Black Women In Canadian Literature

Yuliia Hrytskiv
February 6, 2021

In honour of Black History Month, I want to highlight some of the amazing female Canadian writers.

Jillian Christmas

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. 

Esi Edugyan

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 

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.

d’bi.young anitafrika

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. 

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s