Montreal: a city as racially divisive as any other

Cinema Politica screened Dear Jackie, a telling film about Montreal’s Black history

Dear Jackie is organized as a letter to Jackie Robinson, the first African American professional baseball player. This letter serves as a narration of the context of the film, over images of the city. 

Though Robinson’s story is that of success, his storyline is only a pretext to talk about the broader context of discrimination against Black folks in Canada, and specifically Montreal. 

Director Henri Pardo noted during the Q&A session:

“My intent was not to talk about certain things that I am personally tired of talking about. I didn’t want to talk about racism, I wanted to find out about the people in the neighbourhood”. 

Black people were resigned to only settling in a single neighborhood of Montreal in the 1940s, that of Little Burgundy. It was coined the “Harlem of the North.” 

This film depicts the injustices faced by Black people in Montreal and the changing architectural landscape of Little Burgundy, and how it has changed up to today. 

In the 1960s, when the government built a highway cutting off parts of the neighbourhood, they razed over 400 Black homes, leaving hundreds of people in the streets. 

Today, Little Burgundy is one of the most gentrified neighbourhoods in Montreal. 

Pardo wanted to raise awareness of the little-known history of Black struggles in Quebec, as a call to action.

The film was in black-and-white, which served as a ground for the universalization of experience, where colour could not be understood as a means for separation. 

From a journalist’s perspective, there were clear visual obstacles. The story in of itself, though historically valuable, had an odd angle. 

There was very little archival footage of Little Burgundy and the medium of narration through epistolary form felt forced and almost out of place, as few images of Robinson concretely appeared on screen. 

It would have been interesting to centre interviews of people who lived in Little Burgundy, rather than minimal archival footage that has very little connection to the area. 

The community centre NCC kept on coming up, but there was next to no archival footage of it. People’s spoken words dit not fit the images that were displayed on screen, which made the film at times hard to watch. 

Cinema Politica seeks to not only screen important political films but to also relate community organizations in Montreal that advocate for the causes demonstrated in their films. Representative of organizations such as Brick by Brick and one of their sub-groups Plan Accueil discussed their work in trying to make housing more accessible. 


Concordia For Dummies: Graham Carr’s Apology Explained

Welcome to The Podcast. Cedric Gallant will produce and host this podcast alongside our Section Editors every week. The shows will rotate weekly to cover topics from each section of our newspaper!

This week’s show, Concordia for Dummies, was produced by Cedric Gallant, alongside our News Editor Lucas Marsh Tune in for future episodes of Concordia for Dummies, where we explore topics on students minds throughout the school year.

Graphic by James Fay

In this episode:

Lucas Marsh gives context on why Concordia’s President Graham Carr apologized for the University’s handling of the 1969 Black Student Protest. In addition to his historical explanation, Lucas interviewed Robert Wilkins, a photographer who was present when the fire broke out in the Hall building.


Yes, we need to celebrate Black History Month

It’s not just about slavery and hardships

n February 1926, a week commemorating “Negro History” was launched by American historian Carter G. Woodson, who in his mission to incorporate Black history in school curricula, was also looking to honour the legacies of president Abraham Lincoln and human rights leader Frederick Douglass, both of whom were born in February. Its successor, Black History Month, would be institutionalized across the United States half a century later.

First celebrated in Canada in 1988, Black History Month was then officially recognized nationwide in 1995. In 2007, the Quebec government also adopted this event in the province.

Black History Month isn’t just an important event; it’s a necessary commemoration.

Every year, I log onto Twitter — where else? — and find, within a sea of tweets highlighting the work of Black pioneers, some users’ hot takes about why it’s an unnecessary event. Their argument goes that singling out the Black community in recalling and calling attention to their history contributes to keeping them in the past and holding their identities tied to a past of enslavement.

Many also have had qualms with Black History Month because it’s a celebration of a certain group of people. You’ve probably heard someone at some point say, “But what about white history month? Or Asian history month?”

Yes, what about them?

Celebrating a specific group of people, and especially providing them with tools to overcome and make up for the institutional problems that have caused many to fall behind compared to their white counterparts, is one of the main purposes of Black History Month.

These arguments have some merit, and I’m saying this so as not to completely discredit the opinion of those who see things such as affirmative action and “preferential treatment” as another dividing factor between the multiple ethnicities in our societies.

But shining a spotlight on an issue doesn’t mean we’re putting all other ones in the dark.

It’s true that in an idyllic world, diversity hires and ethnicity quotas in schools and workplaces wouldn’t be necessary, and that making use of these methods of race-based professional considerations would contravene the meritocratic process.

