Introducing a new series of interviews with the founders of ZFC and their backstories. For the final part 4, we interview Oliver Throne.
Celebrating 25 years in Canada this June, Emmanuel Jambo Simon aka Oliver Throne looks back on the last two decades that he has spent with his South Sudanese family in Calgary, Alberta. In the past couple weeks he has felt happy to reside in Calgary, and to have personally attended protests as large and as energetic as the ones earlier this June. The protests gave Throne a wave of hopefulness, and even watching the protests around the world have enhanced his love of blackness, and of pluralism. “It’s helped me emphasize that people of all backgrounds can come together and support Black lives, and we must be moving in the right direction even though the conversation has barely started.” When he looks across the crowd and sees his Black community standing with him, and then looks further and sees all ethnicities protesting together, Throne only sees one race, the human race, uplifting Black lives.
When asked what he loves most about being Black, Throne replied with “Everything. Absolutely everything.” He loves where he is from, and loves connecting with other Black individuals from different countries to speak on culture and language. The African diaspora is a worldwide collection of communities that descended from Sub-Saharan Africa. Since the slave trade was the reason that the diaspora was created as Black people were strewn across the globe, Blacks toiled at the creation of the modern world. They are also the origin of our humanity, without Black lives we would have no lives; a message that has been emphasized during this civil rights movement. “We aren’t different and there is no need to be intimidated by us.”, says Throne. “We are descendants from the oldest people.”
While growing up in North Calgary, Oliver Throne says that he had friends from all ethnicities. This opened up his eyes to the truth that we are all learning now; no one is actually born racist. He explains that since the community he grew up in was so multicultural, he was able to learn about many different heritages and he then understood the importance of diversity even at a young age. Learning customs from other minorities helped him connect with all communities, and confirmed his desire for a pluralist world.
Although surrounded by supportive community members, Emmanuel has encountered racism in Calgary – a reminder for us to look within our own communities no matter how small and no matter the media coverage or lack thereof. At a young age, children seemed too comfortable using racial slurs when speaking to him. Simon remembers an incident where another kid yelled at him from across a field on his way to school, and the way his body tensed, even when the kid had fled. “It was everywhere in school, we had teachers who favored the white kids over the colored kids, and even put us Black folk into ESL classes even though we were proficient in English, and we didn’t really have a say in the matter even when our first language was English.” Black students need advocates inside the classroom and parents cannot be the only ones shielding their children from discrimination. When speaking on this, Simon shared an important perspective. “If we really need to kill racism, we just need to start it at home. We know by now that racism is taught, and parents need to be making an effort to diversify their own community, and the one that their kid is involved in. Once we learn about different cultures and about Black people as kids, we won’t act as confused as adults when we witness or face discrimination.” He then continues to explain that our individualistic mindsets are a downfall when it comes to needing to uplift one another, especially when we aren’t experiencing another individual’s specific struggle.
This is a movement, not a moment. Black lives matter.
About the author : Mariebelle Sawma is an up and coming Lebanese Canadian writer, currently writing for TEDxYYC and holds a poetry publication with the Femme Handbook, Volume 2. She has lived in Calgary, Alberta for most of her life and is currently completing her Bachelor of Arts in English at Mount Royal University. Mariebelle enjoys reading a good book at a cozy coffee shop – a trip never complete without daydreaming about the eradication of systemic racism.
Photos by Esther Cho