February 6, 2021
In honour of Black History Month, I want to highlight some of the amazing female Canadian writers.
Jillian Christmas, raised in Markham, Ontario, is a Canadian poet as well as an activist in the Canadian arts community. She started writing during her teen years, but began her stage career in her mid-20s. She is currently living on the unceded territories of the Squamish, Tsleil-Waututh and Musqueam people (Vancouver, BC). Her art takes many forms, such as live poetry performances, poetry/music fusion and printed word. Christmas says she prefers live poetry to written word because she “crave[s] the ability to look the audience in the eye, to share the story with them and allow their reactions to shape [her] delivery”. Her slam poem “Black Feminist”, which was first performed in 2015, is getting more and more attention form the public as it highlights racial prejudices in the feminist movement. Her art is often described as strong, hopeful, and mature.
I have included a passage from her poem “Northern Light” (more here)
Stepping off the plane in Whitehorse the last thing I expect to feel is home not quite alone but close enough here in this great black north. As we drive away from the airport Chris points out the window That's Antoinette's, Caribbean food if you're feeling in need of a pick-me-up. She's from Tobago. And I'm not sure if he knows it’s the same island that bred these bones, that just the song of its name is home. What strange things are we Creatures of the Diaspora, treasures of the Caribbean Sea, knocking our knees together in parkas teeth chattering where the thin trees stretch high the heavens to seek the queerest light? What strange escapes have we made to want to call this place home? And I do. I do feel the ghosts of women not unlike us, whose resilience and fortitude pulled more than gold and dust and opportunity from this blistering cold.
A graduate of Johns Hopkins University and the University of Victoria, Esi Edugyan is a Canadian novelist, raised in Calgary, Alberta. Born to immigrant parents, the racism she experienced in childhood would influence her future novels, especially her Giller Prize winning novel Half-Blood Blues.
Cecily Nicholson is famous for her poetry as well as her activism. She is the author of a poetry collection Triage, which deals with “women’s creative resistance to everyday physical and systemic violence”. She is also the author of poetry collections From the Poplars and Wayside Sang.
Globally-celebrated multi-award winning Canadian poet, d’bi.young anitafrika has made a profound impact on Canadian and global theatre. Her productions centre around race, gender, class and human existence. She comes from a working-class community in Jamaica, and says that she feels blessed this was the place of her childhood because it was a community where one’s Africanness and the beauty of African women was celebrated. Moreover, she was raised in a matriarchal society, with the boundless love and support of her mother. Today, she is the author of twelve plays, seven albums, four poetry collections, and was recently recognised as a Global Leader in Theatre & Performance by Arts Council England. She inspires women worldwide to become powerful artists and leaders and to raise their voices and advocate for themselves.