“The glass ceiling has been shattered”

By Dan Delmar on November 13, 2008

The stakes were high on Nov. 4 for American Democrats, but also for members of Montreal’s Black community who expect to see the election of Barack Obama as a positive development for black youth in this country as well.

At the Imani Family and Full Gospel Church in South-West Montreal, a “watch party” was held and parishioners were on the edge of their seats as results that favoured Obama came in state-by-state. The atmosphere was especially jubilant when CNN would project the democrats winning large states with double-digit Electoral College votes. Jubilation turned to near-ecstasy when, at precisely 11 p.m., Obama was declared the president-elect. Watching the news coverage on a big screen was the Church’s outspoken Reverend, Darryl Gray, who wore an Obama t-shirt as he held his young grandson Isaiah.

“The glass ceiling has been shattered,” Grey told the boy. “You can be Prime Minister now.”

Parishioner Asker Jones was sitting quietly in the rear pews, far away from the crowd. He said he couldn’t watch the event unfold on television at home; he had to be somewhere, around people.

“I’m here because of Martin Luther King Jr.’s dream,” said Jones, a native of Trinidad and Tobago. With Obama’s victory, “Dr. King’s dreams have been fulfilled. Black people all over the world are supposed to band together and now none of us have an excuse to hold back.”

Jones is optimistic for the future of his American relatives. He has nieces and nephews who volunteered for both Obama and Democratic rival Hillary Clinton, and they sent him the Obama t-shirt he wore proudly last week. Also cheering on Obama at the Church was Commander Jean-Ernest Celestin, head of police station 15. In command since the beginning of the year, he said Black youth in Montreal have been sent a clear message that, with hard work and good citizenry, anything is possible.

“He’s not just a role model, but an inspiration,” said Celestin, a Haitian-Montrealer who is himself a success story. “It will have a huge impact (on Montreal’s Black community). We can identify with him; his colour, his values, his family...People will say, ‘hey, he looks like me!’”

Across town, the Black Coalition of Quebec was having a smaller get-together. Project coordinator Jacques-Gérard Dorzin called the night an important milestone in the process to heal wounds suffered by Blacks in America over centuries.

“It’s a rare moment that we are witnessing tonight,” Dorzin said. “It’s turning a very sad page in history onto a glorious one.”

Dorzin helps Black youth in Montreal find work and said Obama’s success shatters some stone-age stereotypes about the work ethic of people of colour.

“We always thought that Blacks were dumb or limited in their ability to get certain jobs,” he said. “This has created a new standard.”


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