Literature: Press


Aspects of African Canadian Literature
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Black Press in Canada

The circulation and penetration of the Black press suggests Canada's Black community is quite strong. The obvious invisibility of African issues in white mainstream press has forced the community to carry out its own publishing needs. We see this in the continuous emergence of weekly and monthly publications by the community's press organizations.

Early attempts to establish the "Black" as individualized resulted in Voice of the Fugitive in 1851 and the Provincial Freeman in 1853. Editors. Mary Ann Shadd and Sam Ward were two pioneers of black press in Canada. Their successors came one hundred years later in The Canada Negro (National Toronto) followed by more Caribbean influenced publications like Contrast, Share, Caribbean Camera, Pride and urban magazines such as Word and Mic Check. These symbolize the resurgence and diversity of African Canadians, for it allows black Canadians the opportunity to voice their concerns while expressing pride in their culture.

All of the Black newspapers and magazines listed above are important to the Black community in Canada and contribute richly to the Black Torontonian community. Here are notes on two of the major publications, Share and Word.


Major Publications: Share and Word

Share was founded in January 1978 by Trinidadian-born Arnold A. Auguste. Share publishes some 40,000 copies, reaching over 130,000 readers weekly and making it Canada's largest ethnic newspaper. The paper reports on issues concerning Black Torontonians, Caribbean news, family, and it includes features such as a community calendar, a section on Indo-Carib Life, local news, a section on professional business, sports, entertainment and editorial/opinion sections. Auguste and his committed staff place special emphasis on publishing "positive news". When asked to comment on Share, the editor said:

Share is not just about news, where as main-stream news is, news only. Share's focus is on Toronto. It is a community newspaper which covers our community, what we are doing here, in Toronto. Share is connected to the community at large.

When asked, what differentiate Share from other ethnic papers, he said:

Where other ethnic newspapers focus on Caribbean news, news from back home, Share's focus is on this home--Canada.

As for future plans for Share, Arnold has some plans in the works, but is not ready to share it at this time. However, he promises his readers that Share will continue to serve the black community, by ensuring that "Share provides a voice for the community when we need to be heard".

Share depends solely on advertising to meet its business expenses and does not accept government funding. This ensures that the content of the paper remains autonomous. After all, the paper's philosophy is to produce information regarding the success, hardships and other experiences relevant to the black community of Toronto. For more information about Share, call (416) 656-3400 or you may find them at

Word magazine is one of Toronto's fasting growing magazine that addresses black, urban culture. Phillip Vassell, founder, editor, and publisher of Word magazine, stated that Word "developed from a desire, a need for expression of black and urban culture". It was needed because "black, urban culture was unknown and not addressed in mainstream press". Phillip worked six years at CBC, as a journalist, editorial assistant and researcher. While at CBC, Phillip decided to look at the hiring practices of mainstream press companies. Not surprisingly, he found that there was minimal representation of blacks employed in these establishments, "less than five percent were coloured". He saw this as problematic because "we make up 17 to 18 percent of the population in this country". Phillip Vassell sees himself as a "journalist" and want to be received as such, "not as a Black journalist".

Word reflects, in print, "our thoughts, our own voices", focusing on the Arts through music, film, video, literature and visual arts. Word looks at Art from a black and urban perspective. As for the future of Word, Phillip has this to say, "its like Motown--where music is made by blacks, but has found a universal audience in the process". Surveys conducted by Word revealed a 45-50 percent readership, and identified as not of black background. Word is not government funded and relies on advertising to pay for expenses.

Word publishes over 40,000 copies monthly, with distributions in Toronto, Montreal, Vancouver and Halifax. You may reach Word in Toronto at 905-799-1630.

There are many (Black, ethnic) newspapers and magazines available in many Black communities in Canada. One thing that is common to all--they are the voices of the Black people that call Canada home.

Materials prepared by Jacqueline Salmon.


African Canadian Journalists

Cecil Foster

Wrote articles for the Financial Post, The Globe and Mail, the Toronto Star, Macleans, Chatelaine, CBC Radio/TV, Share, Word, Now, The Ottawa Citizen, Pride magazine. He has six books to his credit, including A Place Called Heaven (winner of the Mantador Award) Sleep on Beloved, and The Distorted Mirror.

Maureen Murray

Hamlin Grange

Materials prepared by Primrose Clarke.