the advisory board

Thomas Suntherland after James Hakewill,
“Trinity Estate, St. Mary’s,” 1825, hand-coloured aquatint

Elders / Distinguished Board Members

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Patrick Bellegarde-Smith, Professor emeritus of African & African Diaspora Studies, University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee

Professor emeritus Patrick Bellegarde-Smith received his doctorate in international relations, comparative politics, and Latin American Studies, in 1977. He taught in the field of international development, political economy, and culture, at Bradley University, then later, at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, in the field of African-American Studies with a focus on Caribbean cultures, politics and history, Afro-Caribbean religions, and in the area of Black feminisms. He is the author or editor of five books, among them, In the Shadow of Powers (Humanities Press International, 1985, 2nd ed. Vanderbilt University Press, 2019), The Breached Citadel (Westview Press, 1990, 2nd ed. Canadian Scholars Press, 2004), and Fragments of Bone: Neo-African Religions in a New World, ed. (Illinois University Press, 2005). A sixth book on gender identities and African religious systems is in preparation. Some of his writings have been anthologized, notably, “Hormones and Melanin: The Dimensions of ‘Race,’ Sex and Gender: Reflexive Journeys,” in Jacqueline Bobo et al., The Black Studies Reader (New York: Routledge, 2004).

For his work on issues of ethnic, racial, and national identities, he received from the State University of Haiti, the Jean Price-Mars Medal in 2013, and the Lifetime Achievement Award for Scholarship from the Haitian Studies Association in 2010. Some of his books and articles have been translated into French, Spanish, Kreyol (Haitian), and Portuguese.

Bellegarde-Smith served as the President of the Congress of Santa Barbara (KOSANBA), a scholarly association for the study of Vodou and other African-derived religions, and is a former president of the Haitian Studies Association, (HSA). He is an associate editor for the Journal of Haitian Studies, and served on the editorial boards of Kalfou: A Journal of Comparative and Relational Ethnic Studies, and the Journal of Africana Religions.

He is a oungan asogwe, a priest of Haitian Vodou.He attended The University of the Virgin Islands, the “youngest” HBCU, Syracuse University at Utica College, and The American University, School of International Service.

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Akua Benjamin, Professor Emeritus, Ryerson University

Dr. Akua Benjamin is a longstanding activist, academic and Black-Canadian community leader. Akua’s involvement in community activism began in the 1970s, when she became actively involved in numerous community groups, organizations and initiatives advocating for change and challenging racist and discriminatory structures, policies, and practices in Canada. The groups in which she has played a leadership role include: Black Action Defense Committee (BADC), Congress of Black Women, and the Coalition of Visible Minority Women.

Akua’s work in the academy has been as central to her life as her involvement in community activism. Over the last three decades, Dr. Benjamin’s long-standing work within Ryerson has played a critical role in shaping the School of Social Work’s current anti-oppressive, social justice and anti-Black racism orientation. Through her leadership as the School’s Director, Dr. Benjamin propelled shifts for equity and social justice in the School and broadly in the institution. Since retiring as a tenured professor in 2019, Dr. Akua continues to lead the Akua Benjamin Legacy Project at Ryerson University, addressing anti-Black racism through teaching institutes, conferences, and documenting Black-Canadian history and activism through film. Remaining deeply involved in activism Akua continues to build coalitions with different groups to agitate for systemic change across Canada.

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Fassil Demissie, Professor Emeritus, DePaul University

Fassil Demissie currently serves as Editor, African and Black Diaspora: An International Journal (Routledge) and Series Editor, Routledge Studies on African and Black Diaspora. He is Professor Emeritus, DePaul University, Chicago. Dr. Demissie is the author of several books, articles, and monographs. Most recently published Ethiopians in Migration’s age: Scattered Lives Beyond Borders (Routledge, 2017).

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Sylvia D. Hamilton, Inglis Professor, University of King’s College

Sylvia D. Hamilton is a Nova Scotian filmmaker, writer, multi-media artist known for her award-winning documentary films and her publications, presentations, and extensive volunteer work with artistic, social, and cultural organizations at the local and national levels. Her films include Black Mother Black Daughter, Speak It! From the Heart of Black Nova Scotia, Portia White: Think on Me, and The Little Black School House; they have been broadcast in Canada and screened at national and international festivals.

Her 2014 poetry collection, And I Alone Escaped to Tell You, was a finalist for several awards. Excavation: A Site of Memory, a multi-media installation, has been shown in galleries and museums in Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Ontario and Quebec. One adaptation titled Here We Are Here, gave its name to the 2018 Royal Ontario Museum’s (ROM) national group exhibition titled, Here We Are Here: Black Canadian Contemporary Art.

Her recognitions include several honorary degrees, a Gemini Award, and the 2019 Governor General’s Award in History (Popular Media). She has a B.A. from Acadia University and an M.A. from Dalhousie University. She held Nancy’s Chair in Women’s Studies at Mount Saint Vincent University in Halifax and has taught and given lectures at many universities in Canada, and at Middlebury College in Vermont, and the University of the West Indies in Kingston, Jamaica. After her retirement from the University of King’s College in 2020, where she held the Rogers Chair in Communications in the School of Journalism, King’s named her an Inglis Professor and launched five annual awards in her name for African Canadian students.

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Sandra Jackson, Professor Emeritus, DePaul University

Sandra Jackson currently serves as Editor of African and Black Diaspora: An international Journal as well as Series Editor of Routledge Studies on Africa and Black Diaspora, published by Routledge Taylor Francis. She is Professor Emeritus, DePaul University, Chicago. Dr. Jackson is the author of several edited books and author of several articles regarding Women’s and Gender Studies, Higher Education, as well as speculative and science fiction. She served as the Director of the Center for Black Diaspora at DePaul University.

