The Doc Project

Punk and Black in Halifax

Growing up in Halifax, being at a punk show was where Chris Murdoch felt most at home. But he also stood out.

"There were people who decided that I didn't count as a Black person," says Halifax punk rocker Chris Murdoch

Chris Murdoch in the summer of 2008, his first time performing vocals live in front of anyone.

By Chris Murdoch

I went to my first punk show in May of 2000, when I was in junior high. Often, I would go to shows completely by myself. I'd get my dad to drop me off and I would go to the show alone. I'd buy T-shirts from touring bands, and I'd wear them at school. I was really proud of this new identity, and I wanted to show it off. 

I'd get my dad to drop me off and I would go to the show alone. I'd buy T-shirts from touring bands, and I'd wear them at school.

When I was at a punk show, that was when I felt most at home. But being Black, it was also where I stood out the most. And meanwhile, the more I identified as punk in my daily life, the more hostility I encountered. 

This doc originated from something I wrote for the Halifax publication The Coast in conjunction with a presentation on Black punk rockers that I gave as part of Halifax's OBEY Music Festival.
Chris singing for his band Word On The Street - Truro, Nova Scotia, Summer 2011.
One of the organizers asked me to give the presentation after seeing a series of photos (one a day for the month of February) of Black punk musicians I posted on my Instagram page.

I was moved to post those photos for two reasons: first of all, I feel that many of these musicians are unsung heroes who never truly got their due for influencing the world of punk rock the way in which they did.

Black punk pioneers: Chris Murdoch's photo gallery

Secondly, these are people who validated my very existence as a frustrated teenager. When I was at the height of teenage frustration I found that a lot of my feelings of alienation came from being a Black person who did not fit the mold of what many of my peers felt was a "typical" teenage Black male at that time.

Chris at the drums, in the fall of 2008.

It wasn't until years later that I found a community of people who shared many similar experiences and helped me feel more at ease with who I am. It's somewhat easy to look back and laugh these days, but I have a lot of dark memories of those years – late nights spent questioning my identity and my place in the world, trying to manage my own intense feelings of shame while experiencing rejection from peers both Black and white.

In the documentary, I talk about how I came to find a sense of belonging in the Halifax punk scene... while at the same time being made to feel like an outcast in the rest of my daily life. It's a complicated dichotomy, but one that shaped who I am. Having the chance to speak on The Doc Project about my experiences as a person of colour in the punk scene is something I won't soon forget. More than anything, I hope that there are people out there who hear the piece and find that they can relate on some level. 

About the producer 

(Veronica Simmonds)

Veronica Simmonds is a radio experimenter. Her documentaries have aired on CBC, ABC and BBC. Her radio art work has aired in a weather observatory in France, a hair dryer in Pittsburgh, and a grain silo in Norway. Her love of the internet has led her to create interactive web experiences such as Body of Water and her love of hair led her to create her podcast Braidio, where she braided hair on air. These days she works with CBC Original Podcasts, producing Sleepover with Sook-Yin Lee,  Alone: A Love Story and now, The Fridge Light. Twitter: @veesimmonds