Being black in Manitoba: CBC Manitoba live chat asks what it means, how it feels and why
'You can be the only black person in the room' but still 'invisible,' panellists say
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:
"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.
"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?