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Lynn JonesIndependent civil and human rights activist, educator, speaker, community historian

Dr. Lynn Jones is a civil and human rights activist, educator, speaker and community historian. She was born and raised in Truro, Nova Scotia, and pursued her education and working career in Halifax, Nova Scotia. Jones was the first African Canadian to join the executive ranks of the Canadian Labour Congress. Her life-long community activism has focused on anti-racism, feminism, class, ability, poverty and environment.

Dr. Jones continues to work on the obtaining of Reparations for Afrikan People and highlighting the crimes that occurred during and post Transatlantic Slave Trade. She is a community archivist and creator of the Lynn Jones African Canadian & Diaspora Heritage Collection (LJACDHC) at Saint Mary’s University.

David W. States, historian and genealogist, Gorsebrook Research Institute for Atlantic Canada Studies, Saint Mary’s University

David W. States is a historian and genealogist specializing in people of African descent in Atlantic Canada. He served as a historian with Parks Canada in Halifax from 1991 to 2009 where he was responsible for research on persons of African descent in the Atlantic Region. In addition to his work as a historian, he has maintained a private consultancy in African Canadian genealogy in the Canadian Maritime provinces for the past 38 years. Recently he has completed research on the history of the African Nova Scotian community of Lower Horton, Kings County, Nova Scotia (2018).

In 2007, he gave a conference presentation on people of African descent who accompanied the New England Planters to Nova Scotia and what is present-day New Brunswick entitled Freedom Bound: Eighteenth-Century African Americans Coming from New England to Nova Scotia. He was an advisory historical consultant to the African Nova Scotians in the Age of Slavery and Abolition project of the Nova Scotia Archives (2004) as well as on the Report on Lord Dalhousie’s History on Slavery and Race (2019), co-authored with Dr. Karolyn Smardz Frost. Most recently he has co-authored a report prepared for the University of King’s College, Halifax entitled King’s College, Nova Scotia: Direct Connections with Slavery (2021). Originally from Windsor, Nova Scotia, he has lived in Halifax, Nova Scotia for the past forty-three years.

Prior to joining Parks Canada, he worked as a Research Officer at the Nova Scotia Human Rights Commission (1985-1991), and an Ethnic Services Officer at the Nova Scotia Department of Education (1978-1985).

David graduated with an M.A. in Atlantic Canada Studies from Saint Mary’s University, Halifax, in October 2002, after having, completed a B.A. majoring in Sociology with a minor in Anthropology in 1973. His 2002 M.A. thesis entitled “Presence and Perseverance: Blacks in Hants County, Nova Scotia, I87l-1914,” explored the history of the black settlers of the County from the early 18th-Century through to 1930.

He has written the following articles: “William Hall, V. C. of Horton Bluff, Nova Scotia, Nineteenth Century Naval Hero,” in Collections of the Royal Nova Scotia Historical Society, Vol. 44. (1996), pp.7l-81; “Researching the Social History and Genealogy of Blacks in Nova Scotia,” in Dorothy E. Moore and James H. Morrison. eds., Work, Ethnicity and Oral History: Proceedings of the Conference at Baddeck, (International Education Centre, Saint Mary’s University,1988), pp.13-15; “Homecoming, Freetown Harbour, Sierra Leone, 16 March 1792,” in The Nova Scotia Museum publication, The Occasional, vol. 13, No. 2, (June 1993), pp.30-32; and “Genealogy of the States Family of Kings, Cumberland and Hants Counties, Nova Scotia,” Journal of the Royal Nova Scotia Historical Society, No.9, (2006), pp.147-161.

He is a member of the Royal Nova Scotia Historical Society, the Genealogical Association of Nova Scotia and the New England Historic Genealogical Society and has served on the Board of Directors of the Nova Scotia Museum; the Gorsebrook Research Institute of Atlantic Canada Studies; the Genealogical Association of Nova Scotia and the Royal Nova Scotia Historical Society. He has previously been a member of the Afro-American Historical and Genealogical Society, Washington, D.C. and the Association for the Study of African American Life and History, Washington, D.C.

David has presented a number of lectures, written articles, given radio and newspaper interviews in an effort to create more awareness regarding the importance of African Canadian history in Atlantic Canada.

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James Walker, Professor Emeritus, Department of History, University of Waterloo

James W. St.G. (Jim) Walker is Emeritus Professor of History at the University of Waterloo. His book The Black Loyalists: The Search for a Promised Land in Nova Scotia and Sierra Leone (1976, 1992), was republished in a collection of 30 “iconic books that have shaped a nation” by the University of Toronto Press in 2017.

He has written many books and articles on African-Canadian history and the history of human rights, including A History of Blacks in Canada: A Study Guide for Teachers and Students (1979), ‘Race,’ Rights and the Law in the Supreme Court of Canada (1997)and Burnley ‘Rocky’ Jones: Revolutionary (2016), co-authored with Rocky Jones. With Rocky, he co-founded the Transition Year Program at Dalhousie University in 1970.  He is a Member of the Order of Canada, Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada, a former Bora Laskin National Fellow in Human Rights Research, and recipient of the Olivier LeJeune “Trailblazer” award from the Ontario Black History Society.

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Deborah Willis, Professor and Chair, Department of Photography & Imaging, New York University – Tisch School of the Arts; Affiliate Faculty, College of Arts and Sciences, Department of Social & Cultural Analysis, Africana Studies; Director, Center for Black Visual Culture

Deborah Willis, Ph.D, is University Professor and Chair of the Department of Photography & Imaging at the Tisch School of the Arts at New York University and has an affiliated appointment with the College of Arts and Sciences, Department of Social & Cultural Analysis, Africana Studies, where she teaches courses on Photography & Imaging, iconicity, and cultural histories visualizing the black body, women, and gender. Dr. Willis is also the Director for the Center for Black Visual Culture.

