PEI·Point of View

We have always been great: Black history on P.E.I.

For this Black history month, here is some Black history from Black Islanders for Black Islanders that continues to support the theory: We have always been here. We have always been great.

Black people have always been here. Black people have always been great.

Black Islanders at the Charlottetown Black Lives Matter march. (Oniel Kuku)

This column is an opinion written by Kendi Tarichia. For more information about our commentary section, please read our FAQ.

We have always been Great.

Black people have always been on the Island.

The first "recorded" Black person on P.E.I. is from a Nova Scotia census 100 years before confederation.

Black people had been sailing the seas trading gold, salt, and metals.

This trade continued until Black people became the commodity known as Black gold.

In 1311, Mansa Musa, the richest man to ever live, a Black Malian was appointed King when his predecessor Abu Bakr II chose to sail the Atlantic ocean himself to find the "end."

It is believed that some of the earliest descendants of Black presence in the Americas date back to the Malian empire and that some of Abu Bakr II's fleet made it to the Americas.

Columbus documented finding Black traders with guanín, a blend of precious metals, in the Americas.

Black people have always been here.

Black people have always been great.

The story of Blackness for too long has been told from a white narrative for a white audience and for white benefit.

For this Black History Month, here is some Black history from Black Islanders for Black Islanders that continues to support the theory:

We have always been here.

We have always been great.

After tea with a Black elder, here are a few cool takeaways:

  • Black potters lived in the North River area. They used a special mud to make bricks for chimneys.
  • Most of the Island's domestic work was done by Black labourers that had to be skilled upon arrival.

Before the 1900's,

  • Sara Harvey, a Black teacher in the Bog, was such an impressive teacher, ALL wealthy folx wanted her to educate their children.
  • Black people on the Island had wills and there were disputes over the wills in local courts, this meant we owned property and businesses on the Island.
  • Provincially, Black people could vote. The Byers home, a well known Black man's house was our voting station.

These are a few of the MANY stories we are gathering.

Good, beautiful, incredible, resilient stories of P.E.I.

Stories that have been intentionally erased due to anti-Blackness.

But also to suppress Black self worth and self love.

Across the world, young children learn their family tree and Ancestry, in some cultures it is more detailed than others. It is universally known that the history of your family and Ancestors correlates with your self image, self worth, self love … all in all it is a critical part of your identity.

Black people in the Americas have been intentionally stripped of that.

Stripped of identity.

Over time, Blackness in P.E.I. has changed. A lot of the Black descendants of the early Black Islanders are white-passing from intermarriage but their names and family history carry a beautiful legacy of Blackness. There are elders here that took it upon themselves to preserve this wisdom, this legacy, this Greatness.

In Linda, a Black elder's own words, "I knew the time would come when people would know about us."

Over the last few decades, Blackness once again has changed on P.E.I.

We have a thriving, connected, and Great community that has grown through immigration, education and descendants of the initial Black Islanders.

We now have a Black man as an MLA,

A Black woman as the provincial epidemiologist,

Another Black woman heading the Black Cultural Society,

Both UPEI and Holland College student unions are headed by Black women,

We have writers, dancers, activists, media moguls, professional athletes, finance gurus all on this little Island.

P.E.I. has Black folx thriving in so many capacities.

So to close off Black History Month 2021, this is a reminder, especially to Black people,

We have always been here, we have always been Great.

We are here. We are Great.

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.

(CBC)

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Artist and political scientist.

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