The St. Albert Public Library, in partnership with the Africans and African Descendants Friendship Club (AADFC) of St. Albert, will celebrate Black History Month by hosting an in-person watch party of a docuseries exploring Canadian Black history.
Starting Feb. 3, the four-part docuseries BLK: An Origin Story will be screened in the Forsyth Hall at the downtown library.
“Black history is Canadian history,” said Geoffrey Manderscheid, library assistant at the St. Albert Public Library. “Events that make up Canada's history going back to the treatment of Black Loyalists to the BLM Movement (are) subjects that are covered in these film series.”
Manderscheid said the docuseries is a “treat” to watch visually and has a cinematic and educational quality to it.
“(This docuseries) is a conversation starter really enhanced by interviews from leaders and Black leaders and academia and arts, politics, and more. It's a history that's largely untold and a history for everyone to learn from. It’s a groundbreaking, groundbreaking documentary,” he said.
In a media release, the library describes the docuseries as “a history that looks beyond the Underground Railroad to explore the untold stories of Black Canadians from the 1600s to the present.”
“(These stories are) all part of this collective shared history. And as you think about that history, it's not just limited to the people and cultures who've experienced it,” he said.
Manderscheid, said the library has a role to create access to that history, and watch parties, with support from community parties like the AADFC, are important because they are a fun and engaging way to explore stories.
“These stories help us better understand the present,” he said.
Manderscheid said the library has done watch parties on other topics such as racism in the fashion industry and the looming threat of forced relocation of members in Black communities.
“Not to take away from those subjects because (those topics are) really important, but we haven't really reached back and looked at Canada's history and how we got here,” he said.
Looking at the docuseries through a personal lens, Manderscheid said, the history shown through this series was not taught in schools when he was growing up.
“We learned kind of like a whitewashed history where Canada was this safe haven that Black folks from the States were able to connect to the underground railway system. That was the history. In short, all of this is pretty well new information and insights into the Black history of Canada,” he said.
As for how this particular film was chosen, Manderscheid explained that every fall the AADFC gets together and comes up with a watch party wish list.
BLK: An Origin Story was suggested by Toni Harrison the AADFC director of youth mentorship and community engagement. Harrison will be hosting discussions after the films are screened.
Former city councilor Ray Watkins will be joining Harrison to chat about the film after the first screening.
Episodes one and two of the docuseries will screen on Feb. 3, with episodes three and four screening on Feb. 10. Doors open at 6:30 p.m. and the films will begin at 7 p.m. Advance registration for the free screenings can be found at sapl.ca.
African snacks and refreshments are provided both evenings by the AADFC.