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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
Photography by Ariane Laezza
Want to fall in love with cooking? Food and entertaining guru Camille Moore shares her devotion for doing things the long way.
As a graduate of Le Cordon Bleu in Paris and the culinary expert on CTV's The Social, Camille Moore is passionate about cooking from scratch and helping others find their groove in the kitchen. Like that of Julia Child, her idol while growing up, Moore's enthusiasm is infectious. Her bubbly personality, combined with mad food-prep skills and easygoing recipes, energizes TV viewers to head straight for the fridge, grab whatever's on hand and start creating!
The youngest of four children, Moore fondly remembers spending much of her youth in the kitchen—her childhood playground—cooking for fun. In her early 20s, she began modelling, travelling to Europe and the U.S. for runway shows and photo shoots. But she continued to immerse herself in cooking, and word of her talent spread among friends. That's how, when pondering her next career move, she was asked to cater a party for 60 people as a one-off. Moore immediately said yes, and the event became a turning point—she realized she could take her love of food and cooking for others seriously and make a go of it.
Five years ago, Moore received her Le Cordon Bleu diploma and returned home to Toronto, where she did catering, dabbled in recipe development and even cooked for celebrity chefs' private functions. Since 2013, she has been passing on her culinary skills and inspiring viewers on The Social.
Both in everyday life and when it comes to her cooking philosophy, Moore likes to take a chance, seize the moment and create it herself. Here, she dishes on simple ways to get comfy in the kitchen.
Canadian Living: How do you avoid becoming overwhelmed when cooking for a special occasion?
Camille Moore: Keep it real! You want to enjoy the evening as much as your guests, and entertaining doesn't mean extravagant or difficult; good food can be simply prepared. Focus on doing one thing well. Take tacos—they're unpretentious yet delicious, and everyone loves them. The key is to go the extra mile and source good-quality, authentic ingredients (check out Moore's recipe for Chili Chicken Tacos With Mango Slaw). And remember, a great night isn't just about the food—it's the whole experience that counts. Even if it's a casual evening, don't be afraid to use the good dishes or some special treasure that's usually tucked away. I like to mix old with new. I use an antique crystal carafe with a silver stopper as a water jug. Half the pleasure of eating comes from the beauty of how it's served; it shows your guests they're worth the effort.
CL: You spend your days creating recipes. Do you always follow them?
CM: I like to think of cooking as a conversation. Don't be afraid to change the recipe if you feel inspired in the moment—or to use what you have in the fridge! The best part of cooking is experimenting; it's how you learn. Once you get comfortable with a dish, swap out a few ingredients. Start with small changes: Try spices or fresh ingredients that are similar in taste and texture to whatever you're replacing. And if it doesn't work, that's OK. There's nothing like a good kitchen flop to make you figure out what you'd do differently the next time.
CL: What's your best advice for choosing kitchen equipment?
CM: Take your time and invest in the right tools. Whether it's pots and pans or knives, buy individual items instead of full sets—test-drive what works for you. Like fashion, choose good-quality pieces that will last a long time. You might find you like a variety of brands for different tasks. I recommend starting with three sizes of knives: a chef 's knife for daily chores such as chopping, slicing and dicing; a paring knife for precision tasks and preparing small veggies and fruit; and a bread knife. A serrated blade is essential for breads, but it's also great for cutting tomatoes, oranges and grapefruit. As for pots and pans, begin with one large saucepan with a lid and heavy bottom. And head straight to cast-iron for frying. It's relatively inexpensive and will never let you down! I love how it can go straight from the stovetop to the oven. And because it's so thick and heavy, the pan really holds the heat and puts the best crust on meat or fish when you're searing.
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