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Tales from the 2.9 — The Black Canadians Sharing their Stories in a Digital Age — Vol. 2 #25, Lamin Martin, Illustrator/Concept Designer, Lamin illustration & Design

An update from Casey Palmer, February 12th, 2020:

So you may have heard by now, but I was shocked last night when Rob texted me to let me know that Lamin had passed away after a long struggle with ALS. And though Lamin and I hadn’t crossed paths in quite a number of years, I have to say that our world’s lost a good one. I remember in those times in Artist’s Alley, he would have easily some of the most amazing work on-site, but never let it go to his head. He always approached every interaction with humility and grace, and you could feel how sincere he was with everyone he talked to. I wish I’d kept in better touch, but my life went another way… I just hope he knows how much he connected so many of us.

I’ll keep his words up to give you an idea of the kind of man he was. I think we could all learn a lot from his example.


Original Post:

I know from experience that many artists prefer to let their work speak for itself, and with how beautiful Lamin Martin’s work is, I’m surprised his submission wasn’t blank!

Lamin’s entry makes one think pretty heavily about our societal need to add a “Black” modifier before just about everything. Black businesses. Or Black television. Black Twitter. Lamin has a point—though the reason to differentiate is of noble intent (we started with nothing, so this is us carving something out for ourselves), when does it go from pride in our community to pigeonholing ourselves? From successfully establishing services by us for us to having set the bar too low as we exclude the other 97% of the country? Just because we’ve spent so long doing things one way, does it make it the right way?

Of the submissions I’ve received for this year’s Tales, the ones I’ve enjoyed most are those that make me think or question my assumptions—Lamin’s definitely makes the cut!

I hope you enjoy today’s Tale from the 2.9, and who knows—maybe it’ll inspire some interesting conversations in your life!

We’ll see you tomorrow!

Until then,

–case p.


What does being Black Canadian mean to you?

I never thought of it in any other terms other than I’m a Canadian.

What’s your experience been like as a Black Canadian and how has it shaped who you are today?

My experience has been great! I have a job doing what I love and I’m surrounded by people who respect me based on who I am and not what I am. And it’s that level of mutual respect that pushes me professionally and personally.

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Tales from the 2.9 — The Black Canadians Sharing their Stories in a Digital Age — Vol. 2 #24, Natalie Bell, Lifestyle Blogger, PegCityLovely

Part of the duality of being Black is that you don’t want to be defined by your melanin, but you also don’t seek to forget everything that’s come before you to make you who you are today.

Natalie’s post reminds me that the world will inform you you’re Black no matter how you’re raised, but it’s up to us not to let the disadvantages of being Black Canadian hold us back. Instead, we must work hard to overcome them so we can shape the tomorrow we want.

Even through this series, we’ve seen examples of a number of Black professionals and the things they’ve done to carve their own paths—who’s to say you can’t do the same?

I hope Natalie’s story—like many of the stories we’ve shared this year—inspires you, and as for me, I’m off to prep tomorrow’s Tale from the 2.9!

Until then,

–case p.


What does being Black Canadian mean to you?

Funny enough, I’ve never thought of myself in that context. I’ve always been Canadian. I was never taught to label myself in such a manner. If anything, I would state that I’m a Jamaican-Canadian, because I have been heavily immersed in my heritage from a young age, thanks to that good, good “broughtupsie’! I knew I was black, kids in school were quick to tell me, and I may not have completely understood what it was all about then but I knew was different, I just didn’t dwell on it. My parents would tell me afterwards how important it was to get an education and that I would need to work harder than others because I was a Black Canadian. I understand it now more than ever. Being a Black Canadian means I need to be a role model for my children and help guide them to see their worth in this world as they will be labelled the same way.

