What stories would they tell us:
Would they say that they saw the enslaved black people toiling in the fields, disrespected and abused, their faces lined with exhaustion, anguish, bloodshot eyes and pain?
The lashings they suffered left scars on their skins, yet, hope for a better tomorrow and prayers in their hearts.
Ahhh! The tears they cried and the struggles and hardships they suffered at the hands of their slave owners.
Their determination and struggles to survive in a world which they are an indispensable part of—unfortunately cast very little value on them.
Yet, through it all, we have seen the hope in their eyes, and the determination to keep striving despite the odds. We have felt the strength of their spirits, the courage to endeavor for their rights. The joy in their faces when they were finally free, the pride in their voices as they hailed songs of freedom, hope for the future, resilience and gratitude.
We weaved our branches too and-fro hopeful that they will endure, and will rise up and stand against misrepresentation, disrespect of their skin colour, brutal treatments—emotional and physical harm.
Our branches whispered in the flow of the wind, that their faith will be deepened, they will be bold, proud and live their lives with the power of forgiveness, without fear, without disrespect and abuse. They will believe in love and know that their many shades of blackness are beautiful—integral to this universe we all call home—as we continue to share energies, water and air.
Well, many years have since passed and we are still here, deeply rooted, providing oxygen and contributing to help hold this land together.
It would appear that to a certain degree, racism, disrespect and abuse are over, but from our roots widely spread, to the branches of our trees, we’ve witnessed yet another assault on human dignity, pride and the preservation of black history—as The City of Niagara on the Lake, Ontario—allowed the burial of tombstones—out of sight, out of mind—these represent the many Black people that helped to pave our foundation and created inventions that make our lives better today.
In light of this degradation—our branches ebbed.
Rise up—City of Niagara on The Lake and honour these peoples’ heritage. Uncover their tombstones. Their legacies are powerful in continuing to build and strengthen our nation. They too must be counted—their markings on this land must never be taken for granted or intentionally abolished. Rise up Niagara on The Lake—Rise Up!
strengthen— written by Dr. Maxine McLean