She received the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Fellowship and a John Simon Guggenheim Fellowship. Willis is the author of  The Black Civil War Soldier: A Visual History of Conflict and Citizenship, Posing Beauty: African American Images from the 1890s to the Present; and co-author of Envisioning Emancipation: Black Americans and the End of Slavery. Professor Willis’s curated exhibitions include: “Let Your Motto Be Resistance: African American Portraits” at the International Center of Photography and “Reframing Beauty: Intimate Moments” at Indiana University.

Since 2006 she has co-organized thematic conferences exploring imaging the black body in the West such as the conference titled Black Portraiture[s] which was held in Johannesburg, Paris, Florence, Cambridge and New York.

Board Members

Robin Bernstein, Dillon Professor of American History, Department of African and African American Studies, Harvard University

Robin Bernstein is a cultural historian who studies U.S. racial formation from the nineteenth century to the present. Her first book, Racial Innocence: Performing American Childhood from Slavery to Civil Rights, won five awards. A graduate of Yale’s doctoral program in American Studies and an elected member of the American Antiquarian, Bernstein is the Dillon Professor of American History and Professor of African and African American Studies and of Studies of Women, Gender, and Sexuality at Harvard University. She is currently writing a book, The Trials of William Freeman: A Story of Race, Murder, and America’s First Industrial Prison (under contract, University of Chicago Press).

Claudine Bonner, Associate Professor, Department of Sociology, Acadia University

Dr. Claudine Bonner is a scholar of African Diaspora history and education, and a member of the Sociology Department and Women’s and Gender Studies Program at Acadia University. Her research is grounded in history, and broadly applied in analyses of race, gender, education, and identity in contemporary Canada. Her scholarship bridges the gap between studies of the Black Canadian experience and the broader African Diaspora, and crosses generational boundaries through innovative oral histories, community-based research, and published collaborative research with leading Canadian scholars.

Jenny Burman, Associate Professor, Department of Art History and Communication Studies, McGill University

Jenny Burman is Associate Professor of communication studies in the Department of Art History and Communications at McGill University. Her teaching, research, and publications are in the areas of transnational cultural studies, technologies of white supremacy, and urban space and racial violence.

Trevor Burnard, Wilberforce Institute for the Study of Slavery and Emancipation, University of Hull

Trevor Burnard is Wilberforce Professor of Slavery and Emancipation at the University of Hull and Director of the Wilberforce Institute. He is the author of 15 books, including 8 monographs and 3 edited books; 46 articles and 45 book chapters; and is the editor-in-chief of the Oxford Online Bibliography in Atlantic History. Among his principal publications are Jamaica in the Age of Revolution (2020); The Plantation Machine: Atlantic Capitalism in French Saint Domingue and British Jamaica (2016); Planters, Merchants, and Slaves: Plantation Societies in British America, 1650-1820 (2015); Mastery, Tyranny, and Desire: Thomas Thistlewood and His Slaves in the Anglo-Jamaican World (2004); and Creole Gentlemen: Wealthy Marylanders, 1691-1776 (2002).

Mathias Danbolt, Associate Professor, Department of Arts and Cultural Studies, Faculty of Humanities, University of Copenhagen

Mathias Danbolt is an art historian with a special focus on queer, anti-racist, and decolonial perspectives on art and visual culture. His research on the intersection of Nordic colonial histories and art histories in the Caribbean has been presented in numerous publications as well as the co-curated research exhibition Blind Spots: Images of the Danish West Indies Colony (Royal Danish Library, 2017-18). He is currently directing the collective research project “The Art of Nordic Colonialism: Writing Transcultural Art Histories” (2019-2022), supported by Carlsberg Foundation, which examines the effects and affects of Nordic colonialism within the field of art and museology.

Andrea Fatona, Associate Professor, Faculty of Art, Graduate Studies, OCAD University

Andrea Fatona is an independent curator and an associate professor at the Ontario College of Art and Design University. She is concerned with issues of equity within the sphere of the arts and the pedagogical possibilities of art works produced by ‘other’ Canadians in articulating broader perspectives of Canadian identities.  Her broader interest is in the ways in which art, ‘culture’ and ‘education’ can be employed by to illuminate complex issues that pertain to social justice, citizenship, belonging, and nationhood. She is the recipient of awards from Canada Council for the Arts, Ontario Arts Council, the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada, and was the 2017/18 OCAD U-Massey Fellow. Fatona is a Canada Research Chair Tier 2 in Canadian Black Diasporic Cultural Production. She has published scholarly articles, catalogue essays, and book chapters in a range of publications.

Jennifer Garland, Assistant Head Librarian, Rare Books and Special Collections, Humanities and Social Sciences Library

Jennifer Garland is the Assistant Head Librarian, Rare Books and Special Collections, at McGill University Library. She is curator of the Blackader Lauterman Collection of Architecture and Art and the John Bland Canadian Architecture Collection, and co-founder of the McGill Book Arts Laboratory. Born in Nova Scotia, Garland holds a Bachelor of Fine Arts from NSCAD and a master’s degree in library studies from McGill University. She is an active member of the Art Libraries Society of North America (ARLIS/NA) and past member of the Executive Board (2016-18).

