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Historian Cheryl Foggo brings the stories of important African-Canadians to life with her books, films and plays
How much do Canadians know about our country’s black history? How many people would admit to knowing little about Viola Desmond before the campaign to choose a woman to appear on the new banknote? Most of us might say our knowledge stops at the Underground Railroad or Nova Scotia’s Black Loyalists. But this country is rich with stories of African-Canadian experiences on the east coast, west coast and everywhere between. While classrooms play catch-up in diversifying history curriculums, learning the names and stories of African-Canadian men and women is a conscious effort that should no longer be set aside.
Cheryl Foggo is a playwright, historian and author who’s committed to making the names and tales of African-Canadian settlers known. Based in Calgary, Foggo actively combs archives and documents recounting the lives of Alberta’s black settlers. One of her projects is a documentary film about the legendary black cowboy John Ware, who was considered a hero in Alberta’s ranching frontier.
We spoke with Foggo about her latest projects, Alberta’s lesser-known African-Canadians and why celebrating Canada’s black history is important not just in February, but year-round.
When did you first become interested in Canada’s black history?
From a young age I was interested in the stories I heard my mother’s family tell when we visited my grandparent’s home in Winnipeg. Although I wouldn’t have defined it as history at that time—it was just my Mom and her siblings and their parents talking about their lives—I found these stories interesting. As I got older, I gradually became aware of a disconnect between the history I was learning in school and what I was hearing from my family. I began to wonder why our stories were absent from the historical record.
Why do you think Canadians don’t know much about our country’s black history?
I think it’s up to Canadians to ask ourselves this question. Even what Canadians do know about the Black Loyalists and the Underground Railroad is limited to a “happy ending” narrative and skewed away from the realities of the struggles black Canadians faced historically.
Western Canada’s black history isn’t widely known or taught. Share the story of one lesser-known African-Canadian and her contribution?
It’s tough to choose, but I’ll pick a woman from Alberta. Violet King, the first black female lawyer in Canada. She was a trailblazer throughout her life and an accomplished classical pianist. She was also the only woman in her graduating class from the faculty of law at the University of Alberta in 1953, the same class as former Alberta Premier Peter Lougheed.
King went on to work for Citizenship and Immigration Canada before becoming the first woman named to a senior management position with the American National YMCA. She also happened to be among the best friends of my mother, Pauline, and her twin sister, Pearl, and a bridesmaid for both.
In your opinion why is knowing more about Canada’s diverse history so important?
A history that is incomplete is damaging. A history that is purposely incomplete is sinister. How can Canadians move into a sustainable future if we can’t acknowledge our past? And how can we acknowledge and reckon with our past if our canonical history is missing pages?
What are you currently working on?
I’m working on a documentary film about the legendary black cowboy John Ware and a collection of articles and essays that will anthologize my writings about Alberta’s black history.
Can you recommend some resources for Canadians who want to learn more about Canada’s black history?
There are many ways to gain more knowledge about this subject. Here are a few places to start:
> The Black Lives Canada Syllabus
©iStockphoto.com/annedala Image by: ©iStockphoto.com/annedala
Good Jeans Image by: Daniel Harrison Prop styling by: Jeanie Lee/Plutino Group
Everything you need to know to buy denim for the new season ahead.
ALL IN THE DETAILS
Denim is moving beyond a typical pair of jeans. Here are some new ways to wear the hardworking fabric.
1. Raw edge
Tough meets chic in the latest take on distressed denim. Sure, blown-out knees and randomly placed rips and tears are stick kicking it, but it's the unfinished hemlines that are making major waves.
Sweater, $78, roots.com. Jeans, $278, fidelitydenim.com. Earrings, carolineneron.com. Bandana, gapcanada.ca. Watch, linksoflondon.com. Ring, jenny-bird.ca. Shoes, callitspring.com. Image by: Genevieve Caron
2. Sole mates
Denim is the hottest material for accessories this spring.
3. Mini works of art
Looking to add some flair to your jean jacket? The latest trend in accessories is enamel pins; some are grounded in pop culture, while others are original art.
Vest, $130, winners.ca. Emoji-heart pin, $12, pintrill.com. O hai all-seeing-eye pin, $9.50, heatherbuchanan.ca. LLAP hand pin, $10, robineisenberg.com. Eye pin and lipstick pin, $20 each, georgiaperry.com. Gumball-machine pin, $8, pennypaperco.com. Image by: Genevieve Caron
4. Denim skirt
The current jean-skirt styles have fresh updates with polished touches and an array of silhouettes. For a modern throwback to the '70s, try one with a middle slit and buttons down the front.
Customize your topper by ironing on some DIY patches—or opt for the quick-and-easy approach by purchasing a vest or jacket that's already decorated.
