There’s Power and Beauty in Canadian Black Storytelling
By Lalaa Comrie
There’s power and beauty in Canadian Black Storytelling, that was the consensus last night during the Telling Black Stories Panel hosted by York Region Arts Council.
The conversation, which took place over zoom, featured Canadian Black writers, Kern Carter, Andrea Thompson, and Greg Frankson and illustrated the beauty of Black storytelling in Canada and the many voices that speak to the plethora of stories that exist across the diverse diaspora.
The panel, which was moderated by literacy advocate, book blogger, and host of the getting lit podcast, Lalaa Comrie, spoke to the essence of what it takes to tell authentic black Canadian stories, and the true beauty, that each and every story is different and powerful in their own way.
“Finding your voice, and truly connecting to it is key,” says Greg Frankson, founder and CEO of Voice Share Inc. “Once you are able to do that you fall in love with it and more importantly the idea of eliciting a response from your audience, and allowing them to feel and connect.”
The writers all shared their process of how they find the stories they tell, their inspiration and what other artists have influenced their work.
“I grew up in an environment where books and reading were celebrated, so naturally storytelling became a piece of me,” says Andrea Thompson, writer, spoken word artist, educator, and editor. “I used it as a way to overcome challenges, and as a result I found and told stories that were mine but they also spoke to others as well.”
One of the things that stood out during the conversation was the shift that has occurred in publishing black stories in Canada since the murder of George Floyd in 2020, and the movement that followed.
“I’ve definately seen a shift in the way publishers now put out calls for BIPOC stories and writers, that I didn’t see before 2020,” says Kern Carter, writer and author of Boys and Girls Screaming. “For it to be truly equitable though, we need more black and people of colour working in the publishing industry.”
As the urgency continues to bring more black voices to the forefront and provide more spaces for black writers and authors, all panelist agreed that there’s no one black story.
“One writer cannot tell the story of blackness in Canada,” says Frankson. “I do not have that ability I do not have all the stories stored inside of me to do that. Even with the four of us on this panel we all have stories and different backgrounds but we still cannot tell the entire black Canadian story. We need many stories, many voices to begin to touch on what Blackness in Canada means.”
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Lalaa Comrie is an afro-Caribbean poet, award-winning writer, literacy advocate, book blogger, and host of the getting lit podcast. For over a decade, Lalaa has worked in communications by helping brands create content that is both diverse and inclusive while leveraging the talent of BIPOC creators and storytellers; work she continues at York Region Arts Council.