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BHM – Members share their stories – Telling Black Canadian Stories
By  CMG  •  Posted on  February 18, 2020

Submitted by a CMG member

Telling Black Canadian Stories From the Ground Up With sisterhood media

sisterhood media has taken up the mission of producing and distributing content made for and by marginalized folks, and doing so in the most accessible ways possible. The company has produced original films, and recently held a series of events in cities across Ontario to engage with community, build capacity, and ask the question “What If Media Looked Like us?”.

sisterhood media has expanded since: it now includes a streaming service featuring film, series, and shorts acquired through exclusive and non-exclusive agreements. They’re all the product of an emerging roaster of filmmakers from across the GTA and beyond, whose voices and stories broaden the scope of Canadian awareness while enriching our collective imagination. By taking up space in the digital media landscape, sisterhood media and the stories it tells pushes us to reimagine what Canadian stories look like. Most of these filmmakers have managed to do so while benefiting from little to no major distribution prior to sisterhood media.

This month, the streaming platform is sharing content that focuses on “Black beginnings, and really thinking about how our future as Black people is always something that we’re creating we’re writing and reinventing,” says Samah Ali, founder of the streaming service.

sisterhood media also strives to share work that showcases Blackness in a multitude, and Ali’s ideal Canadian film and media landscape would reflect exactly that: the multiplicity of people she sees when walking down the street: “people in different bodies, different clothing, existing, living their lives, and it being normal”.

She says media needs to reflect “the multiplicity of who we are as people: we’re people first before we get into the various social markers that we exist in society.”

“It’s not a capital I identity film. It’s not a capital F for fatphobic or fatphobia taken down. It’s not always capital letter D diversity. Sometimes it’s really lowercase because, I mean, I live my every day in the body I live in, and it’s never capitalized: capitalized Black identity, capitalized Woman identity. It’s just me.

Ali believes the success sisterhood media has managed to garner comes from the fact it caters to niche markets in a way legacy media organisations and film distributors have struggled to do.

“Young organizations like sisterhood media and a lot of film festivals that focus on niche markets are capable of being flexible, are being changed, and are incorporating and including people [in their processes] from the beginning. There’s definitely a struggle point in the legacy media industry, but organizations like us are not profiting off of a moment or movement. This is our sole purpose. This is our sole mission. And we know that we can’t exist without including the communities we work with from the beginning. So I think that’s where we differ from a lot of the legacy work.”

On why legacy media outlets struggle to showcase new voices….

“I think the people who could have been in the room to help find that content are not there because they have typically been disillusioned, because they’ve realized that these spaces are not for them, that they’ll be dealing with microaggressions every day. But you have various organizations across the country, in various cities, that are building their movement in their community from the ground up. And although we may not have the major legacy media distribution networks yet, we’re getting there.”

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28 Moments of Black Canadian History with Anne Moreau

In Ottawa, 24-year-old Anne Moreau is strapping resources together to tell stories that center Black people the best way she can. Her first foray into media production happened during last year’s federal election, where she wrote and published Black Girls Book: Voters Edition, a 34-page voter guide to help inform Black women on how each party’s platform responded to their specific realities and concerns.

Moreau most recently spent weeks producing 28 Moments of Black Canadian History: a series of videos featuring Black Ottawa youth telling personal stories of Black life in Canada, whether this be navigating school, work environments, interpersonal relationships, or dealing with racism at different points in time.

The thirty capsules vary in length – from three to nine minutes – and each end with the presentation of a figure or moment of Black Canadian History. The videos are released daily throughout the month of February.

 

“I’m this process of unlearning the things that were super problematic [with the way Canadian history is traditionally taught], that were dangerously simplified,” Moreau explains in her own video, published on February 12th, “and I’m trying to replace them with the truth.”

“There’s a lot of things that we don’t know. There’s a lot of information we should know, but that is not presented in a manner that is digestible. Part of the reason why I came up with this idea and decided to pursue it was because I initially thought that Black Canadian history just didn’t exist. And that belief really changes how you move on this land, how you feel rooted, and your connection to this land. In an effort to find our connection and establish one, my team and I thought that finding these stories and sharing them would help us have a better connection with Canada.”

Moreau, whose experiences with the media landscape have come exclusively from her own enterprise, says she is disappointed with the current media landscape.

“Right now, how I’m feeling about media… I’m kind of disappointed, especially with Ottawa, and especially during Black History Month. The fact that this project hasn’t picked up, and that a lot of projects that are being led by members of my community haven’t as well is disappointing. We’re pouring a lot of time and resources into these things, and we’re not given the space to showcase what we’ve done. This is just an incredible example of how much more work still needs to be done, and that’s why a lot of us are taking it into our own hands to try and get that information out there.”

Looking to the future, Moreau believes an increase of community-led projects will be an answer to expanding the scope of narratives presented in the media.

“I think the solution is taking [projects like these] into our own hands, and receiving the necessary funding to be able to do it properly. For this project, we worked with barely anything, but I’m sure that if we had the money and the backing from organizations, from individuals who believed in this project and its importance, our reach would be incredible.”

 

 

 

 

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