Ebony Roots, Northern Soil is a powerful and timely collection of critical essays exploring the experiences, histories and cultural engagements of black Canadians. Drawing from postcolonial, critical race and black feminist theory, this invative anthology brings together an extraordinary set of well-recognized and new scholars engaging in the critical debates about the cultural politics of identity and issues of cultural access, representation, production and reception. Emerging from a national conference in 2005, the book records, critiques and yet transcends this groundbreaking event. Drawn from a range of disciplines including Art History, Communication Studies, Cultural Studies, Education, English, History and Sociology, the chapters examine black contributions to and participation within the realms of popular music, television and film, the art world, museums, academia and social activism. In the process, the burning issues of access to cultural capital, the practice of multiculturalism, definitions of black Canadianness and the state of Black Canadian Studies are dissected. Attentive to issues of sexuality and gender as well as race, the book also explores and challenges the dominance of black Americanness in Canada, especially in its incarnation as hip hop. Ackwledging a differently constituted and heterogeneous black Canadianness, it contemplates the possibility of an identity in dialogue with, and yet distinct from, dominant ideals of African-Americanness. Ebony Roots also explores the deficit in Black Canadian Studies across the nation's universities, drawing a line between the neglect of black Canadian populations, histories and experiences in general and the resulting lack of an academic disciplinary infrastructure. Poignant blends of the personal and the political, the chapters are both scholarly in their critical insights and rigour and daring in their honesty. Ebony Roots defiantly foregrounds the often-disavowed issues of institutional racism against blacks in Canadian academia, education and cultural institutions as well as the injurious effects of everyday racism. In so doing, the book challenges the myth of Canada as a racially benevolent and tolerant state, the 'great white rth' free from racism and the legacy of colonialism. Instead the very definitions of Canada and black Canadianness are unpacked and explored. Ebony Roots is a necessary history lesson, a contemporary cultural debate and a call to action. It is a momentous and overdue contribution to Black Canadian Studies and a must read for academics, students and the general public alike.
Charmaine Nelson is an Associate Professor of Art History, in the Department of Art History and Communication Studies at McGill University, Montreal. Her research and teaching interests include postcolonial and black feminist scholarship, critical (race) theory, Trans Atlantic Slavery Studies and Black Diaspora Studies. She has made significant contributions to the fields of the Visual Culture of Slavery, Race and Representation and Black Canadian Studies. Her publications include the co-edited volume Racism Eh?: A Critical Inter-Disciplinary Anthology of Race and Racism in Canada (Concord, Ontario: Captus Press, 2004), The Color of Stone: Sculpting the Black Female Subject in Nineteenth-Century America (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2007) and Representing the Black Female Subject in Western Art (New York: Routledge, 2010). Her most recent research explores nineteenth-century landscapes of Montreal and Jamaica as products of colonial discourse and imperial geography.