A little while back, Kaya Marriott, Sherley Joseph and I put the Black Canadian Creator Directory out into the world, and we were blown away by everyone’s reaction to it!
Table of contents
- The Need for a Place to Showcase Our Black Canadian Content Creators.
- The Path to the Black Canadian Creator Directory
- How the Black Canadian Creator Directory Came Together
- The Result? A Black Canadian Creator Directory that was Capable of CHANGE.
- So What Did We Learn from All of This?
- What’s Next for the Black Canadian Creator Directory?
- And That’s A Wrap!
Black Canadians have spent far too many Black History Months feeling like we existed in the shadows of our southern cousins, not afforded an identity of our own or even the belief that we really exist. We have a very different situation up here, making up 3.5% of the Canadian population in 2016 as opposed to the 12.4% of the United States that Black people made up in 2020. That’s a whole 41.1 million Black Americans compared to a mere 1.2 million people Black Canadians up here in the Great White North, but that’s still 1.2 million stories of lives that while similar enough to the tale of the “African-American”, had plenty that made them uniquely Canadian.
Tales of thinly-veiled racism in a country praised for its diversity. Stories of a people from more than two hundred ethnic backgrounds, too often oversimplified and distilled to the colour of our skin instead of everything else that makes up who we are! We’re up here—some of us for hundreds of years now—and it’s long past time that our country starts understanding the richness and diversity that our Black community has. And while I might have started with individual stories when I launched Tales from the 2.9, I eventually realised that there was only so much we could accomplish individually—there was so much more we could tell when you brought us all together.
The Need for a Place to Showcase Our Black Canadian Content Creators.
Our people needed more that could display the unity we have in the Black Canadian community, and with nearly 500 Canadian creators and counting from all across the African diaspora, that’s exactly what the Black Canadian Creator Directory is looking to accomplish. We wanted to stop being ignored and make sure that the world couldn’t help but see us. We wanted something that could help change the world. The goal was to make something that could build presence for our community that we’d never seen before, but the Directory wouldn’t make that happen overnight.
Before the murder of George Floyd, race always felt like something we tiptoed around as creators of colour. As a Black blogger, it always felt like I needed to make a choice—would I be a blogger who focused on Black issues and nothing else, or was I a parent, Torontonian, and literally every other part of my identity that isn’t just the colour of my skin? As the Internet evolved, and social media grew right along with it, it encouraged us to be anything… as long as we didn’t ever talk about politics, sex or race. But the world can’t stand in the way of progress forever.
The Path to the Black Canadian Creator Directory
Back in 2016, a few days before Black History Month and our second child literally due any moment, I put Tales from the 2.9 together, a series focused on the stories of Black Canadian creators because it felt like we spent far too many Februarys failing to celebrate ourselves online. It was a smash in the beginning, offering perspectives seldom shared in Canada’s digital space, but I’d eventually feel the same fatigue that so many Black creators feel each and every February—where you’ve poured your entire soul into gut-wrenching work for a whole month of the year, only for the world to virtually ignore it as soon as March 1st eventually showed up.
And while we simply accepted this every year ever since Rosemary Sadlier and the Honourable Jean Augustine had Black History Month nationally recognised in 1995, it didn’t mean it had to stay that way. After all, though February might come and go each year, for the other eleven months of the year, we were still very much Black. And so, from that understanding, we needed something that would have an impact for me than a month each year, yet be sustainable enough to keep growing over time… which brought the Black Canadian Creator Directory together! And we haven’t looked back ever since.
How the Black Canadian Creator Directory Came Together
It may seem like it was forever ago, but life had a very different tone to it in the early days of the pandemic. “Make the most of your time!” “Go learn a new skill!” There was a huge push to take advantage of everything suddenly coming to a halt, and for me, it meant experimenting with some different forms of content.
Creating Different Kinds of Content Requires Different Kinds of THINKING.
Finally fully realising the potential of search engine optimization after attending a Mediavine session at Dad 2.0 Digital, I started noticing that some of my content was doing really well despite none of it being video.
Well-structured essays with tables of contents to help people navigate. Interactive maps whose data tables could carve out interesting stories. But the work that seemed to do best of all were my lists that you couldn’t find anywhere else.
It all started with a list of Canadian dad content creators that shot up to the top of the search results. And followed with my list of dad creators who I’d met on Clubhouse. I’d make a list of Dad 2.0 alumni and another of Toronto content creators—they were a start, but I knew we could do so much more. And that’s when I remembered something Sherley and I had been chatting about for a while—creating a list of Black Canadian creators that’d be out there for everyone to see!
But building this list? It wasn’t going to be easy.
How Do You Build a Directory of Black Canadian Content Creators, ANYWAY?
See—there were lists that came before, like Toni Fifi’s list of fourteen Black Canadian women bloggers to follow, and Kaya’s list of thirty Black Canadian women creators soon after (or thirty-one when she realised she’d neglected to add herself 😂), but blog posts grow outdated and need a lot of maintenance to stay as current as possible. What I needed was a tool—something that’d evolve alongside our community without needing someone to constantly be on it to make it work.
