February is Black History Month. The Norwich Public Library had a beautiful display depicting Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s quotes to commemorate Black History Month. “Why is a month needed to celebrate Black History? The need to celebrate Black History is to educate the public of the history of Black people and the contributions they have made in Canada. Although Blacks have been in this country since the 1600’s, there was not a lot of information on this subject. Early historical books have no mention of Blacks in Canada nor do they mention their contribution throughout Canadian history. There were few or no monuments or museums to acknowledge them. One reason why history was not recorded is that people did not record their stories, being too busy struggling to survive. Furthermore, stories were not passed on to their children due to the shame associated with the past.”1
However, there is now an abundant source of information on this subject; a Google search can attest to this. Also, the recent airing of Lawrence Hill’s novel The Book of Negroes, has drawn attention to Black History and the renewed interest on the subject that many people were not aware of, like Canada having slaves. (There are some great ideas using The Book of Negroes in the classroom.) Locally, there were well-established and thriving Black communities within Oxford County that have long since disappeared and are largely forgotten. Black History Month is the one time of year that these communities are brought back to life and remembered as the thriving settlements they once were.
Black History Month is due to the efforts of Dr. Carter Godwin Woodson; a noted black American scholar and historian. In 1926 he proposed Negro Week to honour the accomplishments of Black Americans during the second week in February to coincide with the birthdays of American abolitionist Frederick Douglass (February 14th) and Abraham Lincoln (February 12), who is credited with the abolition of American slavery. In 1976, Black History Week was changed to Black History Month in the United States. In 1996, February was declared Black History Month across Canada thanks to the Ontario Black History Society.
On Wednesday January 28, 2015, local author W. (Whitney) J. Dickson from Burgessville, Ontario read from her new book The First Born of the Dead to a small gathering at the Norwich Public Library. With a degree in Environmental Management from York University and a Masters degree in Archaeology from the University of Oxford, Whitney studied history of eugenics and population control. The first two years she studied all the foundations in the environmental sciences. In her third and fourth years she "did a lot of computer modeling in extrapolating trends by taking computer models of planet earth and putting in as many sort of variables that you possible can to see what is going to achieve the best results." What they found "every single time were these brutal population crashes happening around 2050, 2065. It is not due to famine as most people feel but uncontrollable diseases. If deadly concentrations of populations are not stopped, they will stop themselves."
From the Goodreads website, a summary of Whitney’s book The First Born of the Dead is described as the following: “The Yates twins, Anna and Aurora, are born into a true aristocracy: one determined not by gender, ethnicity or culture, but by species. Although they are raised with the paradigm that genetics is the most important factor in defining their identities, these two very different sisters know there is more to who they are. When a rogue group of government scientists reveal the depth of institutionalized discrimination, Anna and Aurora know they must fight for the cause of equality. Set to the backdrop of a revolution, this is the bittersweet story of a family caught in the middle of a political struggle and torn apart by extremism.”
Whitney answered questions from the audience who were mainly from the Teen Book Club like Brodie Harris and Keaton Lagkeman-Marshall who was in attendance with his brother Rhome. Local residence Doris Empey who babysat Whitney for three years, reported that "it is nice to see young people like Whitney succeed."
When asked by Librarian Page, Lia Byl what the best advice she could offer to anyone interested in writing, W. J. Dickson reported: "don’t study [creative writing course] at school instead take a science course". She does not believe one has to attend school to learn how to write. She had considered going to college and university to take a creative writing course but the advice she was given was if "you study writing at school you are only going to write books about books that have already been written and adopt the voice of authors who are already known for that voice and I think there is a lot of truth to that. One of the most important thing is to develop your own voice. Don’t study creative writing at school study the thing you want to write about. You need to develop your own voice."
The genre of The First Born of the Dead is Science Fiction published by Double Dragon Publishing in August 2013. This over 200 page book is Dickson's first novel. Available to download the eBook through Indigo, Chapters, Lulu.com, iTunes Barnes & Nobles, Amazon-kindle or Kobo.
Happenings at the Norwich Public Library
Each month the Norwich Public Library puts out book markers that lists all their numerous clubs and activities that occur each month.
- Knitting at the Library - Every Wed. 12:30 - 2:00 p.m.
- Writers Club - Every 1st Wed. 2:00 - 3:00 p.m.
- Teen Book Club - Wed. Feb. 25th @ 6:30 p.m.
- Adult Book Club - Thurs. Feb. 26th @ 7:00 p.m.
- SMART - Seniors Maintaining Active Roles - Every Wed. & Fri. @ 12:30 p.m.
- Read With Me - Weekly reading to a volunteer reader spots available
- Ontario Early Years - Every Friday 9:30 - 11:00 a.m.
Arts & Crafts:
- After School Craft/Gaming - Every Thurs. @ 4:00 p.m.
- Nail Art - Every other month @ 6:30 p.m.
- Feature Saturday - Once a month - Mar. 14th, Book Bags
- Nutty Science - Tues. Feb. 24th @ 6:00 p.m.
- Classic Film - Wed. Feb. 18th @ 11:30 a.m.
- Movie Night - Thurs. Feb. 19th @ 5:30 p.m., "Tammy"
- Movie Matinee - Sat. Feb. 28th @ 11:00 a.m., "The Maze Runner"
The Norwich Public Library has something for everyone's tastes and interests.
(1 From the article “The importance of Black History Month” by Heather A. Rennalls published in The Oxford Review, Saturday, February 19, 2000 Page 17.)
Gallery of photos from author W. J. Dickson's visit to the Norwich Public Library. Refer to my Google + to view three videos on W. J. Dickson.
(Note: Parents' consent and approval was obtained to photograph children.)