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Tales from the 2.9 — The Black Canadians Sharing their Stories in a Digital Age — Vol. 2 #23, Jem Jackson, Curator of Women’s Stories, Dreamer, Consultant, Facilitator, I’M STILL STANDING SERIES & JEMJACKSON.COM

I’ve heard it argued numerous times that I have Donald K. Trump’s victory to thank for Tales from the 2.9’s popularity, with Canada and the US’ visible minority populations alike knowing fear and apprehension like never before.

But that’s not exactly right.

Our Black brothers and sisters were still meeting untimely ends by a police force who put no value in their lives in 2016. We still made up entirely too much of our urban centres’ fringes, representing a disenfranchised people withheld from the hope or power needed to break away from the negative cycle they’ve been thrust into. We still had to constantly prove our worth, knowing there’re all too many people waiting for us to slip so they can paint us with the brush of negativity that popular culture seems to favour all too often.

Sure, when Trump won the election, America’s ugly side surfaced with a brazenness we hadn’t seen in ages, but how different were things really?

These thoughts in mind, in the spirit of Throwback Thursday, I thought why not look back at an unpublished post from last year’s Tales and see how the world’s shifted in the year since?

Jem Jackson’s piece touches on an element of Canadian race relations we rarely bring to light—while racism’s often not as overt as we see it down south, it doesn’t mean it’s not there. It’s far subtler, to the point we might not even consciously know we’re doing it. It could be an unsolicited touching of hair. Addressing your Black friends differently because you’re “homies”. Choosing a seat on the bus anywhere other than next to the Black person, because you never know what might happen. We come with our biases and assumptions galore, and it’s far too seldom that anyone calls people on it.

So I’m happy to see Jem’s not about to just let that slide.

But I’ll let Jem tell her own story. I hope you enjoy it, and I’ll catch you tomorrow with another Tale from the 2.9!

Until then,

–case p.


Many Black Canadians come from families who sacrificed plenty to give them the lives they have today. What do you know of your family history and how has it shaped your current self?

My family history has definitely shaped who am I today. We didn’t have much in terms of material things but I wouldn’t trade anything for the life lessons that I had the privilege of learning. I grew up in a very political family involved in the Civil Rights movement – so I had the experience of witnessing my father sacrifice a lot for the Black community and be a change-maker. I also had the experience of living with and learning from my mother, who was a single mom – she taught me that I could do anything I put my mind to and that faith and hard work is necessary for success.

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Tales from the 2.9 — The Black Canadians Sharing their Stories in a Digital Age — Vol. 2 #22, Kamshuka, International Speaker, Life Coach, Author “Becoming Warrior”

One concept Kamshuka teaches people in her quest to help them find their inner warriors is that of the “Fullest Life.” After surviving the Ugandan Civil War as a child and coming to Canada at 14, Kamshuka appreciates making the most of each day in a way that most people never come close to.

While I’m profusely grateful that I didn’t need to overcome any human rights violations to get here, I feel like my Fullest Life is growing before my eyes. I’m writing pieces that positively impact the world around me. I’ve gotten to start showing our youth that there’re other ways to succeed in a world where it can feel like employment opportunities are in a chokehold. I hope to show my sons how to live their best lives possible not only through my words but through clear actions that show what’s possible when your passions align with your efforts.

If you feel stuck in your life, let Kamshuka set you straight—she’s a survivor, and there won’t be any stopping her anytime soon!

I’ll see you tomorrow with another Tale from the 2.9!

Until then,

–case p.


What does being Black Canadian mean to you?

Being Black Canadian means I get to celebrate my diversity with no apologies. As a mixed black Canadian (African & Anglo-Indian), every day that I get to share my diversity with my fellow citizens and children just reminds me of how proud I am to be Black Canadian.

What’s your experience been like as a Black Canadian and how has it shaped who you are today?

