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Canadian Review of Amen can Stud1es/Revue canadienne d'etudes americames Volume 29, Number 2, 1999, pp. 1-24 Rhetorics of Blackness, Rhetorics of Belonging: The Politics of Representation in Black Canadian Expressive Culture Rinaldo Walcott My concern iswith differences within minoritisation and the possibilities of articulating affiliation or solidarity on the grounds of differences that may not be 'resolved' but have to be worked through and worked with, causing structures of ambivalence and 'supplementary' moves. (Homi Bhabha 1998a, 40) This world divided into compartments, this world cut in two isinhabited by two different species. The originality of the colonial context is that economic reality, inequality, and the immense difference of ways of life never come to mask the human realities. When you examine at close quarters the colonial context, it is to begin with the fact of belonging to or not belonging to a given race, a given species. (Frantz Fanon 1963, 39-40) The consciousness of self is not the closing of a door to communication. Philosophic thought teaches us, on the contrary, that it is its guarantee. 1 2 Canadian Review of American Studies Revue canadienne d'etudes amerteaines National consciousness, which is not nationalism, is the only thing that will give us an international dimension. (Frantz Fanon 1963, 247) Introduction: Black Appearances/Appearances of Blackness At the Juno awards in 1999, a Black Canadian rap group performed for the first time in the prime-time segment of the show. This breakthrough occurred, because Rascalz, the group invited to perform, refused the Juno they had won in 1998. Their refusal was premised on the insistence that the lack of urban music in the prime-time segment of the telecast was not in keeping with the enormous popularity of urban music. Rascalz, a Vancouverbased rap group, was nominated for and won best rap song in 1998 and 1999. Their song, "Northern Touches" which is a west coast/east coast collaboration, with a number of Toronto rappers appearing on the track, marks Canada as both a Black space and a space of belonging for Black "Northern Touches" criss-crosses Canada to activate an appearance of a contingent, national Black presence. It should not be surprising that musicians inaugurated this contingent, national Black intimacy, especially rappers, since they, above all, seem to have a unique and committed sense of space and place. A common trope in rap music is to cite places and spaces as a kind of mapping of position. But, if the Rascalz appearance on the Juno awards was ample evidence of a Black presence in sonic Canada, mentioning this moment of Black appearance would be useless. What is important about the moment of the Rascalz appearance is what the visual and spectacular appearances of blackness mean for Canada and Canadian-ness. Keenly aware of the significance of the occasion, the Rascalz were nonetheless unable to muster any profound statements. Hinting at the controversy from the previous year, by explicitly pointing to the historic aspect of their appearance, they were unable to articulate their philosophy clearly. Despite the oratorical blunder, the appearance of the Rascalz on the Juno's crystallises the emergence of a self-assured Black Canadian-ness which is prepared to both ignore the legitimating cultural structures of the nation and simultaneously to challenge them, as the Rascalz did in 1998. But the Rascalz's appearance also highlighted the tensions of blackness within the Rinaldo Walcott I 3 nation and the terms upon which blackness is circumscribed within the nation. What provokes me to begin with the example of the Rascalz is the enormous role that television plays in various forms of cultural legitimacy. 1 I want to focus our attention on the micro aspect of the televisual practices on the night of the Rascalz's appearance. How the camera framed the evening of the Rascalz's performance made blackness appear and disappear in very interesting ways which are parallel to the ways in which blackness occupies space within the nation. The cameras searched the Juno audience for Black faces and, finding a few, they give us evidence that the Rascalz could move some in the crowd-exclusively Black bodies. However, shortly after the Rascalz's...


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