When uOttawa political science graduate and current Common Law student Anne Moreau thinks back to her elementary and high school experience, it was like Black Canadians did not exist in the country’s history. This was an outcome of the way in which the subject was taught: focused on European conquests while glazing over truths about colonization and the contribution of Black and Indigenous Peoples.
This absence motivated Moreau to create 28 Moments of Black Canadian History, a YouTube series released in February 2020 during Black History Month. Moreau directed the videos alongside Fitch Jean, a uOttawa communication and media studies student.
The series features Black community members showcasing prominent figures, places, and events in Black Canadian history. In her video, Moreau introduces Jean Augustine, the first Black woman elected to Canadian Parliament and a lifelong advocate for the rights of women and immigrants. The two women sat at the same table at an event in 2019 but, despite Moreau’s interest in politics, she wasn’t familiar with Augustine’s many accomplishments—evidence, she points out, of how rarely trailblazing Black Canadians are highlighted in the classroom.
“I think that once we know the truth about the history of this country, a lot of the changes that we’re fighting for will face less resistance,” says Moreau of the video series’ goal. “People don’t realize that a lot of the systems that are oppressing folks arise out of that history.”
Focusing on the neglected history of Black Canadians, the video series also provides people a space to share their own experiences with racism, culture, and identity, something Moreau describes as challenging but liberating.
The 28 Moments videos are being used in classrooms across the country and as part of uOttawa courses, too. The series also led to the creation of Unilearnal, a platform where Black, Indigenous, and People of Colour (BIPOC) youth are invited to create and share educational content.
Hoping and leading for a meaningful change
Moreau is pursuing a law degree at uOttawa in order to continue enacting change, and her story is a testament to the importance of having a diversity of voices represented in education. While some may call her an activist, the term doesn’t resonate with Moreau.
“I can’t disengage from politics and community work; that’s a privilege that most racialized people don’t have,” she says, categorizing her work as surviving for herself and her fellow community members. “Those of us who are at a place in our life where we feel comfortable enough to speak out have a responsibility to do so.”
That connects back to politics. Though Moreau has put her initial goal of becoming more politically involved on the backburner, she is advocating for more women, especially Black, Indigenous, and women of colour, to get involved in politics. “I want to contribute to making these spaces safer and ultimately more accessible. That’s the type of change that I’d like to participate in,” explains Moreau.
To that end, she authored “So You Don't Want to Be A Politician,” a resource that focuses on representation within the Canadian political system, and more precisely municipal politics in Ottawa. Designed in a colourful and engaging style, the document provides information and suggested courses of action for readers.
Through her various projects, this uOttawa student and alumna is leading the change she wishes to see. History matters, and Moreau is making sure that people today and in the future are able to better understand the role of Black Canadians within it.