Tales from the 2.9 — The Black Canadians Sharing their Stories in a Digital Age — Vol. 2 #22, Kamshuka, International Speaker, Life Coach, Author Becoming Warrior — Portrait PhotoI came to Canada when I was only 14 years old and spent my high school years trying to figure where I stood more. As I got older I began to embrace being black soon after I realised how many Black women and men of influence I was surrounded by. When I was 23 years old and enjoying my new career as a professional photographer, this was the only time I felt judged for my skin tone and gender. I was shooting weddings in a male-dominated profession, and remember thinking I would work hard despite this obvious awkward entrance into almost every room and let my work speak for itself. Thankfully as the years went by, my work ethic and art spoke for itself and enabled me to reach so many new heights locally in Toronto and also overseas.

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Tales from the 2.9 — The Black Canadians Sharing their Stories in a Digital Age — Vol. 2 #21, Derrick Raphael, Esq., Chief Education Officer, Global Trailblazers of Today

Much like I wanted to show what a view on our culture might look like from the outside in when I profiled Zetta Elliot, PhD, Derrick Raphael, Esq. looks at our culture from the opposite perspective, only having come here from the US in September 2015.

Derrick brought up an interesting point with his Tales from the 2.9 submission—a key reason why it’s so hard to unite the Black Canadian community is because we’re largely a collective of immigrants. Many of us still identify more with our countries of origin than we do Canada, so bringing so many different peoples together for one common interest often proves… difficult.

But that doesn’t mean we stop trying.

While we don’t have anything near the scale of America’s NAACP and HBCUs (National Association for the Advancement of Colored People and Historically Black Colleges and Universities—look ’em up!) or the nearly 43 million people in our population (with about 50% descending from the common origin of slave trade), we’re still stronger together than we are individually. We all bring something to the table, and if we took all of that together to meet all of our needs, well. That’s simply a force that couldn’t be ignored!

Give Derrick Raphael, Esq.’s submission a read and learn why he felt compelled to build an organisation to support the superstars of tomorrow with Global Trailblazers of Today!

As for me, the month’s not over yet, so if you’re looking for me, I’m off working on the next tale from the 2.9!

Until then,

–case p.


What does being Black Canadian mean to you?

Tales from the 2.9 — The Black Canadians Sharing their Stories in a Digital Age — Vol. 2 #21, Derrick Raphael, Esq., Chief Education Officer, Global Trailblazers of Today — CAUFP Profile ImageBeing Black Canadian as a recent immigrant from the United States means a lot, actually. I have been able to “escape” Trump’s new US for Canada’s focus on inclusion and diversity. Even though I have been in Canada for less than two years I know it is not perfect, but the US has become more divided than I can remember due to the direction of the new administration. I feel that being Black Canadian means you have a unique opportunity to blaze your own path if you are willing to work hard enough. I plan to do so.

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Tales from the 2.9 — The Black Canadians Sharing their Stories in a Digital Age — Vol. 2 #20, Zetta Elliott, PhD, Author & Educator

Being part of the 2.9 can be stifling.

When you’re part of a minority this small, you can feel like you don’t have a voice. Like you’re lacking in community. Or that you’ll never find your place with the colour of your skin or the differences in your culture. And so, with so much stacked up against us, not everyone stays. Artists move away all the time in pursuit of success. My grandparents moved back to Jamaica. And Zetta Elliott, PhD, back for a second Tale from the 2.9, made the short trip to Brooklyn, New York more than 20 years ago, where an entry new world lay in wait!

If anything, I think that Zetta’s perspective from the outside looking in is one sorely needed in Canadian conversation, where our polite undertones hold us back from honestly approaching ideas that make us uncomfortable. It’s that objectivity and separation from everything going on in our nation that lets us see our issues for what they are, with the hope that one day the issues that’ve plagued us entirely too long will be part of our past, where they belong.

Enjoy Zetta’s submission (I know I always do), and I’ll see you tomorrow for another Tale from the 2.9!

Until then,

–case p.


What does being Black Canadian mean to you?

