Tuesday, 3 March 2009

The Personal as History: Sistah Lois aka Afrikan Princess Talks About Life on the Prairies

I wanted to end my Black History Month programming by having someone tell their personal story of growing up in Canada. The oral tradition is a strong cultural device in African culture, and was especially important for those of us whose history in this hemisphere began with slave ships. I wanted to continue this tradition of oral history by having my guest, Sistah Lois Jacob aka Afrikan Princess, speak her life experience. I also wanted to direct our attention away from the east and to the Prairies. How many books have you read about Black life in Winnipeg during the '60s?

Thank you Sistah for sharing your childhood travels from Port of Spain, Trinidad to North Hampton, England and Winnipeg, Canada. You painted a great picture of all of those places, and your reactions to the people you encountered. What an adventure it must have been to travel by commercial boat as a girl, and how shocking a revelation it must have been to see poor white people in Canada, and even poorer first nations people living in conditions that were harsher than those in the Caribbean. You also reminded us of the deep Canadian roots of the Black Loyalist families on the prairies and their continued links with families in the East, and the shameful fact that some white people would objectify you by rubbing your head for good luck on their way to bingo. The personal piece you read was both powerful and evocative. High school is never easy for many people, and I think that is why a few people called in after the show to comment on your prose.

Thank you, Sistah, for filling in a missing piece of Candadian history.

Amani, "I'm a Caribbean Living in Canada" from Amani: the words, the rhythm, the music (Cdn)
Four the Moment, "Africville" from In My Soul (Cdn)
The Nathaniel Dett Chorale, "Hew Round the Tree" from Listen to the Lambs (Cdn)
Daude, "Veu Vava" from self-titled CD, Daude

Thanks to Theatre Francasis De Toronto for the giveway to the English surtitled performance of "A North Facing House/Une maison face au nord".

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