For what the Black Canadian community lacks in size, it makes up for by being well-connected — there’s always somebody who knows somebody, and this pretty much described how I first virtually crossed paths with Septembre Anderson.
I first heard of Septembre a couple of years back when I needed someone to cover an event in my stead. Since then, I’ve watched her continually take the world head-on to establish a place where people like her get judged by the merits of their actions and not the colour of their skin.
Septembre’s contribution to Tales from the 2.9 recognizes that though we may want to integrate and be seen as equal to our Canadian peers, there’s a number of obstacles we’ve yet to overcome to get there, subtle as they might be.
Check out some thoughts below from someone who not only sees the struggle, but uses much of what’s within to try and quash it!
Her published work covers topic areas like fashion, beauty, lifestyle, current events, social justice and, health and wellness while her articles have appeared in publications like Flare, Metro, Vice Canada and the Ottawa Citizen.
For Septembre, writing isn’t just a profession but a part of her activism and article topics include how office dress codes are Eurocentric, unrealistic beauty ideals, internships and labour exploitation, political correctness and the all-white everything 2016 Oscar nominees.
Septembre has also appeared on a number of panels, radio shows and TV programs including CBC Day 6, The Agenda with Steve Paikin, CBC Q Radio, Global News, Canadaland Commons, the What Makes A Man? Conference and the OPSEU “The ‘F’ Word—Reclaiming Feminism!” Conference.
1) When you think of Black History Month, what are some of the stories and images that come to mind?
For me, Black revolutionaries, usually Black Caribbean Canadians come to mind. The Black Action Defence Committee, Dudley Laws in his black beret, Afua Cooper and the more revolutionary Montreal. People who fought for the space that I now occupy. The trailblazers whose shoulders I stand on and whose work has amplified my voice.
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?
In Canada, the Black experience we’re shown and sold is the Immigrant Success Story of coming to Canada and becoming wildly successful (we’re seeing echoes of this with the Syrian refugees). My story has been the opposite. My grandmother came here and struggled and, unfortunately, that struggle has been passed on to my parents generation and, now, mine. Thankfully, my grandma also passed down her strength and sense of justice so I’ve made advocating for Black people and other marginalized groups part of my life and work. It’s hard to fight and advocate, though, because Canadian-style racism is very sly and sneaky and not as overt as American-style racism.
3) In sharing your voice with the world, what impression do you hope to leave on the world with everything you do?
My goal is always to empower, liberate and educate. I hope to empower people to feel confident enough to use their voices for the liberation of Black people and other marginalized groups. I also try my best to educate. For me, knowledge and the accompanying language to explain and articulate what has been done to me has been so liberating and I try to pass that on. I feel that’s my job as someone who has the privilege of a university education and who has her big toe in the journalism door.
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?
All of my mentors were authors. My biggest mentor was Malcolm X. He gave 12-year-old me the words to understand what was being done to me. I also find Naomi Campbell, Rihanna and Kanye West extremely inspirational. Their confidence and unapologetic nature is exactly what I need to overcome the naysayers and racists and speak my mind loudly.
5) If you could say just one thing to the rest of the 2.9%, what would it be?
I don’t know you personally but I love you.
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!