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Chris J. Gismondi, PhD Candidate, Department of Art History and Communication Studies, McGill University

Chris is a queer, white-Settler of Scottish and Italian descent from Nanzuhzaugewazog, Dish with One Spoon, Head of the Lake Treaty no. 14 (1806), Michi Saagiig Nishnaabeg territory. His SSHRC sponsored Doctoral research explores temperate slavery in settler-colonial Upper Canada and enslaved women’s resistances under gradual abolition through print culture and portrait representations.

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Jennifer Holness, President, Hungry Eyes Media

Jennifer bring a fresh, authentic perspective to telling powerful, thought-provoking stories. She works in documentaries and dramatic film and TV production.

On the drama side, Jen creates, writes and produces television series. This includes Shoot The Messenger (CBC, WGN/USA) and Guns (CBC). Jen received a shared Best Writing Canadian Screen Award for Guns, alongside four additional CSAs, a Rose Dor international nomination for best Drama and that year’s ACTRA Best Actor award for KC Collins. Jen’s dramatic feature film credits includes, Home Again, that she cowrote with partner Sudz Sutherland and produced. The film sold to the US and internationally and screened theatrically in the UK, Africa and the Caribbean. It won the Planet Africa Film Fest–BAFTA Festival Choice Award and along with a DGC nod for Best Direction for Sutherland. The film was also nominated for two Canadian Screen Awards, including a best supporting nod for Stephan James (If Beale Street Could Talk) in his feature debut role.

She also wrote the story for and produced the triple Genie nominated feature, Love, Sex and Eating the Bones that also won 7 festival awards including the Best First Canadian Feature at the Toronto International Film Festival. The film was also nominated for 3 Genies for Best Writing, Directing and Picture.

Her short, My Father’s Hands, won the HBO Award for Best Short film, received 5 Golden Sheaf Awards, including Best – Drama, Director, Script, Music and Actor and received a Gemini nomination for Best Short Film.

On the doc side, Jen is a co-producer of the feature doc, Stateless, with director Michele Stephenson (American Promise) for PBS’s The America Series and the National Film Board. Stateless premiered digitally at Tribeca and at Hot Docs in 2020 where it won the festival’s Special Jury Prize. She is the Executive Producer of Maya Annik Bedward feature doc, Black Zombie, that is in production with CBC’s Doc Channel. Jen is directing her first feature doc, Subjects of Desire, about Black women and beauty. The documentary is in post-production for TVO and Crave in Canada.

She has also produced numerous TV documentaries, including; Badge of Pride (CBC & PBS) Min Sook Lee’s film about gay cops that has sold internationally from Israel to Europe. Brick By Brick (Omni), Yin Yin Jade Love (TVO), and Dolores: The Art of Art Modeling (Bravo!). Speakers For The Dead (CBC/NFB), which she co-directed, reveals a hidden Black history in Ontario and she and co-director Sudz Sutherland were invited to Harvard University to present a talk about the film and Canadian Black history.

Jen has two dramatic feature film projects on her slate, including the German Canadian co-pro RipTide that she co-wrote. The film will star Malin Ackerman and Lyriq Bent and is being distributed by Mongrel Media. She is also producing 40 Acres, R.T Thorne’s debut feature film that is slated for production in 2022.

Along with her creative work, Jennifer is a dedicated advocate for diversity and mentorship. She is a founding member of the Black Screen Office. She has mentored/hired scores of African Canadians and diverse youth over the past decade and a half, both personally and through organizations like The Reel World Film Festival, Black Women Film!, Through Their Eyes, The Toronto Black Film Festival and the Montreal Black Film Festival. Her Board work includes, Canadian Media Producer’s Association, Canadian Independent Screen Fund (co-chair) Ontario Creates Industry Board (co-chair), The Regent Park Film Festival, Women In View, Innoversity Creative Summit and CMPA’s Prime Time.

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Ingeborg Høvik, Associate Professor, The Arctic University of Norway

Ingeborg received her PhD from the University of Edinburgh and is Associate Professor of Art History at UiT the Arctic University of Norway. Between 2014 and 2017 she was a Postdoctoral Research Fellow at the Centre for Women’s and Gender Research, UiT. She has been a Caird Short-term Research Fellow at the National Maritime Museum, London (2008), a guest researcher at Linnaeus University Centre for Concurrences in Colonial and Postcolonial Studies (2015), and a visiting researcher at Greenland National Museum and Archives (2015, 2019). Ingeborg’s research is rooted in postcolonial studies and cultural representations of the Arctic, and her latest publication is ‘Girlhood in the Arctic: Word-Image Relations in R. M. Ballantyne’s Canadian Adventures’, in The Arctic in Literature for Children and Young Adults (Hanson et al. Routledge, 2020). In the period 2020 to 2024, she is the manager of Arctic Voices in Art and Literature in the Long 19th Century, an international research project funded by the Research Council of Norway.

Andrew Hunter, Independent Writer, Artist, Curator and Educator (Hamilton, Ontario)

At heart, Andrew’s work is multi-disciplinary and exploratory, incorporating visual art, writing, performance and media, as well as academic and archival research and story-telling. Acknowledging his status as a settler, he is committed to collaboratively developing and sharing new approaches that break from colonial models and embrace the need for the genuine critical decentering of whiteness.

In addition, the mental health of individuals, communities and cultures is of fundamental importance to his life and work. Hunter has significant knowledge of local histories, cultures, social geography, geology and natural history. A former house painter, steeplejack, caretaker, marina and factory labourer, Hunter’s grandparents came to Hamilton in the 1920s from Birmingham/Norwich, England, and Glasgow, Scotland, as working people; his parents were Hamilton born and worked in industry and health care.

