Preview: CBC’s The Porter is an important story of Black history in Canada

The first thing that struck me about The Porter, CBC’s newest series—debuting Monday at 9 p.m.—was the sound. The flick of a lighter, the crackle of a tobacco cigarette igniting, the scrape of glass on a wooden bar. Then, it was the colour of the clothing, a peacock of brights, followed by the music. This, I told myself, was going to be different. And I was right.

Co-created by Arnold Pinnock and Bruce Ramsay, showrun by Marsha Greene and Annmarie Morais, and based on true events, The Porter delivers a rich and dramatic look at the Black community in St. Antoine, Montreal—known at the time as the Harlem of the North—the key characters who live in it and the relationship the community has with the train line between Montreal and Chicago.

The eight-episode journey begins in Montreal in 1921 and follows train porters Junior Massey (Aml Ameen) and Zeke Garrett (Ronnie Rowe, Jr.). While Zeke fights the railway to change how Black porters are treated by unionizing them, Junior takes advantage of the existing structure to pursue money and power through gambling and bootlegging. Meanwhile, Junior’s wife, Black Cross nurse Marlene (Mouna Traore), and club performer Lucy (Loren Lott) are set on different paths to a better life after an awful tragedy.

In CBC’s press material for The Porter, series creator, executive producer and writer Pinnock, an avid reader and history buff, first came across the story of the sleeping car porters and the first Black Labour Union. It resonated with him, and the first seeds of The Porter grew in his mind.

I’m a history buff as well, and a series like The Porter not only tells a story from Canada’s past but an important Black story from this country’s past. The Porter has been grabbing a ton of headlines for its storytelling, creative team, cast and crew. So, is it worth the hype? Absolutely.

The Porter airs Mondays at 9 p.m. on CBC.

Images courtesy of CBC.

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