‘Important, joyful, connected Black communities’ in Canada – Frances-Anne Solomon

Frances-Anne Solomon is an award-winning writer, producer, director and curator. She started her career at the BBC as a TV producer and executive producer. After moving to Canada, she founded the CaribbeanTales Media Group, which produces culturally-diverse film and television.

Frances-Anne Solomon

Solomon directed “Claiming Space,” the eighth episode of the CBC docuseries Black Life: Untold Stories, which delves into the history of Black settlements across Canada and the often-overlooked stories of Maidenville, Sask.; Africville, N.S.; and Montreal’s Little Burgundy in Quebec.

Black Life: Untold Stories series reframes the rich and complex histories of Black people in Canada over 400 years.

Solomon wants young people to know there have been “important, joyful, connected Black communities” in Canada for more than 200 years.

“You can’t underestimate the damage done to the psyche if you don’t have a history,” she said.

“People think the history is like this old thing about some fuddy-duddy, cranky old people who are irrelevant to my life today,” she said. “But really, they were fighting big battles just like us.”

The documentary looks at the communities razed to make way for highways, parks and urban infrastructure. But amid the devastation, there are also stories of resilience and the relationships that endured.

“The Black community across Canada is defined by so much joy,” Solomon said. “Yes, we have struggled. Yes, we continue to struggle. And it’s extraordinary the way that we as a people coming out of terrible, terrible experiences [have turned] horror into joy.

“I mean, it’s really a testament to our incredible survival … And so, in a way, the episode is a hymn to Canada through our eyes.”

She directed the feature films What My Mother Told Me, Peggy Su! and A Winter Tale and the series Lord Have Mercy! and Heart Beat. Her recent film, Hero: Inspired by the Extraordinary Life & Times of Mr. Ulric Cross, received critical acclaim.