EST

“I am tired again tonight – a good kind of tired. Some aches are well earned…” ¬†

-Richard Mullins

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Despite the fact that I wrote my Day 1 “Lessons from the 6ix” post until the wee hours of the morning, I still woke up fairly early – ready to get out before the rain. Now, again, when I should be winding down for the night/early morning, I’m up – writing & surfing the internet. I was physically exhausted when I got in. Given the weather forecast for rain, my leisurely plan to stroll through High Park before attending an open-air production of Shakespeare’s King Lear was cancelled. Instead, I opted for a leisurely stroll through the St. George campus (University of Toronto) bookstore deals in the morning followed by an afternoon of retail therapy at the Eaton Centre and dining around Yonge-Dundas Square. #shopaholic

Although I only technically walked about 3000 metres today, it felt like 300,000 given my foot injury! There was a point at which I contemplated skipping Old Navy (didn’t happen :-D) or crying like a baby from pain and fatigue! However, after bouts of rest and refreshments, I kept going not only because of the many retail options (#shopaholic), but because I wanted to push myself – to walk more, to see more, to experience more of the city and its people. So, I did and decided to close out Day 2 with a private screening of Moana – a tale of a young woman with wanderlust dreams of her own.

moanaI’ve been staring at the edge of the water long as I can remember never really knowing why. I wish I could be the perfect daughter, but I come back to the water no matter how hard I try. Every turn I take, every trail I track, every path I make, every road leads back to the place I know -where I cannot go…where I long to be. See the light where the sky meets the sea? IT CALLS ME! No one knows how far it goes. If the wind in my sail on the sea stays behind me, one day I’ll know. If I go, there’s just no telling how far I’ll go…Everything is by design. I know everybody on this island has a role on this island; so, maybe I can roll with mine. I can lead with pride. I can make us strong. I’ll be satisfied if I play along, but the voice inside sings a different song. What is wrong with me?! See the light as it shines on the sea? It’s blinding, but no one knows how deep it goes. IT SEEMS LIKE IT’S CALLING ME! So, come find me and let me know what’s beyond that line. Will I cross that line?!”

Physical limits hold me back when I’m at home because there’s a role to play and things to do. It’s easy to forget dreams of youth (or young adulthood, at least) when you’re busy paying bills and going to work. Unfortunately, obligations and physical limitations (or the appearance thereof) can block spiritual and emotional growth. It stunts an individual’s potential. This is not to say that taking care of your personal, business or family obligations is a bad thing or that you should neglect them, but it’s just a reminder that SELF-CARE is vital to one’s health and well-being. This is why Moana struck an emotional chord with me the first time I saw it in theatres –¬†Life is too short to live with regrets…too short to “let your dreams, just be dreams” as the saying goes. Step outside your comfort zone…push past the limit because the horizon isn’t the end of your journey!

 

Metanoia

(originally written over a year ago, Summer 2016).

This is a piece that seemed to live in the recesses of my mind. It has traveled throughout like bits of memory that live in a computer’s hard drive. I haven’t written anything in months. Every time I think of beginning, I am blocked by something: Fear, anger or disappointment at the disjointed manner in which ideas come to me now. Nothing flowed at least, not like it did in the past when the world still seemed so wide open to me. The path seemed rocky, but doable. Even the summer brought on halcyonic moments of written catharsis. However, with the changing of the seasons and the falling of the leaves, pages from this chapter seemed to just…fall off. I can say for certain that age and experience changes one’s perspective on things. ¬†Peripeteia can bring a cure for writer’s block – ¬†a newly discovered word/world.

METANOIA. 

A journey. That’s the most important part of the definition…the part that drew me in because it denotes something that’s on-going. It’s never finished because we should all be life-long learners. Ever-evolving. It lets me know that it’s normal to have starts and stops on the road of life. It explains why change is difficult for someone that craves consistency, loyalty & normalcy. ¬†I know that I need to keep looking ahead, but how? How does one change their mind, heart, self and way of life? I don’t want to completely forget about the past because I believe in the principle of Sankofa – looking back to move forward, but my Aquarian tendencies cause me to wax poetic about the “good old days” for far too long. However, change is inevitable. Even when the path seems clear, when things are unfolding as you think they should, life can throw you a curve ball.

 

The Light: See it. Honor It. Wield it. BE it.

canLessons Learned in the 6ix

29 June 2017 1:40am EST.

St. George Campus/University of Toronto.

