A series of upcoming Arts Against PostRacialism events will respond to and express resistance to the presence of blackface on Canadian campuses. The four events will take place in October and early November at Quebec and Ontario universities including McGill, Queen’s, Wilfrid Laurier and OCAD.
Led by Professor Philip Howard, of McGill’s Department of Integrated Studies in Education, the events will challenge blackface on Canadian university campuses by building capacity for critique and spaces of healing for those negatively impacted by blackface, by creating intra- and inter-campus networks between campus organizations interested in challenging blackface, and by raising the level of critical dialogue about blackface. The project sees Dr. Howard working with a team of artists headed by curator Camille Turner, and involves collaborators from each university. McGill University will host our respective Arts Against PostRacialism event on October 23rd.
Blackface, or the act of artificially darkening the skin in an attempt to impersonate Black people, dates back to the days of blackface minstrelsy—a form of 19th and early 20th century entertainment that expressed nostalgia for slavery and racist violence, and employed stereotypical representations of Black people. Contrary to popular belief, blackface minstrelsy was a popular form of entertainment in Canada, much as it was in the United States. Contemporary Canadian blackface employs many of the tropes of anti-black racism associated with minstrelsy, while also reflecting some of the specific forms that anti-black racism takes in Canada today. A large proportion of contemporary Canadian blackface incidents occur on university campuses, with a significant number also occurring in professional entertainment venues in the province of Quebec.