A graduate of the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design, Hunter has, over a 30 year career, worked nationally and internationally. He has held senior curatorial positions across Canada (including at the Vancouver Art Gallery and Art Gallery of Ontario) and has produced exhibitions and publications for such institutions as the National Gallery of Canada, Winnipeg Art Gallery, the Banff Centre for the Arts, Concordia University, University of Toronto, Museum of Modern Art Dubrovnik (Croatia), Hammer Museum at UCLA, and Museum of Fine Arts Boston, among many others.

A co-founder of the creative research project DodoLab (with Lisa Hirmer), Hunter has also been a regular collaborator with the community focussed arts research initiative proboscis (London, UK). He has taught graduate and undergraduate level courses at University of Waterloo/Waterloo Architecture and OCADUniversity and has worked closely with organizations supporting at-risk youth. Hunter regularly writes and speaks about institutions of culture and history, the erasure of histories, the marginalization of cultures by colonial institutions, and the responsibilities and accountabilities of settler communities and whiteness, most recently at Harvard University, University of Glasgow and McGill University, and in the keynote talks at the 2018 Archives Association of Ontario Conference at Laurier University and the 2018 Saskatchewan Artists Association Conference at University of Saskatchewan. He has received numerous grants and awards.

Andrew Hunter’s latest book is It Was Dark There All the Time: Sophia Burthen and the Legacy of Slavery in Canada (Goose Lane Editions, 2022). 

Elis Ing, independent librarian

Elis Ing is a librarian with experience working in special collections and education, with a particular interest in multimedia and heritage collections. She currently serves as a Search Editor for Getty Images. Previously, she was liaison librarian within the Rare Books and Special Collections unit of the McGill University Library.

Alice Jim, Professor, Department of Art History, Concordia University

Alice Ming Wai Jim is Professor of Contemporary Art History and Concordia University Research Chair in Ethnocultural Art Histories at Concordia University, Montreal, Canada. She is co-editor-in-chief of the journal Asian Diasporic Visual Cultures and the Americas, published by Brill, in association with The Gail and Stephen A. Jarislowsky Institute for Studies in Canadian Art, Concordia University, and Asian/Pacific/American Institute, New York University. An art historian and curator, her research on diasporic art in Canada and contemporary Asian art has generated new dialogues within and between ethnocultural and global art histories, critical race theory, media arts, and curatorial studies. Her current research examines the convergence of Indigenous and Afro-Asian futurism in contemporary art. Jim is a member of the College of New Scholars, Artists and Scientists of the Royal Society of Canada (RSC).

Adam Harris Levine, Assistant Curator of European Art, Art Gallery of Ontario

Adam Harris Levine holds degrees from McGill University, the Courtauld Institute of Art, and Columbia University. Since 2020, Adam has served as Assistant Curator at the Art Gallery of Ontario’s department of European Art, where he examines the roles that colonization and enslavement played in the economies and visual cultures of European imperial powers.

Lisa Merrill, Professor, Performance Studies and Rhetoric, Program in Rhetoric & Public Advocacy, Hofstra University

Professor Merrill’s research and publications are in the fields of performance studies, critical race and cultural studies, and women’s history. She applies her work on performance, spectatorship, and visuality to a range of cultural artifacts, artworks, and performances. Her critical biography, When Romeo was a Woman: Charlotte Cushman and her Circle of Female Spectators (U of Michigan Press, 2000) was awarded the Joe A. Callaway Prize and featured an exploration of an expatriate community of women artists.

In 2002 Professor Merrill was awarded the National Endowment for the Humanities senior faculty research fellowship, in 2005 a Visiting Fellowship, Institute for Advanced Study, La Trobe University, Melbourne, Australia, and in 2010-2011 Professor Merrill was awarded the Eccles Centre Visiting Professorship in North American Studies at the British Library for “Performing Race and Reading Antebellum American Bodies.”  In further recognition for her work on race and representation, in 2016 Professor Merrill was awarded the Oscar Brockett Essay Prize for her essay “Most Fitting Companions: Making Mixed Race Bodies Visible in Antebellum Public Spaces,” Theatre Survey: Special Issue on Racial Hybridity, May 2015.

Professor Merrill has published widely in the US and UK. Her talks on nineteenth-century representations and performances of race in Britain were sponsored, in part by the Institute for Black Atlantic Research, UCLAN, England, where she was Visiting Scholar 2016 and is again in Spring 2021. Most recently in the UK she has published “Amalgamation, Moral Geography and Slum Tourism’: Irish and African Americans Sharing Space on the Streets and Stages of Antebellum NY,” in Fionnhuala Sweeney, et al, eds. Ireland, Slavery, Anti-Slavery and Empire, Routledge, 2018.

Professor Merrill has delivered invited lectures on “Spectacularizing Black Bodies on 19th Century Stages,” for the International Museum for the Study of Slavery, Liverpool, England, June 2017, and a keynote  “Sounding Antislavery Voices in Antebellum Spaces,” for the Revisiting the Black Atlantic Conference: Gender, Race, and Performance, University of Liverpool, June 2019. Currently Prof. Merrill’s work on Turner Prize-winning artist Lubaina Himid’s “Memorial to Zong” is part of an exhibition at Lancaster Maritime Museum, and Professor Merrill is a contributor to the Tate Catalogue for Lubaina Himid’s upcoming one-woman show at Tate Modern, London, November 2021.

Bruno Véras de Morais E. Silva, PhD Candidate, Department of History, York University

Bruno R. Véras is a public-digital historian and cultural producer whose work focuses on African History, Global African diasporas, historical slavery and art-education. He has directed awarded-winning educational projects in the Global South. He is the director of the art-focused initiative Fragments of Memory. His engagement as a coordinator and associate director for the SHADD_hub (directed by Paul Lovejoy) at the Harriet Tubman Institute, York University (2015-2021) resulted in the creation and/or development of several digital initiatives such as Equiano’s World, IPTSA, Freedom Narratives and DATAS Project.

