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Canada | Afro-Indigenous Writers Telling Their Stories, Says It helps Empower Youth

Canada | Afro-Indigenous Writers Telling Their Stories, Says It helps Empower Youth 

2 Afro-Indigenous writers say telling their own stories helps empower youth

This Black history month, two Afro-Indigenous women say by telling their own stories they’re helping empower youth.

Tasha Spillett, who identifies as urban Afro-Indigenous with family ties to Opaskwayak Cree Nation and Cumberland House Cree Nation, said as an author her words carry the responsibility of her people and she uses her words for their empowerment.

“In writing the books, it’s my way of contributing to the collective work that’s ensuring that the other community members are learning about our children and our families in ways that we want them to, that restore our dignity and affirm our beauty and our brilliance,” she said.

Her books include the New York Times bestseller picture book I sang you down from the stars and the graphic novel series Surviving the City. Tasha Spillett is the author of a picture book and a graphic novel series. (Kevin Settee )
The Winnipeg-based author said writing is her way of teaching the public how to treat brown and Black people with respect.

“We have done such incredibly beautiful things under oppression; can you imagine if we are able to fully thrive and live in joy and flourish, the things we [will be] able to do,” said Spillett.

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Tougher than Buffalo Hide: How I learned to love my Afro-Indigenous hair. Spillett said she’s working on a young adult novel about the Afro-Indigenous experience. She wants to explore how Afro-Indigenous people are treated during the “pretendian” exposes in recent years.

“One thing I think about is whenever a case is brought forward on ‘pretendianism,’ there’s a lot of discussion, ‘Well they look Native’ but yet those of us who are blood related to these folks, we’re othered because we don’t look Native,” said Spillett.

Adeline Bird is an Afro-Anishinaabe filmmaker and actor who is a member of Rolling River First Nation in Manitoba, and lives in Toronto. She appeared in the series Little Bird and is the author of Be Unapologetically You: A Self- Love Guide for Women of Color. She agreed with Spillett that barriers remain for Black and Indigenous creators but it’s important for her to claim her space.

Adeline Bird says she wants her nieces to see their aunt be empowered. (Adeline Bird/Facebook)
“I’m always thinking about my nieces,” she said. “They’re little brown girls and it’s important for them to see their aunty be empowered, be a director, be a producer.”

She wants to see other Afro-Indigenous people own their power as writers.

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“It’s really about truth, being able to see the collective experiences of what it means to be Indigenous, what it means to be Black,” she said.

“it’s not just the stereotypes, the poverty. I watch both communities closely. There are so many things that are so similar. It’s just so much truth that hasn’t been unpacked yet.”

Bird said her next project will be a series centred on an urban Afro-Indigenous girl’s experience.

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