New Book About Chatham-Kent Discusses Racism In Sport

Chatham-Kent’s sporting history runs deep. Whether it is the Chatham Coloured All-Stars, Fergie Jenkins, Bob Izumi, Ed Pinnance, Vicky Sunohara, Mel and Herb Wakabayashi, or Boomer Harding, racialized athletes have played a central role in the area’s athletic excellence. But their success often came with facing overt racism on and off the playing field.

It’s this history that is highlighted, in “On Account of Darkness: Shining Light on Race and Sport,” written by Chatham-Kent’s Ian Kennedy.

The book, published by British Columbia’s Tidewater Press, follows local athletes through segregation, residential schools, the internment of Japanese Canadians, and discusses how sport was involved in these eras, as well as in upholding racist ideology.

As TSN’s Rick Westhead said about the book, it’s an “often uncomfortable trip through Canadian sports history.”

For Kennedy, the book was a chance to preserve the histories of local athletes, their families, and to discuss issues that can help make sport more inclusive for all.

“By looking at our history in this book, we can better understand why these issues continue today,” says Kennedy. “In Canada, we’ve always portrayed ourselves as a welcoming and inclusive country, but inclusive for who? Our history says otherwise when you look at Canada’s contributions to slavery, segregation, residential schools, and the internment of Japanese Canadians.”

The book features Black athletes from Dresden, Buxton, and Chatham, Indigenous athletes from Delaware Nation and Walpole Island First Nation, and Japanese Canadiens who settled in the area following WWII.

While the book uses the lens of sport to discuss racism, its appeal goes beyond sport. As Rogers Hometown Hockey host Tara Slone stated, “This book should live on every Canadian’s bookshelf.”

Kennedy, who also writes for The Hockey News and Yahoo Sports, and locally founded the Chatham-Kent Sports Network, hopes the book can serve as a tool to educate, and open lines of discussion.

“I hope this book sheds light on this history and sparks meaningful conversation and change,” he said. “Discussing issues of racism in sport, and how sport helps uphold systemic barriers is not easy, but it’s necessary so that everyone can safely participate in the games we love.

As Canadian Olympian and First Nations woman Brigette Lacquette said, “On Account of Darkness is a book we can all learn from… these are the truths that need to be heard across the globe.”

“On Account of Darkness: Shining Light on Race and Sport” is on sale now online via Chapters/Indigo, Amazon, and Locally, the book can be purchased in store at Turns & Tales (Chatham), Black Mecca Museum (Chatham), Buxton Museum (Buxton), The Book Keeper (Sarnia), River Book Shop (Amherstburg), Windsor Museum, Wallaceburg Museum, and the Amherstburg Freedom Museum. 

Kennedy will be present at Turns & Tales in Chatham for a book signing and reading May 28 from 2-4pm, a public book launch party will take place at Sons of Kent, June 4 from 1-4pm, and an author talk and signing will happen June 11 at Buxton Museum at 1pm.

To purchase the book online CLICK HERE.

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