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
We spoke to Dr. Jessica Shepherd to find out why the area around your vagina needs a little more TLC than you might think.
You’re probably cleaning your vagina wrong. Actually, you shouldn’t be cleaning your vagina at all. But your vulva (the external area around your vagina) does need to be cleaned, and it needs a little more than a bar of soap. We spoke to Dr. Jessica Shepherd, a gynecologist and women’s health expert, to find out what we’re doing wrong—and how to fix it.
I didn’t know I could clean my vagina incorrectly
The vagina refers to your internal muscles that connect the external genitals to the cervix, while the vulva is the external area that includes the labia and the clitoris. Unless you have a special soap formulated for your more intimate areas, you’re probably using a product that’s too harsh.
“The vagina has a very sensitive lining that can be easily irritated by douching and harsh soaps and cleansers,” says Dr. Shepherd. “I always tell my patients to never wash inside the vagina. It cleans itself, so let Mother Nature do her job.” So, when cleansing, remember to only clean your vulva.
Why are regular cleansers bad for my vagina?
Cleansers formulated for your body tend to include glycerin. “Glycerin is a sugar-based product that yeast loves,” says Dr. Shepherd. Cleansers can also include irritants like fragrance or have the wrong pH.
“A healthy vagina has a pH range between 4 and 4.5,” says Dr. Shepherd. “Traditional body washes and bar soaps can range between a pH of 6 and 10.” This can upset your vagina’s natural chemistry. “This area is home to a finely tuned system of good and bad bacteria, and when it’s disrupted, it can cause yeast infections and bacterial vaginosis and lead to chronic irritation.”
What products should I be using?
“You want to look for a product that’s pH-balanced and that doesn’t contain glycerin,” recommends Dr. Shepherd. Other things to look for include natural ingredients, sulphate-free products and cleansers that won’t strip the natural moisture from your skin.
Sweet Spot Labs Neroli Mandarin gentle wash, $15, sweetspotlabs.ca.
Dr. Shepherd’s tips for keeping your vaginal area clean:
1. Wash the outside of your vagina with a natural pH-balanced, wash that’s glycerin-free.
2. Dry the skin by patting gently with a clean towel to reduce moisture and bacteria growth.
3. Wear cotton underwear, which allows the skin to breathe.
From floral layer cakes to humble parfaits, we've got your tastebuds covered with these delightful Spring desserts. Swap that parka for an apron and get baking!
Toasted buttery croissants take this modest bread-based dessert to new heights.
Amaretto-soaked ladyfingers, fluffy mascarpone cream, tangy lemon curd and sugared almonds—what's not to like about this layered dessert?
A sweetened cream cheese swirl ties the unexpectedly delicious combination of chocolate and rhubarb together in these soft, chewy brownies.
You'll need a blowtorch to create the caramelized brûlée top; look for one in kitchen supply stores or certain hardware stores. Refrigerate the tart for at least four hours to ensure the filling is firm enough to slice neatly.
This cake is so divine on its own that we skipped the expected sweet topping, but you can also serve it with fresh or cooked fruit, or a drizzle of chocolate or caramel sauce.
This traditional English dessert, made with stewed fruit and whipped cream, tastes decadent but has a lovely light texture. If fresh rhubarb isn't available, you can substitute the same amount of thawed frozen rhubarb—just thoroughly pat it dry.
Special occasions call for special desserts, and this one fills the bill. Moist lemon cake, a bright lemon custard and a simple lemon icing come together to create the ultimate springtime dessert.
These super-moist little cakes are best served warm. If some of the rhubarb sticks to the pan, just scoop it out and onto the cakes.
This classic cake is a sweet ending to a lovely dinner any time of year. If you like, garnish it with curls of lemon rind.