He coordinated in a British Library Endangered Archives project (Sierra Leone Public Archives) and has played an important role in the training and development of workshops related to African studies and Digital Humanities for the CSiW project network (directed by Professor Annie Bunting). His work as a UNESCO consultant for Africa-Brazilian History has helped in the planning and development of exhibitions for museums and other gallery spaces around the world. He continues to work and to support, as a historical consultant and executive producer, in multi-disciplinary art-based projects, audiovisual and television series in Brazil, Uganda, South Africa, Nigeria, Canada, and Egypt. He has previously served as a board member for CERLAC, Harriet Tuman Institute and GEPHADA.

Temi Odumosu, Assistant Professor, UW Information School, University of Washington

Temi Odumosu is an art historian, curator, and assistant professor at the University of Washington Information School in Seattle. She is author of the award-winning book Africans in English Caricature 1769-1819: Black Jokes White Humour (2017). Her research interests include colonial visual cultures, archival praxis, post-memorial art and performance, and ethics-of-care in representation. Overall, she is focused on the multitude ways art can mediate social transformation and healing. She is currently a member of the research network The Art of Nordic Colonialism: Writing Transcultural Art Histories.

Sirpa Salenius, Professor, University Lecturer, University of Eastern Finland

Sirpa Salenius, Ph.D., is Senior Lecturer at the University of Eastern Finland (Joensuu, Finland), where she teaches American Studies with an emphasis on African American literature and culture. She is an External Affiliate at the University College London Sarah Parker Remond Centre for the Study of Racism and Racialisation.

Her research interests include race, gender, sexuality, and space studies. Among her most recent publications are An Abolitionist Abroad: Sarah Parker Remond in Cosmopolitan Europe (University of Massachusetts Press, 2016) and an essay collection, Race and Transatlantic Identities (Routledge, 2017), co-edited with Elizabeth T. Kenney and Whitney Womack Smith. She is the recipient of several fellowships and awards, including the 2020-2021 Terra Foundation for American Art Senior Fellow at Smithsonian American Art Museum, Washington D.C.

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David (Sudz) Sutherland, Vice-President, Hungry Eyes Media

Sudz Sutherland started writing stories that matter on his mother’s Smith-Corona in grade one, and he continues to fill blank pages on his iPad every day. Starting with music videos and award-winning short films, Sudz and his partner Jen Holness started Hungry Eyes Media, a production company that makesfeatures, docs, drama and comedy series and the occasionalMobile Game.

Sudz’s powerful half-hour dramatic debut, My Father’s Hands screened at The Toronto International Film Festival. It won the $20,000 HBO Short Film Award at the Acapulco Black Film festival, and in Canada it went on to win prizes at the Yorkton Film Festival (four awards including best drama,script, direction and best actor). The film was also nominated for a Gemini Award for Best Short.

Sudz’ first feature was the TIFF award winning Love, Sex and Eating the Bones. His second feature was the internationally award-winning Home Again, the story of Jamaican deportees. Sudz also co-wrote and directed the dramatic miniseries Guns for CBC based on four families caught up in illegal gun trafficking. Starring Colm Feore and Elisha Cuthbert, Guns won five Gemini Awards including Best writer and Directing. Sudz also wrote and directed the triple Gemini award-winning (Best Direction, Best Supporting Actress, Best Television Movie) Doomstown, an MOW for CTV/SarrazinCouture.

Sudz has directed over 75 hours of television on shows as diverse as Netflix’s Ginny and Georgia,Superman and Lois, Batwoman, The Flash, Blindspot, Netflix’s Designated Survivor, CW’s Reign, Murdoch Mysteries, and many others. He’s won an International Emmy (The Phantoms) and 3 CSA’sfor Best Director. He also co-created the series She’s the Mayor (VisionTV) and Shoot the Messenger and Guns (CBC).

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Camille Turner, PhD Candidate, Faculty of Environmental and Urban Change Canada, York University

Camille Turner is an explorer of race, space, home and belonging. Born in Jamaica and currently based in Toronto, her work combines Afrofuturism and historical research. Most recently, she has been unsilencing the entanglement of what is now Canada in transatlantic slavery. Her interventions, installations and public engagements have been presented throughout Canada and internationally. Camille graduated from Ontario College of Art and Design and York University’s Masters in Environmental Studies program where she is currently a PhD candidate.

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Gaëtane Verna, Director, The Power Plant

Gaëtane Verna is an art historian and arts administrator. Since 2012, she has been the Director of The Power Plant Contemporary Art Gallery, Toronto, and was Executive Director and Chief Curator of the Musée d’art de Joliette from 2006 to 2012. Prior to her appointment at Joliette, Verna served as Curator of the Foreman Art Gallery at Bishop’s University (1999–2006), Sherbrooke, while also teaching in the Art History department of both Bishop’s University and the Université du Québec à Montréal.

Since 1992, Verna has curated and organized exhibitions by emerging, mid-career, and established Canadian and international artists, including Terry Adkins, John Akomfrah, Vasco Araújo, Miriam Cahn, Alfredo Jaar, Luis Jacob, Kimsooja, Yam Lau, Oswaldo Maciá, Mario Pfeifer, Javier Tellez, Denyse Thomasos, Bill Viola, YOUNG HAE CHANG HEAVY INDUSTRIES, Zineb Sedira, and Franz Erhard Walther.