Jean jacket, $267, tommy.com. Image by: Genevieve Caron
6. Denim squared
Denim on denim has earned its right to be considered a modern-classic way of dressing. A good rule is to mix up your washes: Wear lighter denim on top, with darker on the bottom. The deeper shades helps create a slimming effect.
This spring, no one style dominates. Choose from a wide range of silhouettes and cuts.
1. Short and sweet
Flood pants—with a flare—are back. This denim cut is a throwback to Jane Birkin, but today, keep the hemlines frayed, as it's the only amount of distressing you with this style.
2. Retro revival
The '70s silhouette enhances curves and helps elongate legs. Get maximum length by keeping hemlines long and wearing a platform heel—the trick is concealing your shoes.
Vest, $100, gapcanada.ca. Sweater, $40, hm.com. Jeans, $100, winners.ca. Marc Jacobs sunglasses, thebay.com. Necklace, carolineneron.com. Bracelet, bananarepublic.ca. Belt, braveleather.com. Bag, eccocanada.com. Shoes, joefresh.com. Image by: Genevieve Caron
3. Off the cuff
Cuffing your jeans isn't a new concept, but this season, the statement is bigger and bolder than the usual fold and roll we're accustomed to. The exaggerated look brings a bit of edge to any ensemble.
Jacket, $45, oldnavy.ca. T-shirt, $15, uniqlo.ca. 7 for all Mankind jeans, $298, nordstrom.com. Marc Jacobs sunglasses, thebay.com. Earrings and bracelet, carolineneron.com. Sneakers, eccocanada.com. Image by: Genevieve Caron
4. Skinny dipping
It's hard to remember a time when skinny jeans weren't the standard in denim. The slim silhouette is still the shape du jour and can be found in just about every wash, colour, pattern and level of distress.
5. Crop it to me
Wide-legged cropped denim is a new take on the trouser jean. Hems vary, but the most flattering length is about an inch above the ankle. Always pair the look with heels—the daintier the better.
Breathe new life into this wardrobe staple with a bit of style inspiration.
There's a reason why we love the white button-down. Whether it's oversized, fitted, short sleeve, cropped, silk or cotton, it's always a chic—but unfussy—way to embrace classic style. But, like even the most stylish women, we sometimes get stuck in a fashion rut. Which is why we pulled together some great white button-down shirt looks from some seriously stylish women. Discover new and fresh ways to wear a white button-down below.
There's nothing chicer than a casual white button-down shirt under a blazer. Keep the look modern with boyfriend jeans and patent brogues—extra points for embracing metallic.
You can make this borrowed-from-the-boys piece feminine in an old school way by pairing it with a pleated midi skirt and sharp kitten heels.
If you're worried about a white on white look, just remember to play with texture. The silk shirt paired with crisp denim and leather shoes makes this look a winner.
Embrace the menswear vibe of this piece by pairing it with a classic black blazer and trousers—though we might recommend ditching the tie to avoid any waiter confusion.
Keep this piece cozy by topping it with an oversized knit. We especially love the addition of a statement piece of jewellery.
Pair your button-down with tailored separated for the office. A pencil skirt (in a fun print or colour) plus chic heels is a no-brainer when it comes to professional dressing.
This look is for the bold. Pair statement pants and shoes with a white button-down and a classic blazer. Think of this as business on top and party on the bottom.
Put a little prep in your step with trousers, loafers and fun socks. For the extra preppy, add a fisherman knit and drape it over your shoulders. Very refined gentleman, no?
If a slim-fitting button-down if your choice, play with proportion and pair with wide-leg pants.
One of our favourite things about the button-down is that it can be so easily layered. Under your favourite sweater and jacket, and with jeans it's a casual piece that still looks pulled together.
For a touch of French je ne sais quoi, pair your white shirt with black skinny jeans, tousled hair and lace up shoes.
If your jeans and white button-down combo could use a little edge, might we suggest a trendy faux fur topper?
The button-down doesn't need to be the base of your outfit. Instead, layer it over a turtleneck and tuck it into a fun skirt.
A white button-down can make even your most summery pieces (this printed mini skirt just screams vacation) look polished. Ice cream not included.
The best white button-down shirts to shop now:
Wide cotton shirt, $30, hm.com.
Shirt with ¾ sleeves, $36, zara.com.
White scalloped sleeve shirt, $85, bananarepublic.ca.
Relaxed silk collarless shirt, $88, everlance.com.
New Blythe top in silk, $128, jcrew.com.
Asos Curve oversized shirt with stripe, $68, asos.com.
Babaton Kearney blouse, $110, aritzia.com.
Eyelet white shirt, $65, gapcanada.ca.
Shimmer button down, $129, freepeople.com.
Cooperative short-sleeve shirt, $59, urbanoutfitters.com.
Premium quality silk blend blouse, $99, hm.com.