Epic eight-part Black Canadian history docuseries, Black Life: A Canadian History, greenlit by CBC

From a media release:

Black Life: A Canadian History, a sweeping eight-part docuseries exploring the rich history of the Black experience in Canada has been greenlit by CBC, showrunner Leslie Norville and CBC announced today. In addition to Norville and Northwood Entertainment’s Miranda de Pencier, an exceptional cadre of creative talent, activists, and historical and cultural consultants helm this epic television event. Philanthropist and NHL All-Star P.K. Subban (Ugly Duck Productions) is on board to executive produce as is multi-hyphenate Nelson George, and co-executive producer and Black Lives Matter (Canada) co-founder Sandy Hudson. Norville and de Pencier have also assembled an unparalleled team of consulting producers and writers to bring this complex and riveting story to life. The consulting producers, who have a substantial and ongoing role in shaping the series, include former Governor General the Right Honourable Michaëlle Jean, rapper and broadcaster Shad (Shadrach Kabango), and activist Ravyn Wngz. The producers will partner with eight Black Canadian directors, one for each episode, who will bring their unique approach and style to the series. Black Life: A Canadian History (8×60) premieres on CBC and CBC Gem in 2023.

Black Life: A Canadian History seeks to inform audiences of the vital role that Black Canadians have played in shaping our country while presenting an unvarnished examination of the picture mainstream culture has painted of Canada as a sanctuary. While tracing the complex and hopeful stories of Black Canada, the series reveals the truths of a history fraught with violence, racism, hardship, and perseverance. Black Life: A Canadian History illuminates the struggles and triumphs of Black Canadians, and celebrates the contributions of both famous and lesser-known individuals. Epic in scope, the series spans more than 400 years with an eye towards contemporary issues, culture, politics, music, art, and sports.

“The docuseries will be an honest and nuanced look at Black Canadian history – and while some may find this uncomfortable, it’s critical to understand and grapple with the complexities of Canada’s past,” said Leslie Norville, showrunner and executive producer. “I couldn’t ask for a more talented team to help bring this rich history to audiences and to explore and celebrate the stories and people whose contributions have shaped the country we know today. Miranda and I are delighted that Black Life: A Canadian History has found a home at CBC and value their support and enthusiasm for the project.”

Additionally, Studio 112 and Northwood Entertainment have gathered a preeminent group of historical/cultural consultants, academics, and writers to faithfully render the story of Black Canada, including David Austin, Dr. Claudine Bonner, Dr. Afua Cooper, Annette Henry, Issac Saney, Dr. Rinaldo Walcott, Dr. Dorothy W. Williams, and top writer Jael Richardson.

“One of the many things that attracts me to this project is that it connects events across 400 years of history to the present day,” said Sandy Hudson, co-executive producer. “Reckoning with the past and confronting our present can be a foundation through which we imagine and build liberatory Black futures.”

“I can’t wait to share the educational and engrossing stories of Black Life: A Canadian History,” said P.K. Subban, executive producer. “We’re pushing the boundaries of conventional storytelling to create a series that is gripping and dramatic in a way that audiences haven’t seen before. The inclusion of everything from civil rights to sports, and justice to music, is sure to engage viewers across the country and around the globe.”

“CBC is honoured to partner with this remarkable team to bring the untold history of Black Canadians to audiences across the country with authenticity and depth, led by the lived experiences, insight and perspectives of Black storytellers,” said Sally Catto, General Manager, Entertainment, Factual & Sports, CBC.

SELECT CREATIVE AND PRODUCING TEAM BIOS:

Leslie Norville is an award-winning producer and alumnus of the prestigious Sundance Documentary Creative Producing Fellowship. Select credits include A Ballerina’s Tale; Brooklyn Boheme; Disdain The Mundane; Finding The Funk; Any Given Day; and the upcoming The First Wave.

Miranda de Pencier is an award-winning producer and director. Select credits include the critically acclaimed and award-winning Anne with an E, The Grizzlies, Beginners, and Thanks For Sharing.

P.K. Subban is one of the most dynamic athletes and personalities in sports. Known not only as an All-Star NHL defenseman for the New Jersey Devils, Subban is also an ardent philanthropist, entrepreneur, producer, and fashion enthusiast. Subban launched Ugly Duck Productions in 2019.

