This Eastern Townships duo is shining a spotlight on the Black experience in their region
Aïssé Touré and Angélique Goguen-Couture's social media page BlackEstrie has expanded into a TV series
CBC Quebec is highlighting people from the province's Black communities who are giving back, inspiring others and helping to shape our future. These are the 2023 Black Changemakers.
First, there were uncomfortable remarks about the style and texture of her hair.
Then came cringeworthy questions about whether she fed chocolate breast milk to her child.
Life in the Eastern Townships hasn't always been smooth sailing for Aïssé Touré, a nurse who moved to the region after immigrating to Canada in 2014. She attributes what she's gone through to the region's relative lack of diversity, compared to the French suburb where she was born and raised.
"I lived in France for 25 years, I never experienced that," said Touré. "Now I come here, and it felt like I was going back to the 1960s."
"People around me had no notion of Black culture. I felt like I was constantly teaching people things."
Experiencing that cultural disconnect is what led Touré and her friend and fellow health-care worker, Angélique Gouguen-Couture, to create BlackEstrie, a social media page showcasing the work and contributions of Black people living in the Eastern Townships.
The concept has since expanded. The pair now produce and co-host a television series on the community channel MAtv called Personne n'en parle (No one is talking about it) — a play on Tout le monde en parle, Radio-Canada's popular weekly talk show.
The episodes have covered a wide array of topics including immigration, education, health care, Black hair, body image issues and self-esteem.
"We just want to get people to know the different people in the region, their qualities, their flaws and show that the Black community has its place here," said Goguen-Couture.
Like Touré, Goguen-Couture is no stranger to the challenge of fitting in.
She was born in Haiti. At the age of four, she was adopted by a white family from Quebec, growing up in Val-des-Sources (formerly Asbestos), Lac-Mégantic and Waterville before settling down in Sherbrooke.
As a child, Goguen-Couture was always the only Black student in her class. Bullying was inevitable.
"My family was white. When I go to school, everybody was white," she said. "I just had to go through the racism."
"It was very difficult to find my place and to be able to express myself."
Through BlackEstrie, Touré and Goguen-Couture wanted to show that there is a Black experience in Quebec that's not limited to the Montreal area.
"There's often a tendency to say that Black people are either in Montreal or Toronto, and it's not true," said Camille Esther Garon, a Quebec City resident who is a supporter of BlackEstrie.
"There are a lot of projects being carried out in the regions."
As BlackEstrie has gained visibility and momentum through its television and social media presence, its founders have gotten more involved in the community.
Last summer, the duo turned a donation into a free outing to a local movie theatre for 65 children from different backgrounds to watch the movie Black Panther: Wakanda Forever.
For Black History Month, BlackEstrie is organizing local activities, including a women's brunch, featuring several panel discussions.
"The brunch is not only for women of African descent. We want diversity in the panel discussions. In fact, we want to lead by example when it comes to showing what diversity really is," Touré said.
Even as their list of projects grows, Touré and Goguen-Couture plan to stay true to their original goals — focusing on a positive message and introducing their audience to people in the community trying to make a difference.
"No matter who we've spoken to, whether it be a farmer, a singer, a lawyer, all from completely different fields — it was important to showcase them and talk about them through BlackEstrie," said Cougen-Couture.
"They've all told us it's benefitted them."
The Black Changemakers is a special series recognizing individuals who, regardless of background or industry, are driven to create a positive impact in their community. From tackling problems to showing small gestures of kindness on a daily basis, these changemakers are making a difference and inspiring others. Meet all the changemakers here.
For more stories about the experiences of Black Canadians — from anti-Black racism to success stories within the Black community — check out Being Black in Canada, a CBC project Black Canadians can be proud of. You can read more stories here.