And that’s the thing—the right solution doesn’t always need to be complicated; sometimes it just needs to fill the right need.
What I wound up putting together was a mashup of different tools to make it work:
- Excel to store the data so I could put it all in the same format
- Formulas that’d write up the HTML I’d need to make the table work online
- And Google Sheets and Google Forms to both collect the data and give it somewhere to live so the data would always be fresh.
It took more than a year to collect data, figuring out ways to organise it, standardise it and write the code and formulas to make it something worth using, and though I had to constantly squeeze it in between everything else in my life, on January 20, 2022, Kaya, Sherley and I were finally ready to share our Directory with the world, and nothing’s been the same ever since.
The Result? A Black Canadian Creator Directory that was Capable of CHANGE.
For one, we made a major event of it, sharing stories all over social media and getting a press release out to the masses. The internet is a place of infinite potential, but too often, we limit ourselves to the tools handed to us instead of trying to innovate and do something different, and so the Directory helped our fellow Black creators feel seen—like they wouldn’t vanish from the public eye as soon as Black History Month was behind us.
We talked about it on podcasts and I wrote a piece for Daddy’s Digest—I’d even get the chance to speak about it on CTV’s Breakfast Television and have it featured repeatedly in newsletters at work.
Long story short, the Directory was helping us do exactly what we said we’d do—get as many people to know about it as possible so they could discover just how many of us there actually are. We’ve already come a long way from the 300 we started with as we look absolutely everywhere to make sure that we’re finding everyone, but as the most comprehensive list of Black Canadian creators anywhere on the internet, we’re confident it’ll continue serving our Black community through Black History Month and beyond.
So What Did We Learn from All of This?
Someone once gave me advice that’s really stuck with me ever since:
Anything that’s worth doing takes time.
And it’s true—the Directory wouldn’t have come to life without putting the blood, sweat and tears in to make it real, but it’s also very possible to take so much time making something perfect that you never get it off of the ground.
The Black Canadian Creator Directory hit the sweet spot in the middle, taking as long as we needed to make it functional without obsessing over making it exhaustively complete. The landscape of the industry changes literally every day, with new creators looking to step into the game and forge their own paths—it’s just not practical to seek them out every day to add them to our list. What’s more important is that Black creators know where to find it so they can join us when they’re ready, and that’s exactly what we’re looking to do!
But now that the Directory’s up and running and I no longer need to keep it current, what comes next? The Directory’s only the beginning—we can accomplish so much more.
What’s Next for the Black Canadian Creator Directory?
1) Find even MORE creators to add to the list!
So we know that 500 creators isn’t the sum total of Black creators in the Great White North—Sherley follows thousands of creators on her @BlackCanadianCreators Instagram account alone, but as always, we needed a way to include them in the list. I invested some money into IGExport – Export Instagram Followers to start things up, but then you have all the research that needs to happen to make it all useful. Who’s Canadian and who’s not? How many of the accounts are Black-owned and -operated? What the Directory prides itself on is its vetting process, but it’s one that’s neither short nor easy.
What I hope to do is build a data scraper that can get most of the initial work done, but eventually, we’re going to have to get someone to sit down and take a look at all of this.
2) Build a better mobile experience.
And now that we’ve built a foundation for the Directory, we have to make it as usable as possible. One thing about designing content for the modern browser is that you need to design for different screen sizes—the user’s experience won’t be the same on a computer as it would be on a tablet or phone. And while the mobile version feels largely the same on Kaya’s and Sherley’s sites, mine doesn’t behave as well and I still need to understand why.
But as we continue to gather feedback on the Directory and learn how to build something that’s the best it can be, it’ll be about paying attention to all the little details to indeed do exactly that.
Like my man Lester Freamon says in the first season of The Wire:
“All the pieces matter.”
3) And finally, we need to make it more than just a DIRECTORY.
While the Directory is useful and shines a light on our community so everyone can see what we’re all about, like I said—the internet is a place of infinite potential, and there are plenty of things we can do to take it to the next level.
Maybe we incorporate a testimonial system to let brands know what it was like to work with various creators? Or perhaps cobble up a script that automatically updates follower counts so it’s easier to find the right kinds of influencers that people are looking for? The Directory isn’t a static idea, and we’ll make the changes to it as good ideas come to mind. We’re just glad that we managed to put something substantial out in time for Black History Month, hoping that we can spend the year ahead creating something special for the next one.
And That’s A Wrap!
But that’s the story of how it all came together—the first list of Black Canadian content creators to show the scope and scale of our industry. To keep it going, we’ll keep finding ways to make it bigger and better, but for now, we just want everyone to enjoy it and hopefully find ways to make it relevant to the things they do.
That said, we’ll finish up there—I have a book to write, Sherley has podcasts to record, and Kaya’s busy being the superstar she is over on Canada’s west coast. We hope you make use of the Directory, and as always, feel free to reach out if you have any questions, suggestions or advice!
Be well out there, and until the next, I remain,