As a Black Canadian man now living life in his 30s, I’m still very much piecing my story together.
Black History Month or no, I didn’t learn much about the Black Canadians who came before me growing up. Sure, we finally designated February as our own in 1995, but what good is that when there’re no Black kids in your classes to study it with? And if Black history means just the history of Black people once they’ve entered the country, do we then just ignore the rich multinational tale of all the Blacks who came here by choice? There’s no one answer to any of this, and Jael put it quite well—it’s a narrative we constantly need to shape and own for ourselves, lest the national thirst for a homogeneous Canadian identity erase everything that’s defined our community.
As Founder and Artistic Director for the Festival of Literary Diversity, I’m sure that Jael Richardson sometimes feels pigeonholed by this endless pursuit, but as marred as our ongoing narrative is by trauma, colonialism and societal pressures, take a reminder from her—we are more than just our skin colour.
As we continue exploring the vastness that is Canadian Black culture, we need to remember diversity’s more than just our countries of origin or the languages we speak. It’s our sexual orientations. Our gender identifications. Our lifestyles, our environments—28 days isn’t nearly enough to peel back every layer of Black Canadian identity… but it’s a start.
Enjoy Jael’s entry and see you tomorrow,
What does being Black Canadian mean to you?
Being black means being a part of a complex history – it means being the descendant of incredibly brave and resilient people. It means constantly working to re-craft history by creating a present and a future that reinserts our stories into a national identity that threatens to erase us and shape us in ways that reduce, restrict, and limit us. Being Canadian means being a part of a country that has created an opportunity for my family that we would not have anywhere else. It’s a place where I’ve been able to thrive, and it is the place that will always be the first and only place I call home. Being a Black Canadian means carrying both of these truths– accepting and embracing the way they live inside me.