Vicky Mochama: The voice of Metro News.
Do black female writers feel valued in Canadian media?
When Desmond Cole left the Toronto Star he wondered if black writers, particularly women, will be able to thrive in Canadian media. Vicky Mochama asked some.
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As a black female writer, the decision by journalist and activist Desmond Cole to leave the Toronto Star’s opinion pages has left me thinking.
In his blog post, Cole wonders if other black writers in Canada will have a chance to thrive.
Specifically, he shouts out black women. As he told me by phone, “There are more barriers for them than there have been for me.”
I asked a few black female writers whether they felt they could work in Canadian media.
“Honestly, I feel like I can but I also feel I have to censor myself a bit, you know?” said Brnesh Berhe, a writer from Edmonton.
Septembre Anderson, a former journalist, didn’t feel like she could at all: “I’ve realized that there is only space in Canadian media for moderate black men journalists and have moved on to greener pastures.”
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The ones who are sticking with journalism aren’t hopeful about Canadian media. “I think that Canadian media particularly doesn’t value racialized writers,” said Brittany Amofah. “We’re disposable or used for a particular thing/column. But not perhaps as an ongoing voice.”
Many of them spoke on the pressure to be a capital B black voice. I know I waver between resisting it and taking advantage of the opportunities I’m given, even when they’re racialized.
“Canadian media was too white and marginalizing. When they did want me to write it was always really in a way that pigeonholed me as ‘a Muslim woman,’” said Sarah Hagi, a writer for Vice Canada. Hagi is one of the few black women who has a job in media, but she credits American publications for her freelance work.
Amani Bin Shikhan said, “There are unspoken assumptions that come with the territory of being a culture writer who also happens to be a black, Muslim woman, but it’s in Canadian media that I feel those limitations on what I can say — and how I can say it — most.”
These are some of the subtle and overt ways that anti-black racism works.
It’s the pressure to lower one’s voice. It’s having your platform shrunk. It’s the shifting sands on which one is meant to build. It’s in picking between work you love and doing what is right.
Cole’s treatment at a publication I have trusted and the experience of brilliant black women leave me with unease. My question isn’t so much if black — and racialized — writers in Canada will get the space to be a multiplicity of identities.
That I am one of a few black writers with a large platform is not a credit to me. It’s an indictment of an industry that does not value black voices.
My question is: Can someone tell me how many of us are allowed in?