‘On Account of Darkness’: Chatham sportswriter tackles racism in sports with new book

A Chatham-Kent sportswriter celebrates the recent publication of his new book, which examines the history of racism in sport.

Ian Kennedy said the goal of “On Account of Darkness” was to change something by shedding light on race and sport, saying systemic issues remain to this day.

“It’s a deep dive into Canada’s history of racism, but through the lens of sport.”

The author and educator said more than 100 years of stories of athletes thriving in times of systemic racism and social injustice are detailed in the book.

“We use athlete stories to talk about issues that would otherwise be difficult for some people to understand,” Kennedy explained. “But sport is like every other part of society and Canada, and we kind of have a reputation for Canada being an all-inclusive, all-welcoming country, but if you look at our history of boarding schools and slavery in Japanese Canadian internment camps, that’s not really our truth.”

Some of the athletes featured in the book include Baseball Hall of Famer Fergie Jenkins, commercial fisherman Bob Izumi, and Gerry Binga, the only black hockey player with the Blenheim Golden Blades.

Kennedy said the pandemic gave him the time to research the book as there was no live sport.

“It takes us right through the development of the sport from the time of colonization and some of the athletes that came to our area through the subway to World War II, Japanese-Canadian athletes moving to that region, to today because We can’t say racism is a thing of the past,” he said.

“It’s obviously going on in all professional sports and small sports. To make sport and athletics so accessible, welcoming and safe for all, it needs to be a conversation that needs to continue, and not just something about the past.”

A portion of the proceeds from the book will go to the Black Mecca Museum in Chatham.

Chatham-Kent Black Historical Society executive director Samantha Meredith said the book is an important account not only of black Canadians in sports, but also of other racist communities that are often left out of mainstream memory.

“It’s not just about black history,” Meredith said. “It’s about Native American history, Japanese history, boarding school history, slavery, the Underground Railroad, the internment camps in the Chatham-Kent area, so it kind of touches on everything that’s done so often in history. “

Meredith told CTV News Kennedy spent many hours at the museum researching materials.

“This book definitely gets all the hard stories, but it tells it in a truthful way, using either the voices of the people in the sport or their family members who are passing on oral stories,” she said.

Kennedy founded the Chatham-Kent Sports Network (CKSN) in 2011, covering both amateur and professional athletes. It has been published in Yahoo Sports, The Hockey News and Outdoor Canada.

A book launch celebration will be held at the Sons of Kent Brewery on Saturday 4th June and the Buxton National Historic Site and Museum on 11th June.

Kennedy said his goal is to begin preserving systemic racism and preserving the stories from the past.

“I never call myself a storyteller in that context because I don’t think they are my stories,” he said. “I’m just out here to preserve a story and hopefully, as the book title says, shed some light on some untold stories that we haven’t heard enough of.”

On Account of Darkness is available in bookstores in Canada and the US, and online.

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