To mark the start of Black History Month on February 1, Blacklantic, a new Black podcast and media platform out of Atlantic Canada, officially launched.
“We’re primarily a Black Atlantic centric podcast, website, and media channel through which we post on our social media channels with the goal of bringing unheard Black and POC voices to the world — unheard Atlantic voices,” said Clinton Davis, a co-creator and podcast co-host.
Davis and co-creator and co-host Hillary LeBlanc worked together for more than year as part of a team of hosts on the Black in the Maritimes podcast, which is based out of New Brunswick and was created by Fidel Franco.
LeBlanc joined Black in the Maritimes about a year after Davis. In a joint interview with the Examiner, they laugh at how despite their backgrounds being “quite the opposite,” they’ve still come to similar perspective and viewpoints with respect to the Black experience — and particularly the Black experience of Black Canadians living in New Brunswick and Atlantic Canada.
For starters, LeBlanc, who now lives in Toronto, was born and raised in predominately-white Moncton, New Brunswick. Davis, who resides in Moncton, was born and raised in Toronto, Ontario.
Davis’s father is Jamaican and his mother is from PEI. Davis said he visited the island when he was growing up.
“I came to PEI every year of my life, and that was great,” Davis said. “And growing up in Toronto I never really experienced direct, overt kind of obvious racism. When I started visiting New Brunswick when my parents moved here in 1999, I was shocked by the amount of racism I encountered.”
Davis describes racism in New Brunswick coming and going in waves. After a decade of visiting his parents three times a year, he moved to Moncton in 2009, and said he felt the city and province had become more diverse and less racist.
“Then, in 2017 I started to notice an increase in racism again, and it started to sit really unwell with me,” he said. “I started by speaking out about it slowly here and there on social [media] and challenging other people who would be racist online.”
Davis said he and his wife experienced racist online harassment through the business they co-owned. Through that same business, he said he and his wife were defrauded by an employee who worked for a government agency who has since gone missing. When it became national news, that’s when Davis said he was approached by Franco to speak about it as a guest on Black in the Maritimes.
“I had never heard of Black in the Maritimes and I just thought it was exactly what this province needed, exactly along the lines of what I was already looking to do,” he said. “So I really pursued that and wanted to become part of the team and join it and help it explode.”
Growing up in Moncton, Hillary LeBlanc said she always normalized the type of racism that stood out for Clinton Davis when he moved to New Brunswick from Toronto. The contrast didn’t become apparent to her until she moved to Toronto and felt a greater sense of acceptance as a Black person among a more diverse population of Black people.
“I think it was one of the first times I had, while working at Shoppers Drug Mart, had another Black person look at me and like nod just to acknowledge my existence,” she said. “That feeling of comradery was nothing I had ever experienced in 23 years in New Brunswick. And so that to me was moving.”
“I talked about it several times, about being one of only five Black kids in my school at a time was really isolating and lonely. And finally accepting my identity as a Black person and trying to stop assimilating as a white person. I realized that there was no representation in the media in New Brunswick, [or] in the people I surrounded myself with.”
LeBlanc said she finds her “bigger passion” in writing and has been blogging since she was 12-years-old. In addition to podcast hosting, she contributed a series of blogs where she wrote candidly about her lived experience and a wide range of topics. Those blogs have since migrated to Blacklantic.ca.
LeBlanc said moving to Toronto helped her see how media representation was really affecting Black people in a positive way.
“And so I really wanted to be a part of that. And so when I was approached to be on Black in the Maritimes I said yes, and I really just wanted to continue working in that sphere and doing that,” said LeBlanc.
“There isn’t a lot of coverage that takes place about the Black experience in Atlantic Canada,” said Davis. “If there is, it only tends to be centered around race or race issues, or when something bad happens,” he said. “So we are trying to let Atlantic Canadians know that Black people are just people with different viewpoints and opinions, and not always the same opinions.”
Blacklantic also features blogs by Savannah Thomas, a Black writer from Fredericton who writes and speaks out about racial issues.
On the first episode of Blacklantic, Davis and LeBlanc introduce the new platform before discussing news surrounding the start of the Freedom Convoy that landed in Ottawa, the start of Black History Month, as well as an upcoming virtual Black History Month panel out of New Brunswick with “a large white demographic” to which LeBlanc said she takes personal offense.
“While there’s no immediate paycheque every week for doing this, we’re happy to engage in the conversations, we’re happy to have opportunities with CBC and other partners, impacting change within even the school districts, and just to be able to talk to other people about their experiences,” LeBlanc said.
“Our endeavour is to show that Black people tend to experience racism, but every other experience they have is different and unique, and we’re all different people. You cannot speak to one person and get “the” Black Experience, and that’s why we want to amplify as many voices as we can.”