Celebrating Black History Month and Working for Change Every Month

In recognition of Black History Month, we’ve been looking back at some of the incredible stories from Black activists, poets, and writers that have had an impact on members of our team over the past year. 

From books and essays to podcasts and documentaries, these are stories that have challenged us, moved us, educated us, brought us to tears, and inspired us. And as February draws to a close, we want to help keep the conversation going. 

Positive change requires action 365 days a year. It requires celebrating Black stories every month; supporting Black creatives, organizers, non-profits, and businesses; and taking meaningful action to end anti-Black racism and systemic discrimination in every form it takes.

As a creative agency dedicated to positive change in the lives of Canadians, we’re committed to doing this work alongside so many others. And it starts by making the most of every opportunity to listen to, elevate, and share Black voices.

Close-up portrait of Desmond Cole, harshly lit from one side by red light.

The Skin We’re In 
by Desmond Cole

Heads up: watching The Skin We’re In isn’t a substitute for reading The Skin We’re In, nor is the book a substitute for the film. 

Both works touch on Desmond Cole’s experiences with racism and advocacy and cover recent developments in anti-Black racism and Black activism in Canada, but each covers different territory and builds on the other. Cole’s experiences and writings cover a broad swath of recent and historical injustices while Charles Officer’s striking film powerfully chronicles a movement through Cole’s journey. 

Too often, we learn about movements and activists who are far away and long ago. The Skin We’re In isn’t just a story. It’s a guide to how to act and who to support – here and now.

Code Switch, Episode “Is it time to say R.I.P. to ‘POC’?”

Illustration of the letters "POC" being pulled at by hands from opposing directions.

In 2020, you likely saw a lot more of a new-ish acronym tossed around: BIPOC. And just like every time a new term emerges, you might have wondered: what does it mean? Should I be using it? What does it say about me if I use it – or don’t?

This episode of the podcast Code Switch explores the meaning of BIPOC in a way that’s open and honest, serious but lighthearted, heartfelt and inquisitive. Even for people who experience racism regularly, terminology can be tricky. And this discussion shows how much is to be gained by crawling before running. 

Whether we’re considering using POC, BIPOC, or some other identifying term, the lesson might sound familiar: break down jargon. Get to the core of what you’re trying to say and communicate in clear terms we all understand. When we do so, it doesn’t just keep us from causing offense – it helps us see each other more clearly.

99% Invisible, Episode “Freedom House Ambulance Service”

During this past summer, when surging COVID numbers intersected with the George Floyd protests, 99% Invisible posted an episode about the Freedom House Ambulance Service. In tracing the origins of paramedic services, 99PI showed us both how first responders might be re-imagined, and just how much our societies owe to Black communities for innovating an indispensable public service. 

Until We Are Free: Reflections on Black Lives Matter in Canada edited by Rodney Diverlus, Sandy Hudson, and Syrus Marcus Ware

A collection of essays and conversations touching on Canadian Black activism, organizing, Black-Indigenous alliances, Black-LGBTQ alliances, and so much more. The collection brings together Black writers from across Canada, sharing analysis of Black realities and the ongoing work of Black liberation. This book should be on everyone’s reading list. It’s a brilliant, insightful call to do more – because there is so much more work to do.

Cover of "Until We Are Free"

The Selected Works of Audre Lorde edited by Roxane Gay

Audre Lorde was an American feminist and civil rights activist, who described herself as “Black, lesbian, mother, warrior, poet,” and dedicated her life to fighting racism, sexism, classism, capitalism and homophobia. This collection showcases some of her incredible contributions to intersectional feminism, race and gender studies.

Memorial: A Novel by Bryan Washington

This novel is a beautiful, thoughtful and overwhelming portrayal of queer working class life and alienation. There’s just so much daily struggle in here, as characters try to deal with family and history, while trying to make enough to just keep going. And it’s told through incredible descriptions of food and cooking on every single page. 

Breath, Eyes, Memory by Edwidge Danticat

Edwidge Danticat’s first book is the story of Sophie Caco, a young woman who at the age of 12 is sent from her home in Haiti to New York City, to live with her mother. The book follows Sophie as she grows up and learns her family history, understands her childhood and who she has grown to be. Set both in New York City and Haiti, the story is a beautiful and painful look at life, violence, suffering and courage.

The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas

The Hate You Give follows Starr Carter as she moves between the world of the poor, Black neighbourhood she lives in, and the white, suburban neighbourhood she attends high school in. After she witnesses her childhood best friend being shot and killed by the cops and a trial that plays out in the local gang politics and national media, Starr struggles to continue balancing life in her two, very different worlds.

Bad Feminist by Roxane Gay

This is a collection of essays and observations that cover everything from culture and politics to feminism and queerness. Roxane Gay is real and pointed in her critique of society, while also making the compelling case that we can be and do better. You’ll laugh, you’ll groan, and hopefully you’ll walk away wanting to be a better human.

We have a lot more work to do. And we would love to hear your recommendations, too. Connect with us on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.