In Toronto, Scarborough may be perceived as a predominantly Black community. However, this perception contradicts its history, which is deeply rooted in civil rights, community development, and fighting for belonging. Let's explore the stories of Black Scarborough residents as they navigate the complexities of social and political change.
A History of Struggle and Triumph
Over the years, Black Canadians have experienced displacement and the destruction of their communities due to rezoning policies and urban renewal programs. Scarborough is no exception. Once a predominantly white region in the 50s and 60s, Black people in the community had to fight for their place in society, constantly defending themselves and their loved ones against racism and prejudice.
Such tales of struggles and triumphs can be found within the family of civil rights leader Bromley Armstrong. A dedicated advocate for Black people in Canada, he organized sit-ins in Dresden, Ontario, a town that was home to many who had escaped slavery through the Underground Railroad. Tragically, racism would also visit his family home in Scarborough when an ill-intentioned neighbour sent a box of poisoned chocolates addressed to Armstrong's 15-year-old daughter, Linda.
The Evolution of a Community
Scarborough has evolved significantly since the days of Bromley Armstrong. While the community was once predominantly white, demographic shifts have expanded its cultural diversity. However, this carries the risk of reinforcing stereotypes and misconceptions.
For instance, referring to Scarborough as the place "where all the Black people live" underestimates its rich history and the resilience of its Black residents who have striven for and achieved a sense of belonging.
Facing New Challenges
As Scarborough continues to grow, it now faces new challenges in gentrification and modern forms of urban renewal. The community must ensure that its story is told accurately—and that means dispelling misconceptions of it being nothing more than an 'urban' region with a high concentration of Black immigrants.
Our understanding of Scarborough should be shaped by the experiences of generations who have witnessed its transformation. By sharing their stories—as Linda Armstrong did—residents can contribute to preserving the community's history while inspiring future generations.
Scarborough is not merely a community "where all the Black people live." It is a testament to the resilience and achievements of its Black residents who, despite immense odds, have thrived and made it their home.
By understanding and acknowledging this history, we can better appreciate the significance of the community and take pride in its past - while looking forward to a future where everyone belongs.