'High time' to honour pair chosen for Black History Month stamps, says Winnipeg-based creator

A Winnipeg-based design firm can finally reveal it was tapped by Canada Post to design a pair of stamps honouring two great Black Canadians for this year's Black History Month.

Winnipeg firm selected by Canada Post to design images of Lincoln Alexander, Kay Livingstone

One of this year's two Black History Month Stamps shows Kathleen 'Kay' Livingstone, who founded the group that would eventually become the Congress of Black Women of Canada. (Canada Post)

Lincoln Alexander, Canada's first black MP and a former Ontario lieutenant-governor, is shown on a Canada Post stamp for Black History Month. (Canada Post)
A Winnipeg-based designer says it was a "wonderful honour" to design a pair of stamps honouring two historical Canadians for this year's Black History Month.

The stamps honour Lincoln Alexander, Canada's first black member of Parliament and a former Ontario lieutenant-governor, and Kathleen "Kay" Livingstone, a former actress and grassroots activist who founded the group that would eventually become the Congress of Black Women of Canada.

"They are very prominent individuals in Canadian history, and it was certainly high time that they were recognized in a significant way," said Andrea Tetrault, a partner at Winnipeg-based design group Tétro, in a Thursday interview with CBC Radio's Up To Speed.

The firm was one of a small group of designers asked by Canada Post to submit ideas for the stamps in 2015. An advisory committee selected Tétro's submission and worked with the firm to create the final design. Tetrault said the process had to be kept secret until the stamps were unveiled for this year's Black History Month.

"It feels like such a big mantle of responsibility, but so wonderful," Tetrault said.

'Wonderful honour'

The stamps each feature a portrait of their subjects taken later in their lives, with a scene in the background that tells another part of their story.

In Alexander's stamp, he's seen in profile with Parliament Hill's Peace Tower behind him. Tetrault said it's a nod to his career as a public servant.

"That seemed like a very fitting tribute to a man of his stature and to what he accomplished," she said.

Alexander, who died in 2012 at age 90, was named "Greatest Hamiltonian of All Time" by readers of the Hamilton Spectator. Tetrault said he was known for his love of meeting with the public and gave an "astonishing" number of handshakes throughout his career.

Livingstone's is a smiling, head-on portrait. The background of the stamp shows her hosting a public meeting. Livingstone, who was born in London, Ont., in 1918, was a driving force in building collective awareness and pride in the Toronto black community following the Second World War, according to Parks Canada.

"Being that grassroots, rallying individual, that seemed like a great shot for her," Tetrault said.

This year's creations are the second set of stamps Tetrault's firm has designed for Canada Post.

"I think it's just maybe a testament to how much we take these things to heart," she said.

"We do this every day, and a lot of the work we do is admittedly somewhat disposable but stamps are not. They end up in the [Canadian Museum of History] for all time. So we feel it's a big responsibility and such a wonderful honour and challenge."