Verna holds an International Diploma in Heritage Administration and Conservation from the Institut National du Patrimoine in Paris and received a DEA and master’s degree in Art History from the Université Paris I Panthéon-Sorbonne. Verna has edited and contributed essays to numerous books and catalogues. She serves on the Board of Directors of the Canada Council for the Arts and TV5 Québec Canada, and is the President of the Board of Directors of the Toronto Arts Council. Verna is one of the initiators of the Black Curators Forum, she is a member of the Canadian Art Museum Directors Organization (CAMDO), the International Association of Art Critics, AICA Canada, and the International Committee for Museums (CIMAM). In 2017, she was appointed Chevalier de l’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres (Order of Arts and Letters) by the French government to spotlight and recognize her significant contribution to furthering the arts in France and throughout the world.

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Aly Ndiaye, a.k.a Webster, Independent author, curator, and hip-hop artist

Aly Ndiaye, aka Webster, is a veteran of the Quebec hip-hop scene. Active since 1995, he now travels the world through his concerts, writing workshops and lectures. Passionate about history, the rapper from Limoilou is particularly interested in slavery and the presence of people of African descent in Quebec and Canada since the time of New France.

Webster is the author of a hip-hop writing manual, Àl’Ombredes Feuilles (Québec Amérique, 2019), and a children’s book about Olivier Le Jeune, the first African slave in Canada, Le Grain de Sable (Septentrion, 2019). In 2019, he was the curator of the Fugitives! exhibition at the Musée National des Beaux-Arts du Québec about resistance to slavery through flight. He also has put together Qc History X tours, guided tours of the Old Quebec about slavery and the presence of people of African descent.

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Harvey Amani Whitfield, Professor of Black North American History, University of Calgary

Harvey Amani Whitfield (Amani) is the Professor of Black North American History at the University of Calgary. His research area is transnational African American history in the wider context of the African Diaspora and Black Atlantic. This research focus has resulted in the publication of five books including two university press monographs, Blacks on the Border: The Black Refugees in British North America, 1815-1860 and North to Bondage: Loyalist Slavery in the Maritimes.

His most recent publication is Biographical Dictionary of Enslaved Black People in the Maritimes (‎University of Toronto Press, 2022) includes approximately 1,450 individuals. Whitfield is grateful to the Institute for the Study of Canadian Slavery for including him as a member of the Advisory Board. 

 

Marcus Wood, Professor, School of Media, Arts and Humanities, University of Sussex

Marcus Wood is a painter, performance artist and film-maker. Since 2003 he has also been Professor of English and Diaspora Studies at the University of Sussex.

​For the last thirty years Marcus has been making art and writing books about different ways in which the traumatic memory of slavery and colonization have been encoded in art and literature. His books include Blind Memory Slavery and Visual Representation in England and America (Manchester University Press and Routledge New York, 2000); High Tar Babies – Race, Hatred, Slavery Love (Clinamen Press, 2001;) Slavery, Empathy and Pornography (Oxford University Press, 2003); The Horrible Gift of Freedom Atlantic Slavery and the Representation of Emancipation (University of Georgia Press, 2010) and Black Milk: Imagining Slavery in the Visual Cultures of Brazil and America.

​Marcus’s latest book is The Black Butterfly: Slavery and Memory in Brazilian Literature (University of Virginia Press October 2019) focuses on the slavery writings of three of Brazil’s literary giants—Machado de Assis, Castro Alves, and Euclides da Cunha.  Marcus is also currently working on a big project Exploding Archives: Meditations on Slavery, Brazil, America and the limits of cultural memory. The project will result in a monograph, various performances and installations and a film.

Rachel Zellars, Assistant Professor, Department of Social Justice & Community Studies, Saint Mary’s University

Dr. Rachel Zellars, MA, JD, PhD, is a lawyer and Assistant Professor at Saint Mary’s University in the Department of Social Justice and Community Studies. Her research and scholarship focuses on the history of Black Canada beginning with the American Revolution; slavery in the Maritimes and the lives of enslaved women; and gender violence and transformative justice.

She is also a nationally recognized expert on critical implicit bias, a framework and approach that she coined in conjunction with her extensive, ongoing work with the federal government and numerous private institutions. In addition to her legal background, Dr. Zellars also holds a master’s degree in Africana Studies from Cornell University and a doctorate in education from McGill University. She is a long-time community organizer who co-founded the Black Lives Matter Solidarity Fund in Nova Scotia, which has raised over $300,000 to date.

Additionally, she co-founded the African Nova Scotian Freedom School to honor the rich legacies of African Nova Scotian freedom fighters, educators, and community leaders throughout the province.

Council on Student Initiatives

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Simone Cambridge, McGill University, BA Art History and International Development Studies; Curatorial and Research Assistant, Concordia University, Curating and Public Scholarship Lab

Simone Cambridge is a researcher and curator born in Nassau, Bahamas. Her research examines transatlantic slavery, diasporic identity, postcolonialism, and race in visual culture and curatorial theory. She holds a BA from McGill University in Art History and International Development with a minor in Urban Systems Geography.

She has received the 2016 All Bahamas Merit Award (The Bahamas Ministry of Education), the 2018 Archie Malloch Award for Public Learning (McGill University), and the 2019 Arts Undergraduate Research Award (McGill University). Her research has been published by the McGill University Department of Art History and Communications and the Journal of Black Canadian Studies.

Simone is an Advisory Board member for the Institute for the Study of Canadian Slavery at NSCAD University, Research Assistant and Communications Coordinator at Concordia University’s Curating and Public Scholarship Lab, and the Curatorial Assistant of Seascape Poetics, an exhibition featuring the work of six contemporary Caribbean artists that considers connections between water and colonial histories, climate change, and geographic identities.

