Epic Black Canadian history series in the works at CBC

The eight-part Black Life: A Canadian History is set to air in 2023


A new docuseries about Black Canadian history is going into production for CBC TV and streaming platform CBC Gem.

On Thursday, the public broadcaster announced the eight-part Black Life: A Canadian History has received a greenlight and is targeting a 2023 air date.

Showrunner Leslie Norville is heading up the series as executive producer alongside Miranda de Pencier (Anne With An E). NHL player P.K. Subban, writer and filmmaker Nelson George and Black Lives Matter Canada co-founder Sandy Hudson will co-executive produce the show, which will feature a different director at the helm of each episode.

The producers have also lined up a trio of high-profile figures as consulting producers: former Governor General Michaëlle Jean, rapper and broadcaster Shad and activist Ravyn Wingz.

In a press release, CBC promises the show will be “epic in scope.”

Spanning a timeline of 400 years to the present day, Black Life will explore 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,” according to a description.

“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.”

“The docuseries will be an honest and nuanced look at Black Canadian history,” Norville adds in a statement. “And while some may find this uncomfortable, it’s critical to understand and grapple with the complexities of Canada’s past.”

Historians and activists have long criticized Canadian institutions for minimizing and erasing Black Canadian history from official narratives. Black American stories also tend to take up more air time in popular culture in this country than homegrown ones.

The list of consultants set to work on Black Life include David Austin, Claudine Bonner, Afua Cooper, Annette Henry, Issac Saney, Rinaldo Walcott, Dorothy W. Williams and Jael Richardson. Studio 112, Northwood Entertainment and Ugly Duck Productions are producing.

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