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Episode Six:

Olunike Adeliyi

BlackTALK launches season two with actress Olunike Adeliyi, star of CBC’s The Porter. In this candid conversation we learn about Olunike’s backstory, and how it informed her approach to her work. From her debut in theater, to her premier roles on the popular Canadian crime drama Flashpoint, and the historically significant CBC drama The Porter, we trace the path that led to her current success and the values that informed the choices she’s made to proudly tell her own story.

We talk about:

The importance of names and why she’s proud to be called Olunike

Getting started in the acting world and some early career advice from Denzel Washington

Her experiences attending the American Academy of Dramatic Arts as a Black woman

Bringing to life the charter of Queenie in The Porter, co-creating the role with the creative team and not taking “no” for an answer

The importance of being your own number one fan and why she thinks good lighting is super important

Thoughts on moving forward with racial equity in Canada and feeling empowered to move forward in a sense of progression

“Know where you actually came from….don’t let somebody write the narrative for you.” – Olunike Adeliyi

Key words: anti-black racism, black achievement, actress, The Porters, CBC

Episode Five: 

Ivelaw Griffith

On this episode of Blacktalk, Dr. Ivelaw Griffith joins us to talk about his distinguished career including his time as the President of Fort Valley State University. Dr. Griffith shares accounts of how racism has impacted him personally throughout his career and life. He discusses the systemic, structural racism that plays out in universities, the “celebration of whiteness” in our bigger culture, and the role of funding in holding the status quo in place. Dr. Griffith sheds light on how society as a whole needs to change in order to reshape the paradigm.

We talk about:

His transition from Guyana to New York, being put into the “mediocrity zone” by others and the difference between Guyana and Ghana

Finding the resources in academia to make real change

Thoughts on the historical, economic connections between slavery and the modern day prison system in the United States and how the system is “rigged” against Black and Brown people.
How versions of this reality play out globally.

Why systems of funding for education, healthcare, criminal justice and more need to change in order for society to reshape priorities.

Why he thinks “cancel culture” is a fad and is ultimately insufficient to address the real issues. Dr. Griffith talks about how wealth can be used over time to “white wash and play down” racist actions taken by historical leaders.

Ivelaw shares what keeps him going, the role of music in his life, and a message for young people to “keep on keeping on”

Key words: anti-black racism, black achievement, criminal justice, policing, incarceration, structural racism, systemic racism, funding, cancel culture, statues, white-washing wealth, faith

Episode Four:

Celina Caesar-Chavannes

On this episode of Blacktalk, we welcome speaker, author, academic and former MP, Celina Caesar-Chavannes. Celina speaks candidly about her early life and struggles with mental health issues, which she documents in her memoir, Can You Hear Me Now? Celina was the sole Black female MP in a predominantly white and male government. She shares how and why she entered and exited politics, including her clashes with Justin Trudeau. She talks about why she is so passionate about the work she is doing now as Senior Advisor of Equity, Diversity, Inclusion Initiatives and Adjunct Lecturer at Queen’s University and as an advocate for mental health.

We talk about:

Her Caribbean roots in Grenada and early family influences, especially her grandmother, Mrs. Caesar, and her mother, who Celina calls “the iron that sharpened me”

How a viral blog post about a mental health crisis led to writing a book, and how that was a cathartic experience that helped her process her painful experiences

Her early rebellious years in university and why she didn’t enjoy her undergraduate experience
Celina’s advice to young people who want to enter politics, and her own desire to create equity in dealing with healthcare matters led to her decision to enter politics

The juggling act of running a business, leading a national research study, managing a busy family life, doing an MBA and running for office – all at the same time!

Celina’s time in Ottawa, being marginalized, her interactions with other MPs as well as the Prime Minister. How she pushed for change on the promise of “sunny ways” but faced resistance and ultimately “got cut” by trying to break the glass ceiling.

