About the projecT
The Proclaiming Our Roots project is aimed at honoring the histories, realities, stories and experiences of people who are of African diasporic and Indigenous ancestry, and who reside on Turtle Island. With over 400 years of African diasporic presence in Canada, originating from the British North American slave trade (Cooper, 2006; Di Paolantonio, 2010), relationships developed between Indigenous and Black people. Such relationships between African diasporic and Indigenous peoples were feared by colonialists because both communities experienced shared, as well as distinct forms of colonial oppression, conflict, and the need for survival. These unions became a central form of resistance for some African diasporic and Indigenous communities (Brooks, 2002; Lawrence, 2004). Indigenous and Black unions are common within many communities such as the Cherokee, Creek, Lumbee, Creole, and Seminole peoples (Brooks, 2002; Jolivette, 2007; Sturm, 2002). Similarly, Black-Mi'kmaw intermarriage in Nova Scotia proliferated as a form of resistance to extermination policies against Mi'kmaw people and the marginalization of Black loyalists (Lawrence & Dua, 2005)
The Proclaiming Our Roots project afforded individuals, who all identified as having Indigenous and Black ancestry, the opportunity to create their own digital stories or personal videos. Digital stories combine sound, image, video, and text to convey personal experiences. In centering their stories and voices, and sharing their testimonies on their terms, participants reverse the colonial gaze, exhibiting their self determination, and they highlighted topics that were important to them such as identity politics, lateral violence and discrimination, and health and wellbeing.
Who we are
We are a group of African diasporic, Indigenous and allied community-based researchers, artists, activists, and social service providers from both the Greater Toronto Area in Ontario, and the Halifax and Dartmouth areas in Nova Scotia, Canada.
We engage with arts- and community-based research to illuminate the stories of community members and to counter colonial forms of oppression. We acknowledge the stories, experiences and perspectives of community members as valid forms of knowledge, as we understand that stories and testimonies are important modalities for healing and for speaking truth to power.
Ciann L. Wilson is the principal investigator for the Proclaiming Our Roots project and an assistant professor in Community Psychology at Wilfrid Laurier University. Ciann is of Afro, Indo, and Euro- Jamaican ancestry. She has over a decade of experience working within African, Caribbean and Black communities across the greater Toronto area first as a youth programmer and now as a health researcher. Her areas of interest build off her community-engaged work to include critical race theory, anti-/de-colonial theory, African diasporic and Indigenous community health, HIV/AIDS, sexual and reproductive wellbeing and community-based research. Her body of work aims to utilize research as an avenue for sharing the stories and realities of African diasporic, Indigenous and racialized peoples and improving the health and wellbeing of these communities.
Sarah Flicker is a co-principal investigator for the Proclaiming Our Roots project, and is an associate professor at the Faculty of Environmental Studies at York University. Sarah has a track record of success in engaging communities in community-based participatory action health research with racialized and Indigenous communities. Sarah has spent the last ten years working with Indigenous youth in Canada on a variety of HIV prevention research projects. Her allyship is a key component of the POR project.
Bonita Lawrence is a Mi'kmaw scholar and an associate professor at York University and is a co-investigator on the Proclaiming Our Roots project. Bonita has a long history of theoretical scholarship around Native identity in Canada, including focused work on mixed-race Indigenous identity. Bonita was the lead on the conference Indigenous – African relations Across the Americas, which was the first of its kind in Canada. Since 2007, Bonita has taught the course, Indigenous-African Relations at York University
Ann Marie Beals
Ann Marie Beals is an Indigenous-Black research assistant on the Proclaiming Our Roots project, and hails from Dartmouth, Nova Scotia. She is currently a Master’s student at Wilfrid Laurier University, and is under the tutelage of Ciann Wilson. Ann Marie’s research explores the health of mixed-race Black and Indigenous communities and the effects of colonial legacies, ongoing structural inequities, and lack of acknowledgement of Indigenous-Black people. She is assisting in the POR project by conceptualizing the curriculum for the workshops and facilitating the community dialogue within the workshops. Ann Marie works towards the resilience, strength, self-assertion and empowerment of Indigenous and Black communities and is invested in working on the POR project.
Denise Baldwin is a Black-Anishinaabe Kwe citizen from the Chippewa’s of Nawash First Nation in Ontario, Canada. Denise has been essential to the conceptualization of this project since its inception. Her ancestry of African and Anishinaabe is an important role in her work experience and provides a valuable insight to the project. Denise is a Health Promoter in Harm Reduction at South Riverdale Community Health Centre anchoring the women's harm reduction programming. She has over 20 years experience working with Indigenous communities on and off reserve. Denise also has expertise in facilitating workshops around the effects on colonization on Indigenous health, harm reduction and trauma informed care. Denise will provide assistance at all stages of the POR project.
Conrad Prince identifies as both Anishinabe and African diasporic and is a member of Sagkeeng First Nation (Treaty # 1) in Manitoba. He is the National Director of the Reconciliation Program at Save the Children and a welcome addition to the Proclaiming Our Roots Advisory Committee. Conrad is a Sixties Scoop survivor and has repatriated with his family, cultural and home community. He is actively involved in Indigenous child welfare issues, in particular supporting other Indigenous transracial adoptees in finding their families of origin and home communities. Conrad holds degrees in Criminology and Sociology.
Rashida Symonds is an Indigenous and African Diasporic woman from Nova Scotia Canada. Her ancestry is Mi’kmaq, Black Loyalist and Bajan. Rashida is an educator, spoken word, artist, poet, intuitive empathic healer, community activist and counsellor. She has worked with youth since she was a teenager and is fully dedicated to enriching lives. Her organization Reach One Collective is committed to mentoring and tutoring youth as well as working to heal the community in various ways though training and counselling. Her brand Mighty Royal is committed to natural living, knowledge, wisdom, mental, emotional and spiritual wellness, wholeness and balance.
Anique Jordan is the artist facilitator for the Proclaiming Our Roots project, and holds a Masters of Environmental Studies degree from York University, specializing in photography, auto-biography and Black Canadian histories. She is a community-based artist with over a decade of experience working within Black communities in multiple locations across Toronto and the Caribbean. She has designed and facilitated workshops in which artistic processes centre around building family archives and creating, through written form and assemblage, our own history. Anique has been recognized for this work through fellowships,awards and internships globally. Anique works intimately with communities and individuals to document family stories as central and important to the makeup of Canadian history. Her own family story extends through the war of 1812, American slavery, to Caribbean and Canadian immigration. Anique’s work has been exhibited at the Art Gallery of Ontario, Gallery 44 and at various national conferences. As an artist facilitator, she will work closely with the research team to design a digital oral history process centering on the claiming and voicing of our own story as a critical component of art production and the creation of both public and personal archives. Anique is technically trained in multimedia digital production.
Melisse Watson is the Graphic Illustrator for the Proclaiming Our Roots project.