I. The Light of the Sun.

Nine hours ago, I landed in Toronto. Flying over three of the Five Great Lakes (Michigan, Huron & Ontario), I couldn’t help but marvel at the way the sun danced off the little brushes of waves I could see from high above. It reminded me of the cosmologies I learned about at the Kemetic Institute…of the 12-hour journey of Ra, Amen-Ra, Osiris and Aten. Even with the mists of light rain and mild turbulence, I couldn’t help but admire the way the light broke through the clouds.¬†The rays seemed to envelop us as we flew eastward – towards the direction of its rising, but then, we turned. The plane seemed to curtsy to the great orb of light as we headed westward over Lake Ontario with the Toronto Islands to our left and the Harbourfront to the right. The bombardier kissed the pavement as the sun continued its westward rotation. Ever grateful for safe landings, I was the last to leave so that I could thank the pilot and flight attendants for the finesse with which they navigate the realm of the light.

II. The Light of Acceptance and Understanding.

Valuing individual and community contributions is vital to a nation’s growth and prosperity. ¬†My airport cab driver, Ali was a well-traveled man. He spoke of his travels between Canada and various parts of the United States over the years with a hint of disappointment because things have changed. Mistaken identity based on his Arabic moniker revealed how truly dark the levels of ignorance can get when fear abounds. This was not the America he’d known; therefore, racism and xenophobia has decrease his travel to the States. ¬†His tone about Canada was different – “Have you been here before? What do you think of it?,” Ali asked fervently, initiating our cab conversation, “It’s so diverse because people just come together, you know?! Nowhere else in the world can you see so many different people…Newcomers are welcome and supported here…You can make a life right away, be anything you want!” He then spoke with anticipation about the upcoming (supposedly) sunny, 150th Canada Day celebration this weekend.

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When the Huron Nation and Haudenosaunee/Iroquois Confederacy (Onondaga, Oneida, Seneca, Mohawk, Cayuga) named this land, it was as though they were foretelling the future.

Tkaranto, Kanadario, Kanata.

Where there are trees in the water, the beautiful/sparkling water, the village.

Toronto feels very much like a beautiful forest of trees with many roots. Ali’s story reminded me of this. Even with its socio-political struggles over the years, citizens seem to pay homage to the Great Laws of peaceful coexistence espoused by the Huron “Peacemaker” who inspired the founding of the Confederacy (the oldest democracy in North America which in turn, prompted Ben Franklin to propose a similar union a few years later). ¬†The first wampum belt created in the time of the “PeaceMaker” had images of squares and a tree to represent each nation. Five arrows symbolized the power of their union. When segregated, the arrows/nations are easy to break, but when bound together, they are strong. ¬†Acceptance and understanding are the tools of light that can combat darkness of parochialism and ignorance.

2010SACHSET

III. The Light of Wisdom & Love.

I have always been obsessed with light. I can remember being scolded as a child for being outside too long in the sunlight without rest. At home, I keep just about every light on in the house. When I’m out, I post photos of light fixtures on Instagram. When I worked at the Adler Planetarium during undergrad, I loved introducing the “sky shows” because I could learn more about how various peoples interpreted the night sky. I was eager to “guard” the exhibits that dealt with how light and eclipses occur. When working late night shifts, I could look through the Zeiss projector with astronomers or eavesdrop on lectures about the creation myths rooted in the constellations.

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What always struck me about Scotiabank Theatre was the array of neon lights that can be seen from blocks away. They bend and beam like lasers as you ascend the escalator to the cinema, arcade and food court. Cream-colored orbs seem to descend from the sky and bounce bulbed light against the moonlit windows. Everyone else is drinking, eating or playing games while they wait, but I’m thinking about how the way wavelengths are moving along an electromagnetic spectrum to illuminate the bar! #nerdlife #visuallearner #lifelonglearner

ww(WONDER WOMAN-SPOILER ALERT below)

In any case, my light obsession is interrupted by the need to find a seat for the final screening of DC’s Wonder Woman. As amazing as the special effects and cinematography were, what was I obsessed with? The ways in which darkness and light were juxtaposed in the film! Of course we know in every semi-historical fantasy, swords glisten in the sunlight – while fascinating, that was no surprise, but the way her wrist cuffs gleamed, repelled weapons and emitted light in the form of lighting – WHOA! When she and the other Amazonian warriors completely demolished their enemies with the “lasso of fire” – AMAZING! It reminded me of a Jedi’s light saber. #starwarsgeek ¬†In the end, when her weapons failed her, Diana had to become the light. When she finally knew the facts and understood who she really was, Wonder Woman was able to use her gifts. Ultimately, the moral of the story for me is that if you can find a way to turn all the bad and hurtful things in your life into something positive, the more power you will have. True power is revealed when you have the wisdom to use it for good.