February 2, 2023

Canadian Black historical past illuminated in new four-part docuseries

A four-part docuseries from the Historical past Channel and Hungry Eyes Media shatters Canada’s picture as a protected harbor utopia for Black individuals and elucidates the little-known tales of trailblazing Black Canadians who helped construct the nation. 

The position of Black Canadians and their communities in Canada is one thing that producers of the collection BLK: An Origin Story say has largely been ignored as a key a part of Canada’s historical past. That’s even supposing Black individuals have been there for the reason that early 1600s when explorer Mathieu Da Costa set foot on Canada’s shores.

Nova Scotia – BLK An Origin Story (Picture-Ray Winterfeld)

Because the 1800s, Canada has been synonymous with the concept of freedom for Black refugees from slavery. However, what’s not as well-known is that each the British and French had been keeping people enslaved for greater than 200 years earlier than the nation abolished the merciless establishment in 1834. 

“Folks have this concept that Canada is that this kinder, gentler house the place no racism occurs, however there’s a whole lot of racism. All the identical issues occur right here in Canada, segregation, racist insurance policies, you understand, mortgage or housing discrimination, the felony justice system,” govt producer Jennifer Holness advised theGrio.   

“We’re [Canada] solely now acknowledging and understanding that Black of us have gone via the ropes, via the wire. And so what was being taught was not that fulsome Black Canadian historical past, as a result of we bought little or no of it. Now that’s altering and we’re a number of the individuals I believe which are serving to to vary it,” she stated. 

BLK: An Origin Story which premieres later this month, additionally when Canada observes Black Historical past month, elevates tales like these of the fierce Jamaican Maroons who had been instrumental in building Halifax, Nova Scotia. They did agricultural work, constructed roads and highways, and reconstructed the third iteration of the Halifax Citadel.

After demanding higher working and residing circumstances from the British, the Maroons left Canada in 1800, simply 4 years after their arrival. They resisted colonial pressures from the British and preserved their freedom in opposition to all odds. Regardless of their brief time in Canada, the Maroons left a long-lasting cultural legacy.

The docuseries shares dynamic untold historical past with the hope of inspiring a brand new era. Every episode introduces viewers to a distinct Canadian location together with Nova Scotia, Ontario, British Columbia and Quebec, offering important insights into the affect that Black individuals have made in these areas. 

“Once we had been rising up [in Canada] there was little or no point out of Black historical past. But when it was, it was fairly traumatizing as a result of we must see some movies about issues just like the Underground Railroad and the way we’re mainly solely slaves or victims or what have you ever,” stated govt producer Sudz Sutherland.

“We needed to make a movie that wouldn’t retraumatize Black college students, you understand, however be one thing that they might draw inspiration from,” he advised theGrio.

In exploring these unknown tales of Black Canadians from the 1600s to current, this collection goals to indicate that Black historical past is Canadian historical past.

“We had been at all times on this Black Canadian historical past as a result of you’ll be able to’t transfer forwards when you don’t know your historical past. It’s vital for Black individuals to know that they’ve taken up house and contributed to this nation,” stated Holness.

Over the last a number of years, the Canadian authorities has begun to do extra to acknowledge individuals and dates which are vital to Black Canadian historical past. 

“BLK: An Origin Story” (Picture: Ray Winterfeld)

In 2018, civil rights activist Viola Desmond turned the primary Black individual to seem on Canadian foreign money. She’s additionally the primary girl to seem alone who’s not a British royal. Her face is on the nation’s $10 invoice. Desmond, a Black businesswoman from Nova Scotia, stood on the forefront of Canada’s early civil rights motion when she refused to vacate the whites-only space of a theater in 1946.

In 2021, Canada formally acknowledged Aug. 1 as Emancipation Day. It marks the precise day in 1834 that the Slavery Abolition Act of 1833 got here into impact throughout the British Empire.

“This isn’t only a historical past of racism, a historical past of being victimized, however a historical past of individuals doing the very best they will and making a means out of no means and overcoming unimaginable odds. That’s our story,” stated Sutherland. 

“I need individuals to know that these tales happen all around the diaspora. Canada is simply now one place that’s saying, ‘hey, take a look at us over right here, we’re your cousins, we’re your Canadian cousins over right here.’ We’re a part of the story,” he stated. “Our histories are interlinked.” 

BLK: An Origin Story, premieres on Feb. twenty sixth on the Historical past Channel.

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