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Roxanne Cornellier, McGill University, BA Art History and Latin American and Caribbean Studies

Roxanne Cornellier completed her Bachelor’s Degree at McGill University, with a double major in Art History and Latin American and Canadian Studies. At McGill, Roxanne was part of the team led by Dr. Charmaine A. Nelson to research and document James McGill’s connections to slavery and to publish the Bicentenary Recommendations.  

 

Inspired by Dr. Cheryl Thompson’s work in blackface minstrelsy as a Canadian tradition, Roxanne aims to pursue her interest for the visual culture of blackface minstrelsy in Montreal for her MA. Roxanne will be spending summer 2022 at the Center for Studying Structures of Race where she will be researching Roanoke College’s collection of stereotypical blackface objects and memorabilia with the team led by Dr. Jesse Bucher. 

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Jane O’Brien DavisUniversity of Toronto, Department of Geography and Planning, MScPl student 

Jane is a SSHRC-funded Master’s of Urban Planning student at the University of Toronto. Her interests lie in Heritage Planning, Cultural Planning, and Public Histories. Jane graduated from McGill University with a BA in Urban Studies and Art History. During this time, she was able work with Dr. Charmaine A. Nelson in studying Canadian Slavery, which sparked her interesting in public histories.  

 

Jane works as a research assistant and teaching assistant. In addition to her Canadian Graduate Scholarship (SSHRC) (2021-2022), she is the recipient of Peter R. Walker MScPl Fellowship (2021), and the Black Graduate Student Award (2021).  

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Emily DraicchioUniversity of New Brunswick, Department of History, MA student

Emily Draicchio is a graduate student at the University of New Brunswick pursuing a Master’s Degree in History under the supervision of Dr. Charmaine A. Nelson and Dr. Stefanie Hunt-Kennedy. She holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Joint Honors Art History and Anthropology with a specialization in Archaeology from McGill University. During her time at McGill, Emily’s research in Art History was centered on an analysis of anti-Black stereotypes in Canadian and Danish dolls from the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. She focused on their relation to the trauma experienced by the free and enslaved Black women who encountered them, while simultaneously analyzing the dolls as evidence to subvert Canadian and Danish national narratives of exceptionalism that have strategically ignored their participation in the Transatlantic Slave Trade. Outside of art history, Emily has developed a passion for archaeology while interning in India where she completed archaeological fieldwork and her Anthropology thesis on an analysis of botanical illustrations made by Indian artists. 

Emily’s current MA project titled Excavating Archives: Searching for Sites of Black Enslavement in Eighteenth and Nineteenth Century Canada aims to bridge her interests in archaeology and history with Canadian slavery studies to dismantle a piece of the myth of Canada as inclusive, racism-free, and without a colonial history by locating, documenting, and analysing sites of Black enslavement in Québec and New Brunswick (c.1700s-1800s). She will approach her research through the examination of archival materials, oral and ethnographic sources generated by African Diasporic communities, and by completing interviews, reconnaissance surveys, and GIS site mapping. Her research is funded by the Canada Graduate Scholarships-Master’s Program (CGS M) under the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (SSHRC) and Bourse de maîtrise en recherche (B1Z) issued by the Fonds de recherche du Québec – Société et culture (FRQSC).

 

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Ellie Finkelstein, Goldsmiths University of London, MA student

Ellie Finkelstein is completing her Master’s Degree in Postcolonial Culture and Global Policy at Goldsmiths University of London. Prior to starting her Master’s, she was a student of Dr. Charmaine A. Nelson where she was introduced to the study of Canadian slavery. Now she is writing her dissertation on modern slavery in Canada and analysing discourses linking exploitation to capitalism in human rights movements. In addition to completing her Master’s, she works with an anti-slavery organization where she helps mobilize campaigns. After her degree, she hopes to continue working in the field of combating modern slavery and getting involved in projects that inform perceptions of modern slavery to create systemic change. 

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Denisa Marginean, Ryerson University, MA student, Fashion Studies 

Denisa Marginean is a graduate student and assistant in fashion studies based in Toronto. After completing her B.A in art history at McGill University, her passion for topics such as anti-capitalism, social justice and art theory pursed at the MA level at Ryerson University, where she is currently researching anti-fashion as an aesthetic phenomenon and political identity embedded in post-modern capitalism. She is increasingly concerned with challenging white supremacist academic writing and knowledge production and understanding how research can live beyond academia.

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Colin McCrossan, Villanova University, Department of History, MA student

Colin McCrossan is graduate student at Villanova University pursuing a Master’s Degree in History. He is a researcher for the “Rooted Project,” Villanova’s institutional history project, and is focusing on the history of slavery in the space that became Villanova. His research interests include the history of slavery in the Greater Philadelphia area, LGBTQ History, and the history of abortion and contraception. He is the inaugural scholar-in-residence for the CommUNITY Breakfast Collaborative, a Philadelphia area non-profit dedicated to fighting for racial justice.  

 

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Nicholas Raffoul, McGill University, BA student

Nicholas Raffoul is a researcher, writer and artist committed to an anti-colonial art and research practice. Nicholas received a BA in Art History from McGill University in Tiohtià:ke (Montreal). He is currently an M.A student in the Art History Program at Concordia University. His research interests are concerned with decolonial art histories, critical race theory, and contemporary arts from the Middle East, more specifically engaging with Lebanese artists that work to confront image and material archives of the Lebanese Civil War. 

He is a research assistant for The Afrofuturism – Black Lives Matter team under the supervision of Dr. Alice Ming Wai Jim which proposes to research the history of Afrofuturism in the Canadian art scene over the last decade.