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Tales from the 2.9 — The Black Canadians Sharing their Stories in a Digital Age — Vol. 2 #14, Jael Richardson, Author & Founder, Artistic Director, Festival of Literary Diversity

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,

–case p.


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.

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Tales from the 2.9 — The Black Canadians Sharing their Stories in a Digital Age — Vol. 2 #10, Shelley Jarrett, Founder & Publisher SMJ Magazine

They say today’s Black youth have no leaders to look up to.

Every time that comment’s made, the discussion invariably turns to the late Reverend Doctor Martin Luther King, Jr. and Malcolm X and what a shame they were gone before their time, et cetera. And yes—while it’s certainly true that Black History’s forever marred with their murders, that shouldn’t stop us from striving for excellence nearly 50 years later!

With Shelley Jarrett’s Tales from the 2.9 entry, it got me thinking about the things and people that inspire us most, and that instead of sitting around and hoping today’s youth will find the mentors to guide them down the right path, we should strive to be them.

If we truly invest in the world we want to create, what harm can come from that?

Enjoy today’s post!

–case p.


What does being Black Canadian mean to you?

Being able to wake up every day and utilise the many opportunities that are available to me, allowing me to walk in my purpose is as important to me as celebrating my culture.  For me, it is more about who I am as a woman, in the things I do, people I connect with, and the friendships I form than it is where I come from.

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Tales from the 2.9 — The Black Canadians Sharing their Stories in a Digital Age — Vol. 2 #9, Paul Okoye, Founder, MeBookz

Paul Okoye, the ninth contributor to 2017’s Tales from the 2.9, speaks often about something that’s the cornerstone of why I do the things I do—

LEGACY.

Before we had our boys, I feel my views were very different.

Maybe most noticeable in 2011-2013 where Twitter became a huge part of my life, I never worried about the story my content would tell decades down the road—the focus was always on what it would do for me right now, letting short-term thinking cloud what was possible if I was willing to put in the work.

Years later, I think my sons changed me for the better. I now have a brand I’d love to grow with them, always thinking about what things could look like a year from now. 5 years from now. 10. It’s no longer about simply retelling the facts—I want the work I put out to mean something, and it’s all because I care more about what I leave behind for someone else than I do about myself.

Paul’s answers echo much of this, so much so that it’s his driving force.

The founder of MeBookz, personalised children’s books that do a better job than any of having a character designed to look like your child, he’s using his skills, time and resources to change the world in his own way.

And if not the world, then at the very least the lives of every person he gets to meet in this life.

Check out more of Paul’s story below!

Until tomorrow,

–case p.


What does being Black Canadian mean to you?

It means waking up every morning, with a clear understanding that as much as I am a representative of Canada, I’m also an ambassador for the black race. I have increasingly accepted the idea that our fate, as a race, is collectively tied. Being black means accepting that whether I like it or not, the actions of others have created stereotypes of the black race; stereotypes that I’ll have to either live up to or disprove. A realisation that even before people meet me, they’ve created a profile for me, one that aligns with their idea of who a “Black man” is.

Yes, it is tiring. But I also see it as a huge opportunity. That my life, however simple, will add to our collective stereotypes. That the way I choose to live my life today will influence others’ stereotypes of the black race… the same stereotypes that my kids will one day inherit. This drives me.