Sunday, February 19, 2012


I'm sitting at the information desk of the local library in Burlington, Ontario. A young, black woman wearing a worn, dull brown wool coat with green lapels and fingerless gloves has come up to my desk. She's holding her 8 year old son close to her, one arm draped protectively over his shoulder and across his chest, the other gently resting on his head. He stands at shoulder height. They both seem tired after a long journey.

"What is the black community like here? Are they friendly?" She asks quietly.

I'm feeling very excited at the prospect of informing her that the community is very welcoming. We have a population of over 2,000 black people here and are an inter-racial community. But before I can get the words out, she continues speaking.

"We have been through (she lists a number of the States and their respective cities) and they weren't hospitable to us. They wouldn't take us in."

I find this is all very confusing. Why did she need to be taken in by a black community? And why wouldn't her own people take them in? What had they done? What crime could they have committed? All I see before me is a tired woman and child. It feels to me as if she's just arrived from somewhere and for a moment I feel like I'm displaced. Like I'm an attendant at a booth? Does she even know where she is? Do I?

I shake off my questioning mind. I'm going to tell her that, in fact, it's Black History Month here in our community and they will find a warm welcome here. I'm proud that our neighbouring community (and my hometown) Oakville was one of the underground railway's gateways to Canada as early as the 1830's. This was where many African Americans seeking freedom could start a new life, so we have lots to celebrate.

Before I speak, my supervisor reaches over my shoulder to my computer on which I've located an information package to print out for the black woman. He brings up a new window.
"They might find this helpful". He points to the screen on which is written "DEAD" FUGITIVES. I realize that this information is intended for me, not for them. "But there's not a lot about them left these days" he says and then casually walks away without further comment.

I turn to ask him if it means what I think it does and am surprised to see that my supervisor is Joseph, a past life self.
NOTES on Joseph:
"Joseph" was brought to the southern states on a slave ship out of Africa. Strong, resilient and intelligent he most certainly would have been used for hard physical labour. Freed under the guise of purchase at auction by a New England lawyer, he was educated in the ways of his new country and its laws. Joseph served as a paralegal to the lawyer. With the full knowledge and support of his mentor, he provided legal advice to members of the black community and was an integral part of the underground railroad. He died, a well-respected man, having lived a long life of service to his community.
Christopher Columbus Lee
an early African American
citizen of Oakville, Ontario
(Oakville Museum collection)
NOTES on dreaming:
I woke up a little disoriented and spent the rest of my day with my "head in the clouds".
The information on Oakville's role in the underground railroad is fact. READ MORE HERE.
During a dream when I find I'm asking myself questions (and especially of the WHY? nature - as I rarely engage in this line of inquiry in daily life, due to infinite possibilities) it is a signal that I am dreaming and an it's an invitation to become lucid in the dream.
Upon awaking I re-entered the dream to glean more information — my post combines the initial dream and the re-entry.

Some believe that in dreams we slip into other times and places and that is possible for dream visitors to slip into ours. Were this mother and child fugitives, time travellers from that period who had slipped into present day? Or was the scene around me shifting? If I had remained in the dream and turned back around would I have found myself into their time and place?

Perhaps today a few people still trickle into this area, driven by the energies of such fugitives - past-life or genetic ancestors. To what extent are our motivations purely self driven? How much do the unfulfilled yearnings and strivings of our lineage influence our daily actions?

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