We did it! On Sunday, March 4th, the CMG’s Black media workers “brought it together” to celebrate our history and our work for the first time ever. With great music, food, poetry, an arts table for kids and a raffle of books & DVDs by Black writers and filmmakers – everyone enjoyed and many left asking, “same time next year?”

The event was organized by members of the National Equity and Human Rights Committee, and all members across all branches – as well as CMG staff – were welcome. Our goal was to create a cultural opening in the Guild’s way of working where people could come with friends and children, relax, enjoy some thoughtful dialogue, and connect across differences. Big thanks to Dayo Kefentse for her hard work, and Wendyanne Comer for her solid support.

We raised $100 each for the Archie Alleyne Jazz Scholarship, and the Regent Park Focus – Youth Media Arts Centre, and started a whole new way of building solidarity between our work and our union, ourselves and our communities. We recorded the event, and in the coming weeks will post some highlights on the Guild website site for everyone to see and hear.

What’s amazing about putting on such a celebration is that the journey to get there has been as valuable as the day itself. Just doing outreach to identify who our Black members are revealed not only where we work, but also how many had gone out that revolving door. Just a few words from members told much deeper stories, with comments such as “can’t think of anyone – the one guy I knew is gone…” or “now that you ask, so and so’s contract ended – now she’s working in this other sector… got frustrated and took a job which values his perspective … was really talented, but they would never commit to her … was going nowhere in this place, now another outlet sees her skills as a journalist …. ” and the list goes on.

In the end, we worked through and with such challenges to welcome a large and diverse group of people at the Toronto event. For all those who couldn’t attend, here’s the 411 behind the Guild’s first annual Black history celebration.

Why Black media workers? Why Black history?

In a country as large, spread out and disparate as Canada, the media today serves to join our nation as the railroad did more than a century ago. It is today’s national unifier, the way we get to know and identify with each other.

This is a powerful thing. Consider how television and radio can broadcast from and to places in Canada and the world that we may never get to visit … Take Somalia, for example. The media can connect Somali-Canadians in Yellowknife with Somali-Canadians in Toronto, and everyone in between. It can inform both groups and the rest of the public about events in Somalia and even ask what the Canadian government is doing about any of it…. all in a day’s work. The media can paint a picture, over time, through repeated inquiry and from many angles of the rich history, diversity, languages and literary traditions of that country and the region, and see how people there are like people here, and how we all share the desire for a beautiful and healthy world to raise our children. But does it?

What sense of common identity, common culture, and common cause does the Canadian media foster? And WHO is this media? Are we all participants? Are we all reflected? Do we all get to tell our own stories, and those of others? Do we all get to know and understand each other in the ways we’d like to be known and understood ourselves? Or does common, in this instance, become lowest common denominator?

The Canadian Media Guild is stepping up its role in the national media landscape. We’re thinking globally, and recognizing that we must first act locally. Toronto is home to the largest number of Black people in this country. It includes descendants of the first slaves brought here by the British and French, alongside children and grandchildren of Caribbean and Latin American immigrants, alongside the extended families of immigrants and exiles from all parts of Africa.

But where are we in the union, or in the membership, or the Canadian media as whole?

In North America, Black people have come to be known as performers and entertainers of the highest caliber. As a community, we take pride in this and recognize the talent and love of the artists in our midst – like Joe Sealy and Archie Alleyne – who keep us strong and grounded. Music has built bridges, healed our souls and offered us hope and beauty through some of the most crushing moments in our collective experience… and it continues to do so as we struggle for equality of opportunity in Canadian society.

But music is not all we do. We also write, we also rhyme, we also work hard to add life and skill to whatever our job may be. We also organize and fight the fight as unionists, working for the betterment of all. And we, too, ask questions and bear witness to the wide world around us – taking up our place as full and rightful participants in the social project of Canada and the diaspora.

At our CMG Black History event, Poets Boona Mohammed and Miss Ebony revealed the genius of spirit of the next generation. As they challenge us, delight us, and educate us… will we let them in? Scholar and writer Rinaldo Walcott, standing on the shoulders of W.E.B. DuBois and Langston Hughes reminded us of our greatest forgotten legacy as media workers – that it was our counterparts in England, at the newspapers and printing presses, who took a stand against slavery two hundred years ago. Together with freedslaves, legislators and citizens they helped abolish that first holocaust known as the trans-Atlantic trade in African people in March 1807. He challenged us to know where we’re from as media workers, so we can decide where we really need to go.

Toronto Guild member and shop steward Heather Rowe took the stage and truly represented. In front of her children, and to the room, she offered up her own story of generosity and openness, about being willing to lend her ears, her heart and mind to support her co-workers in the day-to-day. In fact, she showed us beautifully the very thing we had come to celebrate.

Finally, broadcaster and writer Desalegn Eyob came to join us all the way from Ethiopia, by way of his home in Toronto as an exiled journalist. With dignity and grace he held a mirror to our sector and to our union, asking why, in Canada, this mirror does not see him or any of his foreign-trained colleagues?

His loss as a professional is our loss as union and as a nation in this globalized world. What he stands to gain practicing his craft alongside the rest of us, could only make us all richer and smarter.

For the sake of a good time, good company, and a glimpse of all the potential we nurture and strive to set free, people came out to celebrate March 4. Members, family, friends, and community of every background – we brought it all together to show that we are in this together. And we made history.

I invite you to check in regularly at our web page at

Datejie Green
National Director of Equity & Human Rights

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