Saturday, 18 of January of 2020

Retweeting Black Canada

On January 13, 2012 King George Nigga, a tweeter who when asked by my sister why he (I presume it is a him) uses my image as his avatar stated, This picture is the most complete and comprehensive representation of Black Canada ever produced.

I’ve been told by many people that Miss Canadiana holds personal meanings for them but this endorsement was particularly humbling. Thanks King George!

But what does it mean to represent? In my cultural production workshop, I am presenting a self-representation. I’ve decided to tackle the complex image of myself as Mss Canadiana.

When I began this project I wanted to represent my own feelings. I felt alienated from the Canadian nation. I wanted to portray my experience of living in a space of perpetual irony.  A space that tries hard to pretend that it is welcoming and inclusive but where at any moment the underlying tensions spring out and reveal themselves. These little “surprises” remind me why I’m constantly on guard and perpetually resisting the seduction of an uncomplicated belonging.

Here is a recent incident my sister Karen and I experienced. I invite you to share yours.

At a Black history event in a small Ontario town, a White man felt compelled to tell my sister he had a Black nanny as a child. The event was about the history of the Black settlement that predated the current White settlement in the area. After two women in the room revealed that their ancestors were part of the early Black settlement, another White man in the room asked, so when did the Black settlers come and when did they leave? We left shaking our heads. Miss Canadiana still has work to do.

I am certain that my image as Miss C represents different things to different people. Her meaning is open and complex. She has usurped the space a White body is expected to occupy so she represents an uneasy relationship to a comfortable belonging.

I never set out to represent Black Canada. I created an image that is true to my own lived experience. But after putting her out there I realize she’s much larger than I am.

This post represents an important milestone in my academic life. My first article has been published in a journal that just launched today in Trinidad! It’s a new arts journal called Caribbean InTransit. This is issue #2 and it focuses on location.  The guest-editor is Honor Ford-Smith. Many thanks and congratulations to Honor and editor in chief, Marielle Barrow!

You can download it free here.


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