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Raymond Sheppard: Black voices matter, a message for the CBC

The CBC Nova Scotia building in Halifax is located at 6940 Mumford Rd. (Robert Short/CBC)

KJIPUKTUK (Halifax) – Reaching at one point or another the ears and eyes of most people, the media is powerful and can increase or decrease racism.

The media has power to sell, promote, inform, criticize, stimulate debate, inquire, encourage, rate, reinforce, etc. They can reinforce negative or positive values and they can also reinforce certain ways of seeing and treating people.

On June 23, 1936 the Canadian Broadcasting Act re-established the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) as the national broadcaster, with better organization and funding and less vulnerability to political pressure, it was stated.  

There is little as intrinsically Canadian as the CBC. “CBC grew out of a developing nation’s need to express its identity and find its voice. Canada was a country ready to speak up for itself after war,” so it is said.

The CBC generates revenue but is mostly funded by tax paying Canadians, including African Canadians. Nonetheless, the CBC has no national programs hosted by an African Canadian that deals with African Canadian culture, heritage and lineage. In fact, the CBC has only a handful of African Canadians employed across Canada, and even fewer in Atlantic Canada. 

Since Nova Scotia is the cradle of Black life in Canada, there should be a national program originating from Nova Scotia. This program would highlight Black life and lives in Canada and should include interviews, storytelling, politics, events, Black news, issues, entertainment, business, cultural dancing, cultural food, success stories, health issues, fitness, challenges, and so on, from across Canada.

The last program hosted by an African Canadian was Q, hosted by Shad on CBC Radio and he was said to be sacked based on rating and replaced by a white man from Newfoundland.

Oh, I would be remiss if I did not mention that the CBC airs a program on its television stations dealing with being Black in Canada. This program is very limited. Equally, the late George Boyd was the host of a national news program years ago, which simply shows how we are moving in the wrong direction, namely backwards.

When it comes to hiring, we are not a part of the process but should be.  Someone who was working at CBC Toronto was hired to host the afternoon show out of Halifax but he does not seem to know whether he works for CBC or CTV.

The Canadian media further marginalizes African Canadians. Instead of stifling us, just allow us to speak without putting your knee on our neck, because to do so we cannot breathe. Please stop giving us lip service by saying that your doors are open and that you welcome and endorse African Canadians. The years say otherwise!

CBC stations across Canada have thousands of archival tapes and videotapes, which are a part of our history although many if not most maybe indeed slanted. I believe these archives ought to be made available to African Canadian cultural centers across Canada including the Black Cultural Center of Nova Scotia, especially where African Canadians as well as others paid for this and the funds generated from the enslavement of the African in Canada also paid for this dearly.

Equally, I strongly believe the CBC should be defunded by at least $60 million out of their roughly one billion dollar budget. Our tax dollars should be reinvested in the community to support the production of short films that document our history; equally a studio should be set up that produces programs that are Afrocentric along with a training program.

For many many years now, CBC and other media, when approached about the lack of hiring African Canadians, has largely responded by saying African Canadians are not trained. First of all, there are hundreds of African Canadians trained in Radio and Television Journalism, equally CBC and others have over the years hired Caucasian persons off the street and  provided them with training. 

One does not have to be a genius to work for the CBC, as far as I am aware there are no geniuses currently working for CBC or any other media.

During the last thirty years or so the CBC and other media have portrayed African peoples as having equal access, equal opportunity, equal justice and equality under law. This falsely implies that African people have equal say and are treated equal. Closer observation reveals something totally different.

With many in society believing the hype the media spins, they seem to feel African people are imagining things and are overly sensitive. And to try to prove this falsehood they embrace racist practices of divide and conquer by seeking out an opposing view.

In this day and age, having persons of African descent employed within the media is not just something nice to do now and then, it is a necessity and therefore it should be mandatory especially within the national publicly funded broadcaster.

Yes, we do have a few African Canadians within the CBC, but hardly enough to make a true impact. I believe there needs to be proactive direct recruiting of African Canadians and other persons of colour. We also should have African Canadian leadership and management within the CBC.

Having African Canadians in leadership and management positions is a must and therefore this should be policy. It also shows a positive commitment to change. “Actions speak louder than words.”

CBC must recognize its shortcomings; its biases and chart a course of active rehabilitation. BLACK VOICES MATTER!

Based on all this, we (Black Voices Matter) make the following recommendations:  

1)      The National Public Broadcaster should proactively hire more African Canadians and other persons of colour, including in management positions.

2)      Employ people of colour as producers, who would be able to recognize the conscious and unconscious biases in CBC’s news coverage.

3)      Redo Nova Scotia/Canadian school telecast, emphasizing diversity in Nova Scotia and Canada.

4)      The CBC must offer its employees and upper management cultural competency training and strongly upgrade any anti-harassment and anti-discrimination policy it may have to include policies specifically against anti-Black racism.

5)      CBC upper management must establish a national public affairs program out of Nova Scotia, with an African Nova Scotian as host. This host should be selected with input from the African Nova Scotian community.

Raymond Sheppard, For Black Voices Matter

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3 Comments

  1. Well said, and very clear. I like the part about the CBC’s need for “experience” despite the fact that many of the CBC’s own are trained on the job.

    Reply
  2. CBC in Atlantic Canada is two-faced and those working for CBC portraying cultural views and perspectives of Black and Native interest are just the people necessary for CBC to operate as a White dominant radio station.

    The first Black radio station in Canada was FLOW 93.5 in Toronto. This was long after the cry for a Black public media when Africville was decimated. Instead, CBC charged $6.00 a second for footage on Africvill.

    Whey would they consider giving the Black man a voice when they can make money by keeping them quiet. This is CBC Atlantic. What Black music radio station in Atlantic Canada can you hear viewpoints on issues regarding Black Lives Matter, none and that needs to change.

    C. Brian MIntus

    Reply
  3. Very good article. And I agree, as long as society continues to just maintain the status quo, the fight for equality is moving in a backwards direction. Thus the need to continue fighting for equality.
    Unrelated to this article, but an important motion in raising awareness was recently when black professional athletes refused to play. I thought this was such an excellent decision on their parts. I hope more prominent leaders in our society will follow suit. It sends a clear message to a broad spectrum of society. Funny how everyone loves a black professional athlete when they’re winning. Those who fall into this trap must rethink and rewire the way they look at black lives. All black lives. To not do so would be a missed opportunity. Thank you Mr Sheppard for a well written piece.

    Reply

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