I’m proud to be Canadian. I’ve been critical of the country and the limited opportunities available to Black Canadians, but I start every author presentation here in the US by telling kids that I’m an immigrant from Canada. The Black Canadian identity is all about hybridity for me—I participate in multiple cultures and I’m the product of multiple histories, and that confounds many White Canadians who don’t understand intersectionality and like to imagine all Black people stepping off a boat or plane yesterday. Being a Black Canadian means never forgetting the sacrifices made by my Caribbean ancestors who gave up their status and professions in the 1950s to start from scratch in such a cold (and often hostile) place. Being a Black Canadian also means honouring my African American ancestors who came north hoping for a better life in the 1830s. The racism they encountered was so severe that it pushed them across the color line; my job as a Black Canadian writer living on the other side of that color line and the other side of the border is not to judge my ancestors but to tell the truth (as I see it) about “the promised land.”

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Tales from the 2.9 — The Black Canadians Sharing their Stories in a Digital Age — Vol. 2 #19, Sagine Sémajuste, Commercial and TV/Film Actress

We are not Black Americans.

We’re not all that different from our brothers and sisters to the south of the 49th parallel, but it’s the differences in our narratives that define how our cultures work. We don’t have over 80% of our population descending from slavery—the vast majority of us came here by choice from the ’60s on seeking a better life. And though I can’t immediately tell you the number of countries we’re from, Black Canadians come from every corner of the globe, retaining much of their culture when they come here.

But we do know what it’s like to be marginalised. We do know what it’s like to struggle. Though we must learn to reframe our success as a culture distinct from the portrait of Blackness dominating popular culture, it doesn’t mean we’ve had an easy run, and that’s something Sagine Sémajuste has dealt with in her personal journey as a Black Canadian.

Ultimately I think Sagine’s submission touches on a point I’ve known since I was a boy—You Are Responsible for Yourself!

A phrase originally taught to me by my Grade 5 teacher, it holds so much more meaning to me as an adult. There’s no end to the problems and obstacles looking to keep us from reaching our potential, but we can’t blame them if we don’t get where we want to go in our lives. It’s up to us both individually and as a community to keep working for a better tomorrow, and if we continue hustling with that mindset, who knows what might be possible?

But since Sagine’s post beautifully outlines this point and more, I should just leave her to it. Enjoy her words below, and I’ll see you tomorrow with another Tale from the 2.9!

Until then,

–case p.


What does being Black Canadian mean to you?

Tales from the 2.9 — The Black Canadians Sharing their Stories in a Digital Age — Vol. 2 #19, Sagine Sémajuste, Commercial and TV:Film Actress — Sagine Looking BackBeing Black Canadian means my parents were able to leave their country of birth (Haiti) and freely enter Canada without having to conform or abandon their culture. It means being accepted and able to live in a diverse environment, where my differences are acknowledged without judgement and embraced without ridicule. That I got to freely learn and speak my mother tongue (kreyòl-Creole) as well as the country’s two official languages (English and French). It means responsibility. Sacrifice. Pride. Privilege. It means going to sleep with all that I am and rising looking forward to who I will become.

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Tales from the 2.9 — The Black Canadians Sharing their Stories in a Digital Age — Vol. 2 #18, Sherika Powell, Speaker, Author, Podcaster, Rogers TV Host, “Women on the Rise”

If there’s one thing I know I could improve on as a Black Canadian, it’s my involvement in politics and keeping abreast of the issues affecting my larger community.

It’s one thing to vote—the bare minimum we can do as our civic duty—but we often take this right for granted, usually choosing an incumbent to continue doing their job, regardless of whether they reflect what we want from our elected officials or not.

That is—if we choose to vote at all.

If we want to see the changes we know are so direly needed in the environment around us, we can’t sit idly by and wait for someone to solve things for us—we need to get involved today and put people in power who are keenly aware of Black issues if we ever want to progress in the right direction. Remember—though Prime Minister Trudeau’s Cabinet’s praised as the most diverse in Canadian history, intentional or not, at first 2.9% wasn’t even large enough proportionally to see any Black faces on it1.

