Today we're nearly 100 years out from when Carter G. Woodson, the editor of the Journal of Negro History, founded Negro History Week in the States; closer to home, just over 40 years out from when the founders of the Ontario Black History Society petitioned the City of Toronto to have February formally recognized as Black History Month. We're eight months out from Regis Korchinski-Paquet falling to her death after police entered her apartment; six months out from the Ontario Human Rights Commission confirming that Black people are disproportionately arrested, charged, subjected to use of force by Toronto police; three weeks out from experts in the Canadian Medical Association Journal identifying anti-Black racism as a comorbidity in COVID-19 patients; hours into February 2021, Black History Month.
In BTL's 2020 collection Sick of the System, author El Jones writes:
Black people are always imagined in place. White people are the adventurers, the explorers, the pioneers. Black people are imagined in place until we are out of place, and then the full weight of policing comes down on us. We must be controlled, put back in our place before we contaminate others.
Go back where you came from. But we are already where we came from—inside our communities, down the long roads, close enough to clean their houses but not close enough to have to live beside us—and still we are targeted.
We've pulled together a reading list of BTL titles that go further than imagining Black people in place—they centre and celebrate Black people as the radical adventurers, explorers, and pioneers of our past and present, in the streets of Montreal and Toronto and Halifax, and in philosophy, feminist theory, and poetry. All titles are 25% off for the month of February.
Radical activist and thinker Andaiye was one of the Caribbean’s most important political voices. Her essays, letters, and journal entries on the intersections of gender, race, class, and power are powerfully articulated. In The Point Is to Change the World, Caribbean histories emerge, and stories from a life lived at the barricades are revealed.
Queer of Colour Formations in Toronto
The first collection of its kind to feature the art, activism, and writings of queer and trans people who are Black, Indigenous, or of colour (QTBIPOC) in Toronto, Marvellous Grounds tells the stories that have shaped Toronto’s landscape but are frequently forgotten or erased. Responding to an unmistakable desire in QTBIPOC communities for history and lineage, this rich volume allows us to imagine new ancestors and new futures.
Moving Against the System
The 1968 Congress of Black Writers and the Making of Global Consciousness
David Austin brings alive the speeches and debates of the most important international gathering of Black radicals of the era, the Congress of Black Writers, in 1968 in Montreal.
Against a backdrop of widespread racism in the West, and colonialism and imperialism in the “Third World,” this group of activists, writers, and political figures gathered to discuss the history and struggles of people of African descent and the meaning of Black Power. Moving Against the System includes never-before-seen texts from Stokely Carmichael, Walter Rodney, and C.L.R. James.
Fear of a Black Nation
Race, Sex, and Security in Sixties Montreal
In the 1960s, for at least a brief moment, Montreal became what seemed an unlikely centre of Black Power and the Caribbean left. In October 1968 the city hosted the Congress of Black Writers, and months later a Black-led protest erupted at Sir George Williams University (now Concordia), making front page news across the country.
In Fear of a Black Nation, David Austin reveals how the global currents of sixties protest converged on Montreal–while demonstrating, in turn, how the organizing of a small group of Montreal-based West Indian and Black Canadian intellectuals and activists reverberated far beyond the city.
– Peter James Hudson, Assistant Professor of History, Vanderbilt University
Black Geographies brings into focus the politics of place that black subjects, communities, and philosophers inhabit. Highlights include essays on the African diaspora and its interaction with citizenship and nationalism, critical readings of the blues and hip-hop, and thorough deconstructions of Nova Scotian and British Columbian black topography. Drawing on historical, contemporary, and theoretical black geographies from the USA, the Caribbean, and Canada, these essays provide an exploration of past and present black spatial theories and experiences.
Since the 1970s, poet Linton Kwesi Johnson has been putting pen to paper to refute W.H. Auden’s claim that “poetry makes nothing happen.” In Dread Poetry and Freedom David Austin explores the themes of poetry, political consciousness, and social transformation through the prism of Johnson’s work. Drawing from the Bible, reggae and Rastafari, and surrealism, socialism, and feminism, and in dialogue with Aimé Césaire and Frantz Fanon, C.L.R. James and Walter Rodney, W.E.B. Du Bois and the poetry of d’bi young anitafrika, Johnson’s work becomes a crucial point of reflection on the meaning of freedom in this masterful and rich study.
An investigation of feminist theory written in an accessible style and grounded in personal testimony, this volume includes chapters on feminist scholarship, feminism and militarism, homophobia in Black communities, self-recovery, violence in intimate relationships, overcoming white supremacy, and class and education.
This landmark work of history and theory challenges every accepted notion about the nature of black women’s lives. Ain’t I A Woman examines the impact of sexism on black women during slavery, the historic devaluation of black womanhood, black male sexism, racism within the recent women’s movement, and black women’s involvement with feminism. bell hooks’ insight as a black woman and a feminist extends the scope of feminist theory and practice for us all, and marks the emergence of a revitalized feminism in the 1980s.