The infamous Andrew Chang interview

Advice for young Black women who want to make a change in society or enter politics

Key words: anti-black racism, black achievement, politics, women in politics, member of parliament, feminism, sexism, equity, diversity, inclusion, EDI, mental health, MBA

Episode Three:

Bukola Salami

On this episode of Blacktalk our guest is University of Alberta associate professor in the faculty of nursing, Dr. Bukola Salami. Dr. Salami shares the impact racism had on her parents’ careers and in her own career where she has been constantly underestimated. She talks about the importance of mentoring and why she is investing her time as a mentor to young Black students. We also cover the health crisis in the Black community, how COVID-19 has exacerbated health inequities, mistrust in public health institutions and the importance of race based health data.

We talk about:

Bukola’s experience in coming to Canada from Nigeria as a sixteen year old, her early expectations of Canada vs the realities of Canadian life.

Feeling fortunate to have had early mentorship as a student and how Dr. Salami is now providing mentorship to young Black students

Experiences with polite racism, being underestimated and seeing her parents facing discrimination for not having Canadian expereince, despite being educated in Canada.

“The Cappuccino effect” in society, being Black underneath and white on top, and the structural racism that holds this in place. How COVID-19 has been disproportionately experienced in racialized communities

Bukola’s thoughts on what can be done at the University of Alberta to “lift all the people up” to level the playing field and her advice for young Black scholars.

Key words: anti-black racism, black achievement, ethnic penalties, polite racism, structural racism, mentorship, the Cappuccino effect, nursing, public health, COVID-19

Episode Two:

Cecil Foster

On this episode of Blacktalk, we’re joined by academic, author and journalist, Dr. Cecil Foster. Dr. Foster weaves his own story of arriving in Canada from Barbados in the 1960s into the larger historical patterns of racism that Black people experience immigrating to Canada. He shares the struggle of being isolated as the only Black journalist in the newsroom and being held back from opportunities to advance. In academia, he faced similar racist behaviour, as both a student and later as a young Black academic. Dr. Foster continues to advocate for a multicultural society and to educate in academia and beyond.

We talk about:

Facing racism growing up in Barbados and reflections on Cecil’s first novel, No Man in the House, and how this type of structural racism could easily have taken place in Canada today

Cecil shares his past experience as a black student and now, as a black scholar. He explains what has changed and what remains the same. He talks about facing “the practical side of racism” as a young journalist.

Having no mentors as a young scholar, and how that has led him to see the importance of being a mentor for his own students.

Despite being one of the top business journalists in Canada and a published author, Cecil faced barriers in trying to land his next role in journalism. He shares how that painful experience led him towards academia.

Why we don’t need to reinvent the wheel, but we do need to embrace “political will” to deal with racism

Key words: anti-black racism, black achievement, journalism, structural racism, mentorship, multiculturalism.

Episode One:

Sir Hilary Beckles

On this episode of Blacktalk, we explore the historical economic links of slavery with Vice Chancellor of The University of the West Indies and global activist, Sir Hilary Beckles. He shares a disturbingly frank look at the British colonial practices of the Black slave code. These practices were institutionalized and legitimized in order to commoditize Black people as labour and assets. Sir Hilary explains how the economic and societal underpinnings of this new island society of Barbados were exported throughout the Americas. As we find ourselves at this “George Floyd moment”, Sir Hilary illustrates how modern experiences of racism are the appalling legacy of these early colonial practices and institutions.

We talk about

The racism behind the British Emancipations Act

Reparations, cleaning up the mess left by colonialism and repaying the debt from 200 years of free labour from 20 million people

Why we need a comprehensive, decades long reparations program of serious economic enfranchisement to compensate for the magnitude and severity of slavery and racism inflicted on Black communities

The health implications of historical inequities and the Caribbean’s triple C challenge of chronic disease, climate change and COVID-19

The bloody legacy of the Rhodes Scholarship, British imperialism and Sir Hilary’s thoughts on his personal connection to knighthood

Key words: anti-black racism, black achievement, reparations, Black slave code, slavery, colonialism, Barbados, Caribbean