Still, racism is a very real social issue in our societies, and it’s no secret that Black and Indigenous people are bearing the brunt of it.

Of course the goal of Black History Month isn’t to further the association of Black people with slavery. But by associating Black History Month as being solely about slavery and a past paved with subjugation is also reducing the richness of Black culture to their role in Western history.

For the record, Africa was a continent long before the slave trade began, and we’re getting closer to the two century mark since its abolition. Ignoring the achievements made by Black people and the Black community in North America throughout the 20th and 21st centuries is more distracting to the movement for racial equality than preaching silence.

Highlighting certain parts of history and pointing out their flaws also doesn’t mean we’re trying to remain in that place, on the contrary. How are we supposed to learn from our mistakes if we keep trying to distance ourselves from them?

And as we’ve seen throughout Canadian history and into the past year as the Black Lives Matter movement was reignited, our country is far from the point where we can say affirmative action is causing an unfair advantage for people of colour.

If you don’t want to learn about Black history or about anti-Black racism, consider examining why. But know what mindset you’re feeding into and how it’s helping the causes you support — and beyond everything, if you don’t have anything nice to say … don’t say anything.


Graphic by Taylor Reddam


The 30th Black History Month in Montreal

Montreal’s Black History Month is fully virtual for the first time

February marks the 30th Black History Month in Montreal. This year’s theme is 30 years of success and highlighting individuals who have over 30 years of achievements in areas such as art, media, business, and community.

Black History Month is an annual event, yet with the pandemic, the entirety of Black History Month is virtual, with events being held on Zoom. The launch event was streamed on Facebook on Feb. 1, with over 250 people attending.

One of the twelve laureates selected by Montreal’s Round Table on Black History Month, Kemba Mitchell. They are chosen from numerous candidates, which are nominated by the broader Montreal community for their outstanding achievements.

“Usually there is a huge event of celebration,” said Kemba Mitchell, a social community activist, Chairperson of the West Island Black Community Association, and Concordia alumni. “We are getting our awards in the mail, there is a disconnect.”

Mitchell believes that while there are cons, Black History Month being online created an opportunity that would allow more people to view the events as well as reach people that had no idea about Black History Month in Montreal.

Mitchell is one of 12 laureates who are representatives and spokespersons of Black History Month, nominated by the Round Table in coordination with each year’s theme for their involvement in the community.

“I was taken away,” said Mitchell, explaining how she felt about being nominated. “Sometimes you are in the grind, you are going and going, and don’t have time to reflect on your work. I was humbled by what the acknowledgment meant.”

I celebrate being Black all year round, it doesn’t start in February,” she said. “But I think it is important we have a moment to shine a light on Black history.”

Mitchell explained that conversations about Black history should not be limited to slavery and that Black History Month is to honour the contributions of Black people that are omitted from the education curriculum.

Round Table’s President Michael Farkas was also chosen as this year’s official English spokesperson for Montreal Black History Month, for his decades-long dedication into organizing this event and community work in the city.

“In history books, the beginning of Black people always starts with slavery, that is not where we come from, that is not our origin,” she said. “Black History Month is a way to shine a spotlight on our accomplishments through history.”

Mitchell stated that there was no reason for people not to go to an event this month, learn about the accomplishments of the community, and join in on the celebration.

There are a large range of events happening throughout Black History Month, varying from workshops for children, poetry jams, discussions on Bob Marley, a virtual book launch, and many more.

The president of the Round Table, Michael Farkas, said the major message of Black History Month is to learn about things such as Black inventors — contributions that the Black community made to society that have been swept under the rug.

Quebec can not hide that they were racist, that they come from a society that saw Natives and Blacks as commodities. As slaves, as savages,” said Farkas. “And that’s the foundation until Quebec chooses to change it.”

“The history of Black People is not about slavery, there was a time before, there’s a time during, and there’s a time after,” he said.

Farkas said a good way for people to involve themselves in the community is to simply go there and learn the history, to see the landmarks of Black history throughout Montreal.

Farkas recommended taking a tour with Rito Joseph, who does Montreal Black History walks. It states on Airbnb that he provides a way to deepen people’s knowledge of the Afro-descendant community in Montreal and learn more about its members’ ancestors.


Photographs of Kemba Mitchell and Michael Farkas are courtesy of Kétiana Bello. Montreal Black History Montreal logo courtesy of the Round Table on Black History Month.