Nelson George (Good Hair, The Get Down, A Ballerina’s Tale, Finding the Funk, Dear Mama: The Life and Times of Afeni and Tupac Shakur) is a best-selling author, columnist, music and culture critic, journalist, and filmmaker who has specialized in documenting Black culture in North America for more than 40 years.

Sandy Hudson is an activist, multidisciplinary creative, and an award-winning author with a talent for inspiring others to imagine just futures. She founded the Black Lives Matter movement presence in Canada; co-founded Black Lives Matter (Toronto) and the Black Legal Action Centre; and co-authored the best-selling anthology, Until We Are Free: Reflections on Black Lives Matter in Canada.

The Right Honourable Michaëlle Jean is Canadian stateswoman, diplomat, and former journalist who served as the 27th Governor General of Canada. She became the UNESCO Special Envoy to support reconstruction efforts in Haiti, and later served as Chancellor of the University of Ottawa and the third Secretary General of La Francophonie (OIF). She is also the co-chair, alongside her husband, filmmaker Jean-Daniel Lafond, the Michaëlle Jean Foundation, whose programs support vulnerable young people in Canada through the power of the arts and culture, education, and training.

Shadrach Kabango is an award-winning Canadian rapper and broadcaster. He hosts HBO’s Peabody Award-winning doc series Hip-Hop Evolution and is the former host of CBC’s q.

Ravyn Wngz is an African, Bermudian, Mohawk, 2Spirit, queer and transcendent individual. She is a member of the Toronto Black Lives Matter (BLM-TO) Steering Committee; a co-founder of ILL NANA/DiverseCity Dance Company; and the artistic director of OVA (Outrageous Victorious Africans Collective).

Jael Richardson is the author of Gutter Child and The Stone Thrower: A Daughter’s Lesson, a Father’s Life – a memoir based on her relationship with her father, CFL quarterback Chuck Ealey. She is a book columnist, guest host on CBC’s q, and is the founder and executive director of the Festival of Literary Diversity (FOLD).

David Austin, in addition to producing and writing radio documentaries, is a professor and an award-winning author of Fear of a Black Nation: Race, Sex, and Security in Sixties Montreal. He currently teaches in the Humanities, Philosophy, and Religion Department at John Abbott College and the McGill University’s Institute for the Study of Canada.

Dr. Claudine Bonner is a member of the Sociology Department and Women’s and Gender Studies program at Acadia University. Her research is grounded in African Canadian history, and broadly applied in analyses of race, gender, education, and identity in contemporary Canada.

Dr. Afua Cooper is a Jamaican-born Canadian historian, author, poet, and professor of Black Canadian studies at Dalhousie University where she led the creation of a program in Black and African diaspora studies. She was named poet laureate for the city of Halifax in 2018 and has released several collections and albums of poetry.

Annette Henry is an author and professor at UBC in the Department of Language and Literacy Education and cross-appointed to the Institute for Race, Gender, Sexuality and Social Justice. Her scholarship examines race, class, language, gender and culture in socio-cultural contexts of teaching and learning in the lives of Black students, Black oral histories, and Black women teachers’ practice in Canada, the U.S., and the Caribbean.

Isaac Saney is a professor and author; he holds a PhD in history from the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS), University of London in the UK. His teaching has encompassed courses on Africa, the Caribbean, Cuba, and Black Canadian history. He is also an Adjunct Professor in history at Saint Mary’s University.

Dr. Rinaldo Walcott is an author and a professor of Black Diaspora Cultural Studies at the University of Toronto. His teaching and research is focused on Black diaspora cultural studies and postcolonial studies with an emphasis on questions of sexuality, gender, nation, citizenship, and multiculturalism. Walcott is the author/editor of several books including Black Like Who: Writing Black Canada.

Dr. Dorothy Williams is a historian and author who specializes in Black Canadian history. She has authored three books including Blacks in Montreal: 1628-1986 An Urban Demography and The Road to Now: A History of Blacks in Montreal.

Black Life: A Canadian History is produced by Studio 112 in association with Northwood Entertainment, and Ugly Duck. The executive producers are Leslie Norville, P.K. Subban, Miranda de Pencier, Nelson George, and with Sandy Hudson serving as co-executive producer. Consulting producers are the Right Honourable Michaëlle Jean, Shadrach Kabango, and Ravyn Wngz.

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