CM . . .
. Volume IX Number 18. . . . May 9, 2003
Frustration can be a wonderful catalyst for evoking change. The idea for this directory, this Who's Who in Black Canada, grew out of my frustration in seeing very few representatives of the various ethno-racial groups in Canada reflected in trade publications and some public media events. It concerned me that examples of success in business rarely portrayed those who were not from the mainstream culture, meaning White-Anglo-Saxon and usually male. . . . . a chance discussion . . . led to the realization that a listing of "who's doing what where among Blacks across Canada " could be a useful tool, not just for Blacks, but for the larger population. It soon became apparent that many needs and interests would be served through such a resource; it would be a source of reference for members of the media looking for "experts" or spokespeople from various sectors; executive search firms looking for capable people who could also help them meet a growing number of corporate clients' request for "diversity" in their ranks; a mentoring tool for youth, . . . ; Who's Who in Black Canada would facilitate networking and provide members of the Black population with a big picture view of our activities and accomplishments across the country ; and it would be a snap-shot of our place in contemporary history. (19-20)
In addressing these needs noted above, Who's Who in Black Canada succeeds admirably. A compilation of biographical profiles of over 700 Black Canadians, this contemporary directory provides an alphabetical listing of individuals prominent in a variety of sectors of Canadian society: education, business, medicine, the arts, business, sports, law, and so on. Many are well-known internationally, while some whose accomplishments are better known within smaller communities. Some are trail blazers and pioneers, but all are worthy of note in this contemporary directory of black success and black excellence in Canada. The compilation of any "who's who" is a daunting task; selection and publication of biographical profiles resulted from submissions made by an initial pool of over 1400 individuals contacted and invited to provide information for this first edition. A sense of the historical importance of many of these accomplishments underlies many of these profiles; however, although accompanying publicity brochures suggests that one can find out about areas in which Black Canadians were trail-blazers (i.e. the first Black to play in the NHL, the first Black judge to sit on the Supreme Court, etc.), the only way to do so is to read every profile in order to find that information. Indexes are provided, listing individuals by province and by primary activity of accomplishment; future revisions might incorporate a date list or time line for easy finding of "first" accomplishments. The directory provides text in French in order to honour the contributions of those individuals whose accomplishments have been undertaken primarily within French Canada; however, this is an English-language publication, and however inclusive and well-intentioned, the French text seems almost out of place.
Dawn Williams is keenly aware that her publication is a first of its type and that it can be improved by subsequent revisions. In the Introduction, she wrote that "The purpose of Who's Who in Black Canada [then] is to inform, educate, and celebrate the men and women in the various provinces in the various sectors who are contributing to their professions and to their communities. . . . One day, a publication such as this will no longer be necessary. Until that happy day arrives, it is my hope that by recognizing and embracing this diversity, we will become a richer, more inclusive society, all the stronger, and all the more capable for capitalizing on the human resources which exist within our midst. (21) At nearly $50.00 a soft-cover copy, Who's Who in Black Canada is not an inexpensive resource; however, it certainly has a place in the school libraries of communities with large Black populations, and it could be a very useful resource for projects involving the celebration of Black Canadian heritage.
Joanne Peters is a teacher-librarian at Kelvin High School in Winnipeg, MB.
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