The importance of teaching Black History

How the story of a Black enslaved woman resonates today

An enormous portion of Montreal had burned down; among the devastation numerous households, merchant shops, a hospital, and a convent were lost. After the destruction on April 10, 1734, the city turned its eyes to Marie-Joseph Angélique, a young Black enslaved woman, as the culprit.

Maintaining her innocence throughout the trial, Angélique denied the hearsay allegations of majority white citizens. After almost six weeks of a trial that collected no definitive evidence or testimony, Angélique was sentenced to death. 29-year-old Angélique was tortured, hanged, and burned on June 21, roughly two months after the fire, for a crime many historians believe she did not commit.

Today, tucked away in Montreal’s Old Port, a plaque honouring Angélique tells a different story: the fight for the abolition of slavery, and the remembrance that slavery did occur here in our city. Angélique has become a symbol of resistance, not only because of her treatment in the colonial justice system, but of the testimonies revealing her fight for freedom, 100 years before the abolition of slavery in Canada.

However, the hard-to-spot plaque emphasizes the lack of any outstanding acknowledgment for Angélique, and magnifies the criticism of Montreal’s suppression of minority people’s history.

Montreal Black history tour guide Rito Joseph runs “Tourist in My City,” a tour in the Old Port and Little Burgundy which sheds light on the city’s centuries-long diverse history. A self-taught historian, Joseph believes that learning about Black history is crucial to understanding Canadian history and systemic racism.

Rito Joseph, leader of ‘Tourist in My City”

For Joseph, the story of Angélique represents the reality of racism in the city, and how the impact of the trial resonates today.

“Marie-Joseph Angélique shows us that Montreal, Quebec, Canada, was involved in slavery and they benefited from the Transatlantic slave trade, it also shows us that systemic racism goes beyond what we can imagine.”

At the time of Angélique’s trial, Montreal was part of the French colony “New France,” where Black individuals were not legally considered people. For the trial, Angélique had to prove her innocence against a slew of allegations, and was not allowed a lawyer.

“They had about 20-something people testify against her, none of them had seen her set the fire. It shows a lot, and it shows us that the mentalities haven’t changed much,” said Joseph.

The lack of monuments and school curriculum dedicated to Black history, for Joseph, are in line with Angélique’s treatment and the suppression of Black people in the city.

“It shows that Black history here is not being taken seriously and by not taking Black history seriously it shows the lack of appreciation or respect for the Black community here.”

Montreal saw the rise of the Black Lives Matter movement during the summer, followed by the protests calling for justice after the death of Indigenous woman Joyce Echaquan in September. Protestors and organizers said the city has a problem with racism, and that systemic racism exists in institutions in Montreal, such as the police.

For Joseph, learning about Black history is a step towards fighting systemic racism.

“Theres a level of dehumanization that we have to face on a regular basis that is rooted in slavery [and] racism and because we don’t take time to study the history that affects us on a regular basis, its really hard for us to really acknowledge or deconstruct what we call nowadays systemic racism,” said Joseph.

Montreal theatre and film producer Ayana O’Shun produced both a play and documentary about Angélique, after watching an episode on the History Channel about her and becoming inspired by the character’s story of resilience.

“Can you imagine being in a society that treats you like less [than] an animal? You’re actually like furniture, a piece of furniture? And to stand up and say no, everyday trying to establish her human dignity,” said O’Shun.

“I found this is a sign not only of strength but a sign of self-awareness, and consciousness of who she is, and what it takes to fight everyday against a system that tells you to sit down and do what we want you to do. I found it absolutely amazing and admirable,” she said.

After being refused her freedom, Angélique attempted to run off with her lover, a white man named Claude Thibault; a relationship which was forbidden at the time. She was often rebellious in her home in an attempt to gain freedom, but unfortunately Angélique’s behaviour was despised, and instead of contributing to her freedom, it was used to pin the arson crime on her.

Her gruesome death speaks to the missing history of Black Montrealers throughout the centuries, and how previous injustices mute their voice throughout the historical landmarks of this city.

O’Shun believes it’s important to include Black history landmarks throughout the city and teach it in schools, because through it, we can learn the real story of Canada.

“When you teach history, you should teach a whole history, not take out some part[s] because it doesn’t look good,”she said.“The real story is much more complex, nuanced, and the story of Angélique is a proof of that.”


Photos of “Tourist in My City” and Rito Joseph by Christine Beaudoin, photo of “Black Hands: Trial of the Arsonist Slave” courtesy of Bel Ange Moon Productions

Student Life

Black History Month: Black money and activism

Exercising your economic power to put your money where your culture is

Black History Month is upon us and I’ve got one question for you, dear reader: where is your money going? Black people all over North America spend this month bringing light to the horrible atrocities that were faced in the name of “building a republic.” In order to carve a better future, one must never forget their past; and in the case of black Canadians, they stand on the shoulders of giants. Men and women who persevered throughout the most unimaginable situations are now revered and fondly remembered.

When one thinks of slavery and Canada, it’s easy to think about how this country was the final destination of the Underground Railroad—the escape route many American slaves used, led by the fearless Harriet Tubman. However, allow me to shatter this perception of Canada.

In an article written by Joshua Ostroff published in the Huffington Post, historian Afua Cooper is quoted saying, “slavery was the dominant condition of life for black people in this country for well over 200 years. We’ve been enslaved for longer than we’ve been free.” Although slavery was abolished in Canada in 1834, so many black Canadians are still in bondage when it comes to their finances. So again, dear reader, I ask: where is your money going?

What was once regarded as trivial and inconsequential has grown to influence economic markets worldwide. The present-day black consumer has more power and influence with their $1 bill today than ever before—but this same consumer may be more ignorant about said influence.

Pioneers of the Civil Rights and Black Panther movements were aware of their influence, as evident through their actions. Robert E. Weems, in his article “The Trillion Dollar African American Consumer Market: Economic Empowerment or Economic Dependency?,” writes: “The Montgomery (Alabama) Bus Boycott of 1955-1956 remains the model instance of organized black consumer activism. One cannot overemphasize the resolve demonstrated by Montgomery’s black community during this action. The widespread publicity given black Montgomery’s ultimately successful campaign for respect and dignity subsequently emboldened blacks throughout the South to follow New York Congressman Rev. Adam Clayton Powell, Jr.’s advice to ‘withhold the dollar to make the white man holler.’” Black consumers put their money where their mouths were, and it paid off.

During this month where we take the time to remember our past, I implore you to support black businesses and ensure our future presence within the economic scene. It makes no sense that the majority of hair product stores in Montreal—where, in my experience, most of the shoppers are black people—are owned by East Asians; and hair is just the tip of the iceberg of products black people consume that others have a monopoly over.

Support black businesses. Put your money back into black businesses. Small ones, big ones, Mom & Pop’s, and everything in between. A quick Google search will give you a list of black-owned businesses in Montreal, in Canada, and online.

Feature graphic by @spooky_soda

Student Life

Black History Month: Walking through life in limbo

Reconciling my identity as a Cameroonian-Canadian in Uganda

It’s 2014. My excitement is so tangible, the man beside me can sense it with every fidget. I haven’t set foot in Cameroon for 15 years; the country from which my parents came of age, the country that holds my earliest memories, the country I’ve been told to refer to as home. In that moment, in the backseat of my uncle’s jeep, for the first time in my life, I felt at home.

Now, it’s 2018 and I am excited to be returning to the motherland for an internship. I’m a bit wary of engaging in a “going abroad” endeavour, but I’m confident that the organization I’ve partnered with is different from your typical non-profit. As the plane descends, my nerves betray me: there’s a dryness in my throat, my body is stiff, and my heart is thumping.

My head is full of thoughts, hopes and expectations. Front and center is the anticipation of that feeling of home filling me once more as it did four years earlier. Although I realized it wasn’t my home country, I was expecting to feel more at home than I did in Canada. Finally, the plane lands, I step out, and as I try to make my way through the crowd, I can feel my body searching for that ‘home’ feeling and failing to grasp it. I push those feelings (or lack thereof) aside and reunite with my fellow Canadians.

My days were spent on a compound with fellow Canadian and Ugandan interns. The work days were packed with various activities; on the weekend, people did their laundry, read a book or hung with the locals. I realized my dark skin allowed me to navigate public spaces in ways some of my fellow interns couldn’t. I could slip out and shop at the market without the boda boda men (those who transport people on motorcycles, referred to as bodas) screaming muzungu (“white” or “foreigner”) my way. I could walk all over town without getting so much as a glance in my direction. This was one of two times in my life I was not a visible minority.

One day, I went out with a friend, a white Canadian girl. We were hungry and wanted to try this cafe, which was filled with white people—foreigners. I noticed eyes on me, but wasn’t fazed. My friend places her order; her friendly disposition leads to a chat with the cashier long after having ordered. I am not greeted with the same energy extended to my friend just seconds before. Though my accent throws the cashier’s guard off, it is not enough to affect him the same way my friend did.

My ability to blend in—if I didn’t speak—was once a blessing, but I realized it was useless if I would still be treated as lesser in the presence of my white friends. I had always known that in Canada, the system favoured white people/white-passing people; but I had underestimated the extent of colonialism in “developing” countries. My time in Uganda showed how so many locals have an automatic association between skin colour and one’s “foreignness.” Even though I, too, was a foreigner, it was never the assumption. When I would speak, my accent would create such a confusion the english-speaking locals would rather speak to fellow locals rather than engage with me.

In Canada, I am a visible minority constantly fighting for the space to be seen, heard and validated unashamedly. I never thought I would have to fight for that same space in a country where most, if not all, of the population looks like me. I felt as if I had to fight even harder than I do back home, because the attention automatically went to my white counterparts.

The struggle on the table is not my desire for attention; on the contrary, it’s a questioning of identity. Where do third culture kids fit when they were born in one place—or their parents come from and identify with one place—but they were raised somewhere else? We spend time this month explicitly to celebrate black history, while so many black people struggle with reconciling their identity.

Should we continue trying to assimilate within the community we most identify with while negating all other parts of ourselves, or should we just create new spaces for people who are in this limbo? This isn’t the first time a black person will have questions about their identity, nor is it the last.

Feature graphic by @spooky_soda


A platform for creativity and healing

The personal and the political, the individual and the communal, the historic and the contemporary are all explored and considered within Hyper Real. In a collaboration between the VAV Gallery and Art Matters, the month of November has welcomed a range of events related to contemporary black art. With an interdisciplinary art exhibition, a film screening and a healing workshop led by Sisters In Motion and Shanice Nicole, these events celebrate November as a month of black history.

As stated by the VAV Gallery in their description of the three events, Black History Month in February can leave artists overworked and with a lack of support and exposure during the rest of the year. The VAV and Art Matters hope to change this by making November a month to celebrate the work of artists of colour and provide a platform for exploration, creativity and healing.

Made up of a range of complex and dynamic artworks from nine of Concordia’s undergraduate artists of colour, the work featured in Hyper Real ranges from video and photography to painting, print and sculptural installation. Each work explores a distinct theme within the overarching focus of black culture, identity and history. The varied works play into each other, creating a full, dynamic and overall emotional exhibition.

Artworks on display included a diptych by David Durham, titled Hidden Figures. The two works mix acrylic paint, mixed media collage and coffee to create striking images of two ambiguous figures. The paintings find ties to the history of coffee and the significant role it played in the slave trade and colonization. With the continued presence and consumption of coffee today, the works acknowledge this history, while also considering its role and presence in the contemporary world.

Braids, by artist Theran Sativa consists of a series of woodcut and and wood burned prints on stained paper. As explained in the artist’s statement, Sativa, who specializes in print media and fibres work, looks at black identity and black culture while also incorporating her own experiences. Meaning is found in every aspect of the artwork—the artist draws a  connection between the intricate process of printmaking and the act of braiding or twisting hair, through the time and care spent on both practices.



On Nov. 22, in connection with Cinema Politica, Hyper Real also hosted a film screening as part of the Black History Month. This screening featured three films, all directed by women of colour: Black Men Loving by Ella Cooper, Yellow Fever by Ng’endo Mukii, and Ninth Floor by Mina Shum.

The screening began with Black Men Loving, a film that questions the typical representations of black fatherhood while talking to black Canadian fathers. Made invisible by these negative representations, this film and the fathers featured can reclaim the stereotypes often placed on black men by society.

Yellow Fever incorporates mediums of poetry, dance and movement to address ideal beauty standards for women, specifically those related to colonialism. Colonialist history and actions perpetrate these ideals, particularly those of skin-lightening and hair-straightening.

The feature documentary film, Ninth Floor, looks at the anti-racist protest of 1969 at Concordia (then Sir George Williams University). The film highlights the ties still present between the protest and the contemporary context of the racist allegations made towards the university by splicing footage of the event with recent interviews.

As part of the VAV and Art Matters Hyper Real event series, the He(art) Healing Workshop scheduled for Nov. 29 will be led by Sisters In Motion and Shanice Nicole, a feminist educator, writer and spoken-word artist. The workshop will provide a safe space for people of colour, women and femme-identifying people to share their stories and heal. It is open to everyone, however priority will be given to black students, with 15 spaces reserved specifically for BIPOC students.

The He(art) Healing Workshop will take place in the VAV Gallery on Nov. 29, from 5:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. Spots are limited. Those interested can register online.

Hyper Real will be exhibited in the VAV Gallery until Nov. 30. The gallery is open between 9 a.m. and 9 p.m. from Monday to Friday.




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