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Black History Month 2023: Read, Watch, & Listen

As we celebrate Black History Month, we’re continuing our learning, and we thought an update to our Black history reading lists (see our lists from 2018 and 2020) was in order! This year, we turned to our CSI community to crowdsource their recommendations. We asked our members and staff to share with us a favourite book, essay, movie, show, or podcast that they found impactful about the Black experience. Take a look at their recommendations below. We hope this will serve as an opportunity to learn more about the past, present, and future of the Black experience in both Canada and the rest of the world. 

Cover of the book "Between the World and Me" by Ta-Nehisi Coates

Between the World and Me (book) by Ta’Nehisi Coates

This is about a father writing to his son about his feelings and perspectives on being Black in America. Recommending it for anyone who needs/wants empathic insight into the complexities of racial identity.

Zoie Browne, MPA, Project Manager, LURA Consulting

What Happened When I Tried to Carry the World on My BackAccompanying image to the essay "What Happened When I Tried to Carry the World on my Back (Essay) by Mary Heglar

When an essay crosses my feed a few times I try to remember to come back to it. When it happens twenty times I stop what I’m doing and read it. That’s what happened with this essay from Mary Heglar that speaks deep hard truths about the expectations put on black women in the climate movement and the realities of burn out in the face of a planet burning up.

Stefan Hostetter, Community Director, CSI Spadina

Cover of Teaching Hard History podcast


Teaching Hard History (podcast)

I co-produced this podcast for the Southern Poverty Law Center in Montgomery. Over the course of four seasons, we explored the nuances of American slavery, the Civil Rights Movement and US history through Reconstruction and the Jim Crow era. I personally learned so much from these guests (and hosts!) throughout.

Russell W. Gragg, Journalist/Editor/Producer

I Am Not Your NegroCover image of the I Am Not Your Negro documentary (documentary)

Filmmaker Raoul Peck expands on James Baldwin’s unfinished manuscript on America’s relationship to its Black population through Baldwin’s memories of the civil rights movement and meditations on what progress looks like for Black Americans. Peck weaves Baldwin’s resonating words into the present by outlining the work required to overcome deep systemic racial inequity.

Norhan Haroun, CSI Community Operations Coordinator

‘Sweat’ (concert)Promotional poster for Sweat concert

Master Storyteller Sheila Arnold returns to Toronto to present the world premier of Guggenheim Fellowship Recipient, Zora Neale Hurston’s ground-breaking Harlem Renaissance piece ‘Sweat‘ – where 1920s feminism comes to fruition under a Chinaberry Tree. Original musical composition and arrangement by Yorkville favourite John Campbell.

Briane Nasimok, Chair, Storytelling Toronto,Artistic Director, Story Fusion Cabaret Series

Book cover of "How to Slowly Kill Yourself in America"

How to Slowly Kill Yourself in America (essay collection) by Kiese Laymon

Essayist and memoir writer Laymon compiles a selection of essays on the Black experience in the US, with each of the essays brimming with his trademark humour, insight and flair for language. 

David Silverberg, Freelance writer + writing coach

Photo of Desmond Cole, author of the article "The Skin I'm In"

The Skin I’m In (article) by Desmond Cole

Dihan Chandra, Founder and Managing Director, The Spent Goods Company

Black AbacusCover of book, Black Abacus by Ian Keteku by Ian Keteku (poetry collection)

Toronto-based Keteku is well known as a spoken word poet, director, screenwriter and creative writing professor at OCAD. His first poetry collection is a beautiful and poignant book that demonstrates his skill of revealing the powerful truths on subject matters ranging from looking deep into his African identity, his upbringing in Calgary and so much more.

David Silverberg, Freelance writer + writing coach

Just MercyBook cover of Just Mercy (book) by Bryan Stevenson

The story follows the founding of the Equal Justice Initiative and profiles some of the people they’ve helped over the years. I found this book really impactful, and it helped to open my eyes to the injustice of the American prison system. Plus, the author, Bryan Stevenson, grew up just a few towns over from me in Delaware, and it’s great to read about all of the important work he’s done.

Colleen, CSI Marketing & Communication Manager

Dreams in VantablackCover image of Dreams in Vantablack series (animated poetry series) by CBC Gem

Directed by the aforementioned Keteku, this animated poetry series is a rarity: young poets of colour are paired with animators to create compelling cinepoem videos touching on an array of issues facing marginalized communities in Ontario. Definitely kid friendly, so watch them with the whole family!

David Silverberg, Freelance writer + writing coach

The Book of NegroesCover image of The Book of Negroes series (available on CBC Gem); Invisible City (available on NFB); The Porter (available on CBC Gem); The Skin We’re In (available on Youtube); Subjects of Desire (available on TVO).

These are all great Canadian movies or TV shows that we have in the Reel Canada catalogue!

Eric Tisch, Programming Manager & National Canadian Film Day Manager, Reel Canada

Image that says "Woke" in pink, bubbly lettersWhen Did “Woke” Lose Its Meaning & How Do We Get It Back? (essay) by Kathleen Newman-Bremang

It’s scary to see how Black history is being erased from from the education system – especially in the United States. After reading this article, I couldn’t agree more with Kathleen. Please stop relying on the Black community to educate you. Learn about censorship. Understand the history. Read the books. Do the damn work people.

Book cover of Policing Black Lives by Robyn Maynard

Danielle, CSI Event Space and Production Manager

Policing Black Lives: State Violence in Canada from Slavery to the Present (book) by Robyn Maynard

Sometimes it’s difficult to see the water we swim in. This book is an incredible primer on the history of state-sanctioned oppression of Black Canadians and helps us imagine a world post-state-policing in our local context. Required reading for anyone trying to become more literate on structural racism here at home.

Tara, CSI Annex Community Manager

Rest Is Resistance: A ManifestoBook cover of Rest is Resistance by Tricia Hersey (book) by Tricia Hersey

I’ve heard it said there no one works harder than a Black woman. Tricia combats legacies of slavery and capitalism by saying no to hustle culture and cultivating spaces of rest for and by Black folks first. Incredible lessons about the power of rest and joy in activism.

Tara, CSI Annex Community Manager

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