They honour the legacy of their ancestors and highlight the injustices they faced.
“Afro-Métis” may look like a word you should know but odds are you’ve never seen it or encountered the fraught history it encapsulates unless you’ve heard The Afro-Métis Nation’s album Constitution.
Created by four musicians and one poet, all of mixed black and Indigenous ancestry, the musically diverse, no-holds-barred album of original and adapted material honours ancestors and others who have survived and ultimately thrived in the face of harsh marginalization in Canada, especially in Nova Scotia.
Some of the album’s creators—all of them have roots in Nova Scotia—were largely unaware of the significance of their mixed heritage before joining forces on the project in 2016.
“I was totally oblivious. It was just some fact in my background,” says musician Chris White, who is of black and Mi’kmaq heritage and co-founded the Ottawa Folk Festival.
“I didn’t know there were 46 black communities in Nova Scotia and they were right beside the Indigenous communities. They were both in the worst possible parts of the province; they both got shafted because it was all about economics. That’s why there was lots of intermingling.”
Those of mixed blood didn’t advertise the fact, he says. Black or Indigenous, you were already in a minority, so why double your oppression by acknowledging your full heritage?
White likely would have remained oblivious had his cousin, Toronto-based poet George Elliott Clarke, not contacted him a few years ago about collaborating on an album.
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