An Edmonton organization that has worked tirelessly to preserve the history of African American settlers in Canada has received one of our country’s top honours.
Deborah Dobbins founded the Shiloh Centre for Multicultural Roots, which works to archive information on some of Alberta and Saskatchewan’s earliest immigrants.
More than 1,500 black Americans settled in towns like Barrhead, Breton and Wildwood in the early 1900s amidst a culture of discrimination, even by the Canadian government.
The documentary We Are the Roots, released in 2018, features interviews with black Albertans who struggled to find acceptance and success during that time.
“The focus was the discrimination, marginalization and prejudice experienced by those for settlers,” said Dobbins, a co-producer of the film.
The project has been receiving significant attention.
“We went on to receive four awards so far, not just for the documentary but for the whole project,” said Dobbins, noting one award in particular really stands out.
On Jan. 28, Dobbins travelled to Ottawa to accept the Governor General’s History Award for Excellence in Community Programming on behalf of the Shiloh Centre for Multicultural Roots.
“Hopefully it will continue the conversation,” Dobbins said. “The awards are amazing. We are humbled by the awards but the importance is getting our history in the educational system.”
Dobbins says the next step is to work with Alberta Education to ensure students may learn about the history of African American settlers in Canada through the documentary.
“We want to get into the educational system so it’s just part of the curriculum,” Dobbins added.
The Shiloh Centre for Multicultural Roots will be hosting a Black History Month event, including a screening of We Are the Roots on Feb. 23. Keep an eye on their Facebook page for more information.