The Griot In Me
For generations our children have sat in classrooms for years learning about and participating in discussions on Canadian history and experiences that often excluded the Black experience. Like our Indigenous brothers and sisters our history and tradition were often taught orally through our elders. We believe in old customs like “it takes a village to raise a child” meaning a lot of what we were taught came from community presence where elders advocated strongly through hands on teachings, messages from lived experience and past generations. While this practice gained great respect and appreciation for our elders (ancestors), it made us realize that when are stories were being told in public platforms, or used as educational tools and resources it was never told from our perspective, or used with our voice. This made us realize the importance of being the narrator to not only what we want Black Canadians to know and learn about themselves but all Canadians to know about us. The Black Canadian experience is diverse, complex, and unique even though a lot of our stories are birthed from the pain of racism, discrimination, and systemic methods of oppression we have always risen in strength,courage, and resilence.
In collaboration with the Association Of Black Entrepreneurs And Professionals Ottawa-Gatineau, Heritage Canada, City Of Ottawa Archives, Black History Ottawa and members of the community the ‘Griot In Me Project’ was created to sustain and strengthen the archive of Black Canadian stories in the National Capital Region. Reclaiming voice, ownership, opportunities, and access this project was created to preserve our history, pass down knowledge, leverage legacy, and support unity amongst each other. Providing a platform to foster relationships between elders and youth, build community capacity and trust, as well as educating and training Black Youth to become their own archivist. This project was made to provide a safe space for Black Canadians to have critical conversations surrounding our cultural heritage, representation and lack of diversity in mainstream archival collections as well as inclusion and development.