You’d think that living a life as a person of colour, I’d have done a series like this far earlier, but I suppose I got sidetracked from everything else with the blog and never gave it a second thought. But some recent experiences starkly reminded me that yes, I am a Black man, and that means the life I live unfolds differently that almost everyone around me.
With Black people making up only 2.9% of the Canadian population, I can’t expect everyone to see things the way I do. Like the fact the Black History Month is so important because we’re one of the few collectives lumped together by our skin colour rather than nationality or religion. Or what the feeling’s like to become a de facto representative for your race when you’re the only one in the room. For all the stories so integral to the Black Experience, it occurred to me that I’d never seen the Black content creators I know tell their tales in one place.
So one day in late January, I came up with Tales from the 2.9 — The Black Canadians Sharing Their Stories in a Digital Age, a project to showcase my fellow Black content creators across the nation in a month that should encourage us to really examine what it means to be Black in Canada and everything we can learn from our experiences.
But I can’t very well ask my peers to share their thoughts without doing so myself, now can I?
So without further ado, welcome to Tales from the 2.9, where you’ll learn about some awesome Black people from across the country with some things to say, and a thing or two about the lives they’ve led as people of colour!
I hope you glean as much from this series as I did putting it together!
Enjoy this read and I’ll see you at the next installment,
Calling the Great White North his home, Casey‘s spent the last few decades in pursuit of creating killer content. From novels as a kid, comics as a teen, to blogs and photos once he could grow a beard, he’ll use whatever’s around him to create amazing stuff.
When he’s not creating, he’s parenting, exploring and trying to make life as awesome as possible for everyone around him.
Because a boring life’s not a life worth living!
1) When you think of Black History Month, what are some of the stories and images that come to mind?
Much of what I’ve been exposed to with Black History has been from the American history books, overwhelming with stories of slavery, racism and the Civil Rights Movement. The ones I remember outside of that are far more personal — of the experiences my grandmothers had in the ’70s, both good and bad; what I experienced on a trip to Tanzania and how much they saw me as an outsider; or just understanding what life’s been like for generations of my family in Jamaica — all the sacrifices they made so my brothers and I could thrive in Toronto today.
I’m learning more through the peers and study every day, and I’m hoping to learn more about our accomplishments and achievements through time, rather than the weighty words that we often use after so many forms of oppression.
2) The Black Experience we’re largely exposed to in the media is that of our southern neighbours and the struggles they’ve faced. What’s your experience been as a Black person in Canada, and what have you learned from it?
“I used to get teased for being black
And now I’m here and I’m not black enough
Cause I’m not acting tough
Or making stories up ’bout where I’m actually from”
— Drake, “You & The 6”, If You’re Reading This It’s Too Late (2015)
I’ve always found it difficult to define the Black Experience in Canada, perhaps because I’ve felt so removed from it for so long. I’ve been one of three Black kids in schools of 600. I’ve had girls who wouldn’t date me because I wasn’t “Black enough”. I’ve even toyed with publishing a book on the matter — TOKEN: Being Black in a World Coloured Otherwise. But no matter how Black you feel you aren’t, there are still plenty of people who’ll remind you that you’re darker skinned than they are.
The odd looks at the beginning of interviews when a Black man walks in instead of a blonde white female. (Seriously — go look at Google Images of “Casey”.) Or when I go on a cruise and people mistake me for one of the staff — multiple times. We’re so quickly judged by our skin colour that it’s hard not to be bitter sometimes.
When it all comes down to it, I’ve led a good life so far, and its foundation lie with parents who taught me right from wrong, and to let my heritage be a motivator rather than a stone to weigh me down. It’s better to be the first Black person in a career than another marginalized statistic — and that’s a success I’ll never stop fighting for.
3) In sharing your voice with the world, what impression do you hope to leave on the world with everything you do?
As a Canadian content creator, I want to show that great work can come from just about anywhere — the Canadian market may not be as massive as others, but we’ve got plenty of potential up here, and I’m hoping to show the world what can happen when you really put your mind to something!
4) We all benefit from good mentors who guide us along the way to make sure we reach our potential in life. Who was your mentor to teach you from a cultural standpoint, and what’s the greatest lesson you learned from them?
Narrowing things down to a single mentor’s hard for me because I’ve learned so much from the many people I’ve had in my life. The managers who’d take me under their wings to make sure I could navigate the challenges all around me. The older Black kids who shared my experiences and took me in like a younger sibling to make sure I fit in and built my social circles so I’d always have peers to talk to. What I learned from everyone is to make the most of my life despite whatever social barriers life has in store, because ultimately I’m the only one who can determine how my life will end up!
5) If you could say just one thing to the rest of the 2.9%, what would it be?
It might not seem like it with the weight of the world on our shoulders, but the very fact that we feel like we’re on the bottom with the world looking down on us means there’s no better time to climb up and do some amazing things with our community! The possibilities are endless and there’s a wealth of markets we’ve yet to make our marks in — it’s time to explore new options and see what we’re really capable of!
Tales from the 2.9 is an ongoing series on CaseyPalmer.com showcasing Black Canadian content creators and the experiences they’ve had growing up Black in Canada!