A thread about my late Aunt Kathleen (Aunt Kath) who passed away due to COVID complications this past Friday.

My Aunt Kath was great. A bit erratic and odd, she was always worth a laugh and a healthy rebuke. I still remember her bajan accent saying my name in full I was in (1)
...trouble (Chris-TEE-fer! Stop runnin’ ‘rounn!) as she would stare at me through her round glasses. Aunt Kath wasn’t about the flash of clothes or furniture or...anything really. She was quite frugal. I always laughed at it as a kid, to be honest. (2)
Visiting any of my aunts was hard as a kid. No cable (waste of money), no music apart from Christian stuff WCHP 760 in Champlain NY (rap was of Satan) and no fun games (Jesus is coming tomorrow - no time for games), yet I learned much of my faith from them all (3).
As I got older, my Aunt Kath came through for me in many ways. She paid for my first PC, gave me money for my first car, her wedding gift to Becca and I paid for our second car and she helped us with our first home down payment. Her frugalness made more sense (4)
I just got off the phone with my grandmother, who wasn’t able to be with her sister, my aunt, when she passed due to her own age and worry about COVID. Her last time seeing her sister and my other aunt who died early in the pandemic was last February. (5)
Grandma explained how her and all her siblings left Barbados and came to Canada for work, something I read about in @DesmondCole’s “The Skin We’re In” but didn’t know how close to home it hit for my family history (6)
In his chapter titled “Women of exceptional merit (October)”, Cole speaks to a program created in Canada called the West Indian Domestic Scheme (1955-67) to bring black women from the Caribbean “to provide cheap household labour for white settlers.” Here’s more of his words (7)
My Grandma and Aunt’s eldest sister, Odine (Aunt Dine to us), was the first to go (as an answer to pray by my great-gran). She, according to my grandma, “work for the whites people and saved her money to help us come to Canada. She had to hide and go to night school b/c...” (8)
“...if they found out she was trying to better herself, they would have sent her back.” She saved up enough to pay for the next sibling to get to Canada (Montreal, Qc) so that they could do the same - work for white hands, sneak to school, save money and help back home. (9)
Eventually, Aunt Kath and Grandma got here, surviving on 7 days a week doing housekeeping or janitorial work in hospital and other spaces for 30 bucks a week. 30. And they would survive off of small things in order to take care of their family. (10)
So my jokes as a kid about their “lack” was out of principle - live simply and pay it forward to the children so they could do the same. It was their faith (built in the pews seats at @evangelmontreal in the 50’s, 60’s, 70’s, and onwards) that helped them (11)
Remain wise to the world (“we’re black women and immigrants...”) but not bitter. It was their love for my sister and my cousins that caused them to keep saving since this world was temporal anyhow. It was that love that had them chastise us for our “worldliness” at family (12)
functions when we were growing up, which makes me smile broadly now. They came and gave, in the face of “We know what you think of us, Canada” and never complained. I live in that blessing. Literally. My house is a link to it. (13)
Talking to grandma today made me laugh and smile but also made me sad in that I didn’t realize how much was given in order to be where I am. That is the nature of black history all day everyday - we all pay it forward to make others stronger for the next chapter (14)
I will miss Aunt Kath, who lived to 92, longer than all of her siblings and her parents. I will miss her saying my name just so and her weirdness. She was great. I wish I told her that more than I did. (15)
Call your loved ones. Even if the whole call is them telling stories and you trying to not scroll through Twitter or IG during it, do it. Make the time, especially if they did it for you.

Thank you for being my black history, Aunt Kath. No more suffering, my dear.
Ahhh one more thing:

Many black women of a certain age from the Caribbean came to Canada through the same means of working in order to make life easier for white families, especially working white women. Please note that. Much of the strides in equality we have now were (FIN +1)
Built on the backs of immigrants hoping to make better lives for their families back home. This happened here where we sing “God keep our land...”

For 30 bucks a week.

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