Adrian Harewood is a long time journalist and award-winning anchor at CBC in Ottawa.
As difficult and exhausting and infuriating as the last few weeks have been, we should always remind ourselves that we are standing on the shoulders of heroic generations of BIPOC folks in Canada who struggled and sacrificed to make space for us.
I think about those Black Canadian journalists of my parents’ generation, Aunties and Uncles, who finished at or near the top of their class in J-School and still couldn’t get a full-time or even part-time gig in a Canadian mainstream media newsroom, certainly not at CBC/Radio Canada, and who then had to settle for jobs that were not of their dreams, while less talented colleagues saw their journalism careers take off.
We need to remind ourselves that we are here and that we have agency, and that with organization and imagination and pluck we can affect change. In fact, CBC/Radio Canada and other mainstream media are changing as we speak, although not nearly fast enough. The ground is shifting beneath our feet because we are speaking up and out, without fear, because we know we are telling the truth. We need to keep up the pressure. Keep on raising our voices. Keep on challenging power in the spaces we occupy. Every bit of action and engagement counts.
Agitation is critical and is the lifeblood of our movement, but we also need to think clearly about what we are trying to create. And so we need to be discussing what our goals are and how we plan to get there. Let us use these and other forums to think out loud. Let us be strategic. Ours is not yet a coordinated and focused movement: That can both be to our advantage and disadvantage. My concern is that if we don’t start to clearly articulate what we want and how we want to achieve it in a systematic manner, we may run the risk of having no way to measure what in fact we are accomplishing or missing.
We can already, of course, celebrate some successes: conversations happening both inside and outside CBC/Radio Canada and other media about the prevalence of Anti-Black racism and systemic racism that were not occurring just over a month ago; ideas being debated in the public square that were once considered either fanciful or verboten that have entered the proverbial mainstream; decent and sincere White colleagues expressing their solidarity and wanting to get busy and engage in this collective struggle.
But what we know from history is that “transforming the discourse” while significant is not sufficient. We want CBC/Radio Canada and other mainstream media to look and feel and sound and be different in material ways in the weeks and months to come. We don’t want to “overcome some day”, we want to overcome now. We cannot afford to wait. So let us be transparent and share our ideas about the specific changes we would like to see. In this critical moment of possibility, let us reach for the moon. Let us not limit our vision. And whatever the “pushbacks” or setbacks, let us not be discouraged. Let us continue to be unapologetically bold and free.
Adrian Harewood is a long time journalist and award-winning anchor at CBC in Ottawa. As co-host of CBC Ottawa news he was part of the team that won Best Local Anchor Award at the 2020 Canadian Screen Awards. He was also host of the CBC Ottawa drive home show, and worked on prominent network programs The Current, As It Happens, Counterspin and Power and Politics.