By Yolanda T. Marshall
Being Black in Canada comes with many trials and tribulations. This is the shortest month of the year when organizations use the hashtag #BHM2024 before returning to their regular schedule. Black history is the knowledge everyone needs 365 days a year to combat the harmful persistence of white supremacy. I will take this moment to echo the great musician, James Brown, “Say it loud. I’m black and I’m proud!” Here are some of my top book recommendations from excellent Black Canadian writers and contributors.
Stay up: racism, resistance, and reclaiming Black freedom
Written by Khodi Dill
“Racism is a real and present danger. But how can you fight it if you don’t know how it works or where it comes from? Using a compelling mix of memoir, cultural criticism, and anti-oppressive theory, Khodi Dill breaks down how white supremacy functions in North America and gives readers tools to understand how racism impacts their lives. From dismantling internalised racism, decolonising schools, joining social justice movements and more, Dill lays out paths to personal liberation and social transformation.” – Annick Press, 2023
Black Boys Like Me: Confrontations with Race, Identity, and Belonging
Written by Matthew R. Morris
“In eight illuminating essays, Matthew R. Morris grapples with this question, and others related to identity and perception. After graduating high school in Scarborough, Morris spent four years in the U.S. on multiple football scholarships and, having spent that time in the States experiencing “the Mecca of hip hop and Black culture,” returned home with a newfound perspective. Now an elementary school teacher himself in Toronto, Morris explores the tension between his consumption of Black culture as a child, his teenage performances of the ideas and values of the culture that often betrayed his identity, and the ways society and the people guiding him—his parents, coaches, and teachers—received those performances. What emerges is a painful journey toward transcending performance altogether, toward true knowledge of the self.” – Viking – Penguin Random House Canada, 2024
The Halifax Explosion: 6 December 1917 at 9:05 in the Morning
Written by Dr. Afua Cooper and illustrated by Bender Rebecca.
“The Halifax Explosion is a poem written by Halifax’s seventh poet laureate, Dr. Afua Cooper. It reveals dramatically what happened on 6 December 1917 at 9:05 when two ships carrying munitions and war supplies collided in the Halifax Harbour. The poem shows the tragic toll the resulting explosion and fire took on the residents of Halifax and the surrounding area, which stretched all the way north to Africville. Dr Cooper commemorates the Halifax Explosion through verse and highlights the experiences of the Black Haligonians in this disaster. Her powerful words are magnified in this book with dramatic historical photographs and poignant art.” – Plumleaf Press.
Making History: Visual Arts and Blackness in Canada
Edited by Julie Crooks, Dominique Fontaine, and Silvia Forni
“Making History is an unprecedented and boundary-breaking exploration of Black history and art in Canada. It brings together poems, artist statements, and art portfolios to showcase a careful and thoughtful understanding of Black aesthetics while discussing the presence of Black contemporary art in Canadian institutions and offering perspectives on contemporary and historical art practices. The many voices and points of view within this publication explore alternate ways of approaching the relationship between institutions, artists, and audiences, emphasizing the significance of collaboration, resisting hierarchical and hegemonic curatorial practices, and making room for multiple perspectives to bring about transformative change.” – UBC Press, 2023
Nuances of Blackness in the Canadian Academy: Teaching, Learning, and Researching while Black
Edited by Awad Ibrahim, Tamari Kitossa, Malinda S. Smith, and Handel K. Wright
“In daring to shift from margin to centre, the book’s contributors confront two overlapping themes. First, they resist a singular construction of Blackness that masks the nuances and multiplicity of what it means to be and experience the academy as Black people. Second, they challenge the stubborn durability of anti-Black tropes, the dehumanization of Blackness, persistent deficit ideologies, and the tyranny of low expectations that permeate the dominant idea of Blackness in the white colonial imagination. Operating at the intersections of discourse and experience, contributors reflect on how Blackness shapes academic pathways, ignites complicated and often difficult conversations, and reimagines Black pasts, presents, and futures.” – University of Toronto Press, 2022.
Please support local Black bookstores, such as A Different Booklist, Nile Valley Books and Knowledge Bookstore.