Antonio Downing- author interview celebrating Black History Month

Recently, I had the  pleasure of participating virtually in an author interview event, which was presented in partnership by Wordsworth Books  and the Waterloo Public Library.

The guest of the evening was  Antonio Downing,  musician, author  and song writer. Although born in Trinidad, Antonio told his audience that he has lived in the K/W area longer than any place in his life.  He credits coaches for helping him fit in while going to school here, both  in  high school and at the University of Waterloo, where he attended

His grandmother brought him up until she died when he was just twelve. He spoke fondly of her and how she had influenced his life. He still remembers hymns which he learned while on his grandma’s lap. It is so sad that he was uprooted, especially at such an early age.  He and his brother were  sent to a small northern community in a foreign land-Canada, to live with a stern aunt.  The fact that  he and his brother were the only kids of colour in town made life even harder.

At one point he reunited with his parents which was another disappointment in his life, so he went on his own attempting to transform himself by music and performing, trying every form of music including, pop, rock, punk and  rap.  He even tried to be a soul crooner in an attempt to made himself somebody he wasn’t.

Today, Antonio is a successful musician, song writer and author,  He plays numerous kinds of instruments and still enjoys many types of music not only jazz and soul.

In his latest book, a memoir entitled, Saga Boy, My Life of Blackness and Becoming, he speaks of the evils of colonialism. The picture on the cover of Saga Boy is  the back of a black child’s head. This speaks volumes about how the child thinks of himself.

During the interview, Antonio made the  profound statement that you have to make peace with your past before you can plan your future. He knows this to be true because it was not until he was forced  to finally face his true self,  that he was able to finally reclaim his heritage and blackness.

Antonio has written two books: Molasses and Saga Boy.  When asked what message he wants to leave regarding writing,  his response was , “Write your own story. Be yourself. Don’t let someone else write your story. You don’t need to impress others. Just impress yourself.”

He also said while writing, if you get stuck, don’t force the answer. Leave your work for awhile.  It is during that time away, that the problem gets solved. And as a fellow writer, I know this to be true.

During the interview, it was obvious that he was comfortable and enjoyed sharing about his life and career even though it was deeply personal.  He was vulnerable, funny and even burst out in song several times during the interview.

Although there have been many worthwhile events within the city celebrating Black History Month,  I’m sure this interview was greatly enjoyed by all who attended, including myself.


The Hill We Climb by Amanda Gorman

It seems fitting that as we celebrate Black History Month, a new and shining star has appeared.  This being twenty-two year old Amanda Gorman, who with such confidence and grace recited her poem, The Hill we Climb,  this at the recent inauguration of Joseph R. Biden Jr.  46th president of  the United States,

Amanda, the nation’s youth poet laureate, and activist,  wrote this poem as she watched the chaos unfold  at the Capitol building  in Washington DC. January 6th, just days before the inauguration.

As a young girl descended from slavery and raised by a single mother, with dreams of one day  becoming president, in her poem Amada envisions a country that ‘ puts  differences aside, ‘a country of all cultures and colors, ‘seeking harm to none and harmony for all.’

As she bravely and with strong conviction delivered her poem, she inspired not only those attending the inauguration, but also those watching around the world. Such words of wisdom for all to hear and to learn from.  She challenges others to actions  with the following words “If we merge mercy with might and might with right, then love will become our legacy and change our children’s birthright.”

As one bright star appears, another has passed. But not without leaving a legacy that not only he could be proud of, but also his family and all those he knew  him, fans included.

Hank Aaron died Friday January 22nd , at the age of eighty- six. Affectionately known as ‘Hammerin’  Hank, during his 23 years years in baseball, most of it spent with the Atlanta Braves, he made history when he broke Babe Ruth’s record of home runs when he batted his 755 th home run, thereby having his name being added to the Sport’s Hall of Fame.  Although his record was broken by Barry Bonds who batted one more home run than he had,  Hank is still considered by many as the King since Bonds was thought to have been using steroids at the time. None-the-less, Hank send him a note of congratulations, never questioning the ruling.

Always humble, Hank never forgot his roots. Brought up in poverty in Atlanta, he quite school at the age of 18 as his ability at baseball was being recognized. Recently, when interviewed and was asked the question, “How would you like to be remembered,?” He replied simply, “That I was a good man.”

Hank was a man of character and because of his color received hate mail and threats. When he was coming close to overcoming Babe Ruth’s number of home runs, he was called ‘nigger’ and worse. He knew the bite of discrimination throughout his career, but stood tall and unafraid without retaliating.  Standing as he did for what is right and true, in his own way  he helped the advancement of the  Civil Rights Movement.

During Black History Month, let us remember and celebrate  those people of  color who,  despite all kinds of adversity have accomplished great things, and have  risen  above  hate and racism in an attempt to show the world the way for a more equitable and happier place for all.