Being black in Manitoba: CBC Manitoba live chat asks what it means, how it feels and why

What does it mean to be black in Manitoba? It's a question that on this first week of Black History Month, CBC Manitoba asked during a special live chat at 11:30 a.m. CT.

'You can be the only black person in the room' but still 'invisible,' panellists say

Winnipeg law student Chimwemwe Undi on being black in Manitoba: 'There's an impression that black people just arrived for the first time.' (Submitted by Chimwemwe Undi)

What does it mean to be black in Manitoba? 

It's a question that on this first week of Black History Month, CBC Manitoba asked during a special live chat.

Of the 30,340 Manitobans who identify as black according to Statistics Canada, there are likely 30,340 different answers. 

One commonality is emerging, however. For some, being black in Manitoba means being visibly invisible.

Watch the panel discussion here:

CBC Asks: What is the black experience in Manitoba?

CBC News Manitoba

1 year ago
Does the black experience differ across Manitoba? How has it changed over the years? As we celebrate Black History Month, CBC’s Ismaila Alfa and Ify Chewetelu host a panel on what it means to be black in the keystone province. Panellists include Markus Chambers, Jamie Moses and Chimwemwe Undi. 38:36

"You have all of the attention and none of the attention at the same time," said Jamie Moses, NDP MLA for St. Vital and a lifelong Winnipegger. "Everyone is always aware that you're the only black person in the room, but trying not to pay extra attention to you, as the only black person in the room."

Optically, what you see is a person of colour.  Culturally, we're different.- Marcus Chambers

University of Manitoba law student Chimwemwe Undi puts it this way: "The impression that people have of black people in Manitoba is that there aren't really any. I don't mean it as a positive. It's an experience of disappearing."

Markus Chambers, who was born in England but grew up in Winnipeg, says society often doesn't see beyond the colour of one's skin.

Up To Speed's Ismaila Alfa hosted the Facebook live panel on being black in Manitoba. 'Manitoba's black community is much more diverse than some may think,' says Alfa. (Donna Carreiro/CBC)

"There was a period of time where individuals would associate that all black people are the same, whether from  Africa or the Caribbean," said Chambers, Winnipeg's first black deputy mayor. "Optically, what you see is a person of colour. Culturally, we're different."

It also depends upon where you compare your experience to.

Ify Chiwetelu, co-host of CBC Radio's Now or Never, spent much of her life in two different provinces, where the black communities are larger and, therefore, more diverse than Manitoba's.

"My experience here is that the population is so much smaller, newer," Chiwetelu said.

Statistics bear that out. 

Ontario has the largest percentage of black Canadians in the country; close to half of whom were born there, Statistics Canada says.

But the fastest growing black population in Canada is in the prairie provinces; with Alberta leading the way (it's grown five times over since 2016).

So what does the black experience feel like in Manitoba?

The CBC's Ismaila Alfa was joined by a panel to explore what it means to be black in the keystone province. Does the black experience differ from rural to urban settings? How has it changed for the newest generation?  What does the future look like?


Donna Carreiro

CBC Radio Current Affairs Producer

Donna Carreiro is an award-winning producer and journalist, who has worked for more than 26 years with CBC Manitoba. Prior to that, she was a print journalist for a daily newspaper and local magazines. She is drawn to stories of social justice (or injustice) that give a voice to those who most need one. She can be reached at