Friday, June 7, 2013

Personal reflections of Jamaican Information Scientist on a presentation of Blacks in Canadian picture books

This post is perhaps unusual for my professional/scholarly blog, as it blurs the line between my spirit and work. It comes from my reflections and observations from personal experience, specifically, tackling my reflections at my 2nd Canadian Association for Information Science conference, where I attended the 2013 presentation: “Picturing Difference: Multiculturalism in Recent Nova Scotian Picture Books.” by Vivian Howard, Dalhousie University. To give a bit of context, I want to begin by discussing what the presentation was about, then discuss the points in the presentation that resonated with me and why. Finally, I want to discuss my emotional response to the presentation.

To summarize, Howard's presentation was essentially on picture books representing the Black Nova Scotia community. She focused on 3 picture books, (two fiction and one non-fiction). From I heard the topic of the presentation, having discovered that Jamaican Maroons were the first Jamaican immigrants to Canada, I anticipate hearing the mention of the Jamaican Maroon community that were immigrants to Nova Scotia. This came on around the second slide. As such, I felt emotionally connected to the presentation because it speaks of black people and particularly about Jamaicans. It reminded me of my UWI undergraduate days as a student of Political Science, where we studied our own history and institutions from our own skin colour and local perspective (a hidden value of studying at local universities).

There were other emotional points and inflections through the presentation that resonated with me. I saw in one of the picture books the mention of "natty dreadlocks" with the illustration of a dreadlocks man playing a drum. As I saw it, I definitely felt connected to this manifestation of a Jamaican spiritual identity within Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada.

It further got more emotional for me in the presentation, when I began to learn about Viola Desmond, Black woman, entrepreneur, and the "Rosa Parks" of Nova Scotia Canada, who "sat down for her rights" in order to fight against racial segregation. This information was presented from the non-fiction picture book by Warner and Rudnicki. (2010) and had special resonance with me, making me feel as if I was taking in a Black history month's presentation.

I also listened to a video interview of Black author, Shauntay Grant, where it was evident that Grant did not intentionally plan to write the stories she did as picture books, but it was through coincidence that a publisher attended Grant's spoken word performance, and invited Grant to publish her poem as a children's book. Her two books if you are interested in checking them out are:

Up Home (2008)

As I connected with the presentation and looked around the room and noticed that I was the only black visible minority there among the information scientists. Then it occurred to me, where were the others that looked like me in Canada? Where were the Canadian black information scientists and why were they absent from this conference?

Howard, V. (2013). Picturing difference: Multiculturalism in recent Nova Scotian picture books. 41st Annual conference of the Canadian Association for Information Science, June 6-8, University of Victoria, Victoria, British Columbia, Canada. (See programme at

Warner, J. N., & Rudnicki, R. (2010). Viola Desmond won't be budged!. Toronto: Groundwood Books/House of Anansi Press.

Further reading:
Grant, S., & Tooke, S. (2008). Up home. Halifax, NS: Nimbus.

Grant, S., & Tooke, S. (2010). The city speaks in drums. Halifax, N.S: Nimbus.

Milan, A. & Tran, K. (2004). Blacks in Canada: A long history. Canadian Social Trends Sring 2004 Statistics Canada — Catalogue No. 11-008, p. 4. Retrieved from

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