It is during African Heritage Month that I would like to pay a special tribute to the late Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. of United States of America.
The Criss family grew up in a small community of Sheffield Mills, where our late grandfather, Berton B. Criss, had settled and raised his family. We did not face a lot of discrimination there, but it was around, especially when we went to school. Some people would call my younger sister racial slurs and try to hurt her. I was the family protector, and you might say that I still am.
I watched the late Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. in my childhood years and could not understand then why people would want to hurt such a loving person. But as I grew older, I realized that racism is alive and well. I experienced it this year a lot in my community for some strange reason. People label Blacks as lazy, but we are far from that. My grandfather was product of slavery and hard work was something that Grandfather Criss instilled in his children and grandchildren. If you wanted something, then you worked for it, and that was the way it was. We didn’t take hand outs from anyone.
As I went through school, I learned more and more that racism certainly was alive and well. I have educated myself through the years by reading and studying the work of the late Dr. Martin Luther King so that I would be better equipped to raise my three children, who were of mixed heritages.
When they went to school, they faced racism at all levels of the school system, and I personally feel that racism will only end when we start educating the children at the elementary level and throughout the educational system. To only have one month of the year dedicated to African Heritage Month is just not enough.
In regards to the Justice System, we Blacks are labeled and the system is full of systemic racism. We need more Black officers when it comes to dealing with Black community issues.
Blacks are also talked down to and that is a form of racism, even though some people do not realize that they are doing it - or maybe they are doing it on purpose.
In closing, I leave with you this quote from the late Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.: "I have a dream that one day, my four children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the colour of their skin, but by the content of their character."
That is also my dream - that someday, the world will all live as one nation under God. After all, God created us all in the likeness of Himself.
Sharon Criss is the past-president of the former Black United Front of Nova Scotia. African Heritage Month is celebrated during February.