Every so often, someone makes profound and lasting impressions on one’s life and community. Such an individual was John Henry Alexander, my great-grandfather. I never knew him; he died before I was born. Even so, his presence, like a modest but charismatic actor in the wings, always seemed to hover nearby. This feeling was particularly strong when I visited my great-aunts in the Alma Street homestead, sitting in a great curved rocking chair, listening to the chiming of a wall clock, and breathing in the atmosphere of the old family home, while looking at a portrait of the tall, thin man.
In 1964 I returned to Amherstburg – the town of my birth, and was disturbed by the Black awareness that haunted me. There existed so many negative features in the community such as, restricted housing, people without jobs, children poorly educated, poor living standards – and no one seemed to care.
As Emancipation Day approaches, it is worthwhile to reflect on the meaning that Emancipation once held for people in Windsor-Essex County and beyond. When people talk about the heyday of “the Greatest Freedom Show on Earth,” what they often describe is the annual parade, the midway carnival, the Miss Sepia Pageant, talent shows and of course the famous barbeque pit.