Sherika touches on this need and so much more in the post below—I hope you enjoy it!

Until tomorrow,

–case p.


What does being Black Canadian mean to you?

Being Black in Canada to me means many things. Number one for me, I am proud to not only be a black Canadian but also that my parents chose Canada to migrate to from Jamaica. The decision they made has allowed me to have privileges that many around the world often do not get to experience. Being a black Canadian means I am present and aware of my culture and the contributions that others have made before me, to make this country what it is today. I am excited to be a part of this generation and seeing all the accomplishments that we are making and how we continue to excel and make amazing contributions to Canadian culture.

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Tales from the 2.9 — The Black Canadians Sharing their Stories in a Digital Age — Vol. 2 #17, Tanya Hayles, Chief Creative Officer, Hayles Creative Elements

I’d be willing to get some serious cash that had the Bank of Canada not decided to put Viola Desmond on the $10 bill starting 2018, most of us would be at a loss for any significant stories from Black Canadian history.

Despite more than 20 years with an annual nationally recognised month of recognition, Black Canadian history still feels like a minuscule footnote compared to everything we’re usually taught about the 150 years we’ve spent as a nation.

Tanya’s Tales entry raises the very valid point that our story often gets muddled with the Black American narrative, with our non-Black peers expecting us to instantly relate to a culture entirely different than our own. Though Tales from the 2.9 focuses more on the “now” than it does the “then”, I’d personally like to do more exploration of our history and package it in a way that the Black kids who come after me don’t have nearly as hard a time learning about exactly who they are.

Tanya’s piece is brief but impactful, and I hope it gets you thinking about the things it put in my mind—the huge need to build more awareness around the stories that make us who we are today.

Enjoy today’s read and I’ll see you tomorrow!

–case p.


What does being Black Canadian mean to you?

It means being grappling with being in the shadow of our southern counterparts. It does also, however, means embodying the spirit of the islands. Our community is small but mighty and resilient.

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Tales from the 2.9 — The Black Canadians Sharing their Stories in a Digital Age — Vol. 2 #16, Jackline K, Blogger, Sincerely Miss J

If you’ve read the Tales from the 2.9 ’til now, you’ll have likely noticed some common themes that tie every narrative together:

  • The need to overcome the negative portrayal of Black people as depicted in popular culture
  • That all Black people aren’t the same but are the sum of people from dozens of countries, hundreds of cultures, and countless different personalities and mindsets, and
  • Our community needs to work together and support one another if we ever want to change the world we were dropped into

One thing in particular from Jackline’s submission really resonated with me—”our accomplishments need to weigh as much and have the same meaning as everyone else’s.” We need to elevate—we can’t just compare ourselves to our fellow Black people and see that as a measure of success; we need to excel in general and show the world what we’re capable of! It means writing series like this. Or talking to Black youth about what’s possible in this world—I did a chat last week at Youth Employment Services on personal branding and I’ll be on a panel later this month doing the same. We need to keep raising our standards and let no one tell us of all the things we can’t accomplish.

Enjoy Jackline’s thoughts as she explores her Black Canadian experience—I’ll be back tomorrow with another Tale from the 2.9!

Until then,

–case p.


What does being Black Canadian mean to you?

I consider the term “Black Canadian” a very broad term because I don’t really see myself as just that. Calling me just black leaves out a lot of vital information about me that is actually very important in understanding who I am. I’m not just black. I’m from Africa, Ghana to be precise, and I have many intricacies about me that are like or unlike most black Canadians out there. Therefore, I tend to use the term “Ghanaian Canadian” more often to describe myself.

Being a black Canadian means I need to grab every opportunity that I’m given. It’s almost a daily battle trying to disprove the many stereotypes that exist for black Canadians. I usually need to work harder than my counterparts to achieve the same goals and I have a bigger burden to be a good model for those younger than me.