Constructing the Black Prairie Archives: Expanding the Narrative

Sponsored by Wilfrid Laurier University Press

Recorded on 05/27/2020
Posted in The Authority File

Episode 129

Karina Vernon, Associate Professor at the University of Toronto Scarborough, knew that when collecting material for her book, The Black Prairie Archives: An Anthology, she couldn’t include everything: “The fantasy of the total archive—it’s an impossibility.” She enacted several editorial guidelines to achieve her goal of presenting diverse Black stories that expanded the dominant narrative of the prairies.

She sought out unique pieces—spoken word, letters, oral histories, and rap. She hunted for contributions from women writers, queer voices, and an even count from all provinces of the prairies, Alberta, Saskatchewan, and Manitoba. Most importantly, “I also wanted to choose material that was self-conscious in some way about race that would reveal something about Black life on the prairies.”

In the final episode of this four-part series, Dr. Vernon discusses her inclusive process of collecting entries for the archive, and highlights some of her favorite pieces. When audiences pick up the volume, she hopes that they’ll widen their own perspectives as well: “I ask readers when they encounter something that challenges them, that they might not identify with, to make space for listening, to perhaps approach the material differently with open ears, with the willingness to sit with something that might be different or uncomfortable because it will allow us to hear a story that has not yet been told.”

About the guest:

Karina Vernon
Associate Professor
University of Toronto Scarborough

Enjoy the conversation? Check out the rest of the series: