Uncovering Joy through the Eyes of Black Canadians
February is Black History Month. It's a time to observe the accomplishments, contributions, and culture of Black Canadians.
Generally, the dialogue around Black history focuses on stories of enslavement, struggle and pain. And although these stories are important in acknowledging the present-day inequities Black Canadians still face, they are not entirely representative of what it means to be Black in Canada.
With the images of Black pain all over textbooks, social media and the news, it's hard to control the singular narrative of what people think of us. But, Black people have always created spaces for ourselves and others to rejoice through cooking with one another, making music we can dance to, or writing stories that we can share.
In a way, Black joy is resistant to the idea that our existence is only suffering. Even at a time like this - when it may feel contrary to think of joy - it's those experiences that help keep us afloat and remind us of our humanity.
We've curated a special, intentional list of physical and digital content by Black Canadians that centers around the theme of Black joy. Please remember that this doesn't mean you won't find discussions on subjects like racism and sexism. You will. Still, the focus of these resources is on triumph and how Black Canadians find joy apart from and despite these issues.
Resources on Black joy
My Mother’s Daughter by Perditia Felicien
This story of two-time Olympian and 10-time National Champion, covers the challenging childhood of Perdita Felicien and how the special relationship with her mother helped build the foundation for her incredible career.
I've been meaning to tell you by David Chariandy
In this tender letter to his thirteen-year-old daughter, Scarborough native David Chariandy shares the harsh realities of being Black in Canada, along with the joy and beauty he's discovered along the way.
No Crystal Stair by Mairuth Sarsfield
Set against the backdrop of Montreal's jazz scene during the '40s, No Crystal Stair is both a tender, hopeful story of life in Montreal and an exploration of Canada's "soft" racism.
Ties that Tether by Jane Igharo
A Nigerian-Canadian woman falls in love and must challenge the expectations her family has set out for her.
Burning Sugar by Cicely Belle Bain
Activist and poet Cicely Belle Blain's poems share how the world is "both beautiful and cruel, a truth that inspires overwhelming anger and awe."
Fire and Glory by Kardinal Offishal
Recognized as one of the trailblazers in the Canadian Hip-Hop scene, Kardinal Offishal's music is vibrant, energetic and full of soul, guaranteed to make you dance. You can access his digital CD on Hoopla.
Joy by FeFe Dobson
When I was growing up, Fefe Dobson's music was all over the radio. She's a Canadian pop icon, known for hits like "Stuttering", "Take Me Away" and "Everything". You can access her digital CD on Hoopla.
This is me by Jully Black
Dubbed one of ' The 25 Greatest Canadian Singers Ever' by CBC Music, Jully Black is a Juno award-winning hit-maker. Her music will have you belting soulful tracks you didn't know you could. You can access her digital CD on Hoopla.
Night Train by Oscar Peterson
In one of his most well-known albums, Canadian jazz legend Oscar Peterson serenades us with his rhythmic blues. You can access his CD on Hoopla.
Dining in Paradise by Raquel Fox
Celebrity Chef Raquel Fox gives us a colourful, tasty look at Bahamian foods we can make in our kitchen.
What Are you Doing Here? by Laina Dawes
I’m a fan of rock music, and when I discovered a book written by a Black Canadian on the very subject, I thought this was too good to be true!
How Black TPL staff find joy
I asked a few TPL staff to share what brought them joy, here's what they had to say:
"To weather this pandemic and just life in general, I go for laughter and comic relief. From classics like BET Comic view to Trevor Noah pieces on Netflix, laughter has always brought me joy." - Rahma, TPL Social Worker
"The experience of exercising or putting your all into something has been joyful for me. Muay Thai has given me the opportunity to meet new people, learn new techniques for self-defense, and of course, have a good punching bag session!"- Meldon, Public Service Assistant
"For the past 2 years, I've been learning how to play Pathfinder online. It's a role-playing game very similar to Dungeons and Dragons. It's so much fun even though I have no idea what I'm doing!"- Ro, Library Assistant
"I can get lost for hours in hair and makeup YouTube videos by Black influencers. This pandemic has been very stressful (and even this has made it into the content of the videos), but these videos have been a little corner of the world where I feel normal and happy." - Hellen, Librarian
- Cosmic Underground Northside (Reference copy), various editors | Merril Collection
- I Am Because We Are: An African Mother's Fight for the Soul of a Nation by Chidiogo Akunyili-Parr (February 2022 - available for hold)
- My Ackee Tree: A Chef's Memoir of Finding Home in the Kitchen by Suzanne Barr (April 2022 - available for hold)
- Kola Magazine, e-resource
- TPL's Black History series is a comprehensive resource of book lists, blog posts, special events, and programs that honour Black heritage and the contemporary contributions of Black activists and artists worldwide.
- Black History Month Booklist
- Rita Cox Black and Caribbean Heritage Collection
- Black Futures Now Toronto worked with Black youth to create Mapping Black Futures, a living community archive of places, events, and memories that are meaningful to them and their communities.
Let us know what brings you joy in the comment section below!