Black news­pa­pers are part of na­tion’s his­tory

StarMetro Vancouver - - Views - Vicky Mochama

Last Thurs­day, Vi­ola Des­mond’s sis­ter Wanda Rob­son was the em­bod­i­ment of pure joy as she held aloft the Cana­dian $10 bill that now fea­tures her sis­ter.

Dur­ing her life, Vi­ola Des­mond also found an ad­vo­cate in Car­rie Best, the founder and ed­i­tor of The Clar­ion, a news­pa­per that be­gan as a Nova Sco­tia pro­vin­cial pa­per in 1946, later go­ing na­tional in 1949 as The Negro Cit­i­zen un­til 1956.

Head­lines like, “New Glas­gow restau­rants per­sist in ‘Jim Crow’” to “Girl barred by color from nurses train­ing course” in­formed the Black res­i­dents about the racial chal­lenges that their fel­low res­i­dents faced. It also re­ported on com­mu­nity events and lo­cal speeches from no­table ig­ures in Amer­i­can civil rights like A. Philip Ran­dolph and Paul Robe­son.

In ad­di­tion to the rec­ol­lec­tions of Robe­son and the court record, the Clar­ion’s re­port­ing is a vivid and es­sen­tial record of Vi­ola Des­mond’s ight and of the breadth of Black Nova Sco­tian lives in the post-war pe­riod. As for Car­rie Best, she be­came a hu­man rights colum­nist for the Pic­tou Ad­vo­cate and a schol­ar­ship now car­ries her name.

Best’s Clar­ion was not the only Black news­pa­per. Af­ter es­cap­ing from slav­ery in Ken­tucky and ar­riv­ing in what is now Water­loo, Ont., Henry Wal­ton Bibb be­gan pub­lish­ing the Voice of the Fugi­tive in 1851. Its mis­sion was clear: “We shall ad­vo­cate the im­me­di­ate and un­con­di­tional abo­li­tion of chat­tel slav­ery every­where, but es­pe­cially on Amer­i­can soil. We shall also per­suade... every op­pressed per­son of color in the United States to set­tle in Canada...”

Where the Voice of the Fugi­tive pro­moted Canada as a safe haven, Mary Ann Shadd Cary’s news­pa­per the Pro­vin­cial Free­man was much more crit­i­cal and mil­i­tant. She has the dis­tinc­tion of be­ing North Amer­ica’s irst Black woman pub­lisher.

Black jour­nal­ists, edi­tors and pub­li­ca­tions have been serv­ing com­mu­ni­ties, ad­vo­cat­ing for change and speak­ing truth to power since be­fore Canada was founded. I don’t plan to break with tra­di­tion.

Vicky Mochama

is Metro’s na­tional colum­nist. She ap­pears every Mon­day, Wed­nes­day and Thurs­day.

Cathrin Bradbury

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