Samuel | 28 Moments of Black Canadian History | Afro-Canadian Church Music of the 19th Century


(funky music) – Hey what’s up guys? My name is Samuel Kanza, I am a father, I am a husband, I am an associate pastor,
I am a videographer, I’m a video editor, and
I’m also a photographer. I was born in Montreal, raised in Ottawa, and I had the