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Spotlight on Black Canadians' experiences

Spotlight on Black Canadians' experiences

on
June 9th, 2020
Spotlight on Black Canadians' experiences

Racism towards Black communities in Canada isn’t new. The current wave of protests across North America may shed light on more recent cases of discrimination and violence, but Black Canadians will attest to the many ways their communities have endured racism throughout our country’s history, both personally and through our education, healthcare and political systems. We’re fortunate to have filmmakers whose work shed a critical light on the rich histories and life experiences of Black communities. They are a great way to learn about what it means to be Black in Canada. There are many to choose from CBC’s library of incredible Canadian-made documentaries and films, all available for free on CBC Gem. Here are three documentaries to get you started.

Unarmed Verses (86 minutes)

How would you feel if you’re about to lose your home? Charles Officer’s Unarmed Verses captures a year in the life of Francine Valentine, a shy and astute 12-year-old who finds her voice through a songwriting and recording program run by Art Starts. This documentary is set against the backdrop of a predominantly Black community battling gentrification and displacement amidst Toronto’s rapidly growing housing market. The community housing project where Francine lives will be demolished to make way for new condominiums that she and her family cannot afford to rent, let alone own. The film won the award for Best Canadian Feature Documentary at Hot Docs 2017.

Watch Unarmed Verses on CBC Gem.

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The Haircut (10 minutes)

Marvin has never liked getting haircuts. He would let his hair—now with more and more tufts of grey and white—grow out as long as he could before he absolutely had to go to the barber. Daughter and filmmaker Maya Annik Bedward learns that this has to do with his childhood. Growing up as a Jamaican kid in predominantly white Ottawa in the 1950s, Marvin endured many traumatic and painful haircuts at the hands of barbers who didn’t know how to handle his curly hair. The Haircut is a portrait of one man's resistance to assimilation and his adamant grasp on his identity.

Watch The Hair Cut on CBC Gem.


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Deeply Rooted (23 minutes)

“Where are you from?” Because she’s Black, filmmaker Cazhmere Downey gets asked this question all the time, even though her roots in Canada go back seven generations. Armed with a camera, she returns to her home in Halifax to trace her family’s history, which is deeply woven into the fabric of the nation. From New Brunswick to Nova Scotia, she unearths stories of multiple Black communities’ unyielding resilience and persistence on living their lives on their own terms.

Watch Deeply Rooted on CBC Gem.

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