If you don’t yet have these inspiring Black Canadians on your radar, here is why you should. From authors to designers to community activists and all combinations in-between, here, in no particular order, are 10 game-changers to watch in 2022 and beyond.
Author, speaker and activist
Founder of the FOLD Festival (Festival of Literary Diversity), Jael Richardson is also an author; her recent book, Gutter Child, is about a dystopian future society is divided between the privileged Mainland and the policed Gutter, where the most vulnerable are forced to buy their freedom by working off their debt to society. Richardson is also daughter to former CFL quarterback Chuck Ealey, and she writes about her experiences diving into her father’s past with The Stone Thrower: “For most of my life I felt watery like an ocean, my sense of self disoriented and bottomless, my blackness lost and out of place in a country known for cold winters, covered in whiteness.”
Olympic athlete and game-changer
Born to Ghanaian immigrants and raised in Toronto’s community housing, Appiah is now one of Canada’s first Black bobsleigh pilots — and is also pushing to redefine what a Winter Olympian looks like. In her pursuit of the role, Appiah has been vocal about how Black athletes have historically faced racist stereotypes when it comes to their piloting abilities. While Appiah was first introduced to the winter Olympic sport of bobsleigh in 2011, it wasn’t until she finished university (with honours) that she decided to shift her focus from shot put to bobsleigh.
Host and writer
Parris is a Canadian broadcaster and writer, host of three television shows on CBC, all of which focus on pop culture, and host of the CBC Music radio show Marvin’s Room. Parris is also a winner of Canadian Screen Awards’ Changemaker Award, and author of Other Side of the Game.
Advocate for people with disabilities
As co-founder of the Disability Justice Network of Ontario, which advocates to “create a world where people with disabilities are free to be,” Jama hails from Hamilton, Ont. Jama is a community organizer, speaker and outreach coordinator pushing for greater inclusivity.
Creative director, activist and fashion designer
Toronto-born James is a creative and the founder of shoe brand Brother Vellies, which has a goal to promote traditional African designs. Additionally, she founded the 15 Percent Pledge organization to support Black-owned businesses. While the initiative originally called on businesses to dedicate 15 per cent of their shelf-space to Black-owned businesses (reflecting 15 per cent of its Black population), the movement has since also spread to Canada.
Activist, podcaster, speaker and author
Co-founder of Black Lives Matter Canada and the Black Legal Action Centre, Hudson is also an author. Through her work with BLM Canada, Hudson is leading the push to shift the way we think about safety and security in our communities. As a non-profit legal aid clinic, the Black Legal Action Centre delivers free legal services to low- and no-income Black Ontarians. Hudson also co-hosts a political podcast with friend Nora Loreto called Sandy & Nora Talk Politics.
Rapper and award winner
Backxwash, AKA Ashanti Mutinta, is a Zambian-Canadian trans rapper and producer based in Montreal, Que. She is also the first Black trans person to win the Polaris Music Prize. She is most noted for her 2020 album, God Has Nothing To Do With This Leave Him Out Of It — which won the 2020 Polaris Music Prize — but has since gone on to self-release her second album in a trilogy called LIE HERE BURIED WITH MY RINGS AND MY DRESSES. Backxwash’s themes explore the intersection between faith, identity and queerness with work is based in the horrorcore, hip-hop and industrial metal genres.
Dr. Jill Andrew
Politician, body confidence advocate and culture critic
Dr. Jill Andrew (PhD) is the Ontario NDP’s Women’s Issues and Culture Critic, and an MPP representing Toronto-St. Paul’s. Andrew is also co-founder of Body Confidence Canada and an advocate for redefining beauty standards.
Writer, author and lecturer
Calgary-born bestselling Canadian novelist Esi Edugyan is the daughter of Ghanian immigrants, whose experiences inform her “richly imagined and impeccably researched stories that illuminate complicated truths about race and belonging.” Edugyan is the first Black woman to win the Scotiabank Giller Prize (Canada’s most prestigious literary award), and only the third writer to win twice. While she won acclaim for her second novel Half-Blood Blues (named by O, the Oprah Magazine as one of the best books of the year), Edugyan has also won acclaim for her subsequent works, including her novel Washington Black, which will have a TV adaptation, starring Sterling K. Brown.
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Michelle “Michie Mee” McCullock
Musician, writer, actor and author
One of the first Toronto-born women to break rap’s glass ceiling in the ’80s, Michelle “Michie Mee” McCullock was also one of the first to marry hip-hop with a Jamaican dancehall sound. Her influence can be heard in Drake’s music and other modern Canadian hip-hop artists’ music.