Living Single is one of my favorite shows. One of my favorite episodes was broadcast in its third season and entitled 'Let It Snow, Let It Snow, Let It Snow... Dammit.'
Overton takes the gang to the Jones family cabin in Canada for what he thinks will be a old fashioned Christmas similar to the idyllic ones he had in his childhood.
He not only finds that things have radically changed in the town since he was a kid, it's now a tourist mecca. The trip is turning into a nightmare for Overton as his cherished Santa suit gets accidentally washed and turned pink by Synclaire and he destroys the gingerbread house when he accidentally sits on it.,
He also keeps running into and getting ticketed by an overzealous Constable Robeson.
When the gang first meets Cst. Robeson, they stare at the brother in the Mountie uniform as he wearily replies, "Yes, there are Black mounties."
So watching that episode again drove me to ponder the question, who was the first Black member of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police?
The first Black Mountie was Constable Hartley Gosline from Saint John's, New Brunswick.
As the first African Canadian recruit, he didn't have it easy. As documented in the Cpl. Craig Smith book You Better Be White by Six A.M: The African-Canadian Experience in the RCMP, Smith recounts an incident from early in Gosline's training.
He was the only Black in a lineup of young white men, and his drill corporal noted it as he marched in for morning parade.
The drill corporal looked over his troop, stopped in front of him and said: ‘Gosline, you stick out. You make your troop look bad and you better be white by 6 a.m. the next morning.’ "
After graduation from the RCMP Training academy in Regina, SK in 1969 he was posted to New Glasgow, Nova Scotia. Cst. Gosline was later transferred to the Dartmouth detachment and other locations during his career including the Security Service Division (now CSIS) in Toronto, as well as postings in both Jasper and Edmonton, Alberta. Cst. Gosline left the force in 1978 and currently resides in New Brunswick.
In 1970, the first mountie from Nova Scotia joined in RCMP in Yarmouth resident Clarence Bodden. When it comes to Black Canadian representation in the RCMP, Nova Scotia is the runaway leader with over 40 officers hailing from that province.
Women joined the RCMP ranks in 1973, but it wasn't until 1992 that Christine MacDonald became the first Black female recruit.
If you're wondering who the highest ranking African Canadians are in the RCMP, it's Ted Upshaw, who was promoted to the rank of Inspector in 1999. He was followed by Craig Gibson in 2001.
Today, out of the 17,000 members of the RCMP, 225 of them are African descended Canadians. They are blazing a historic path that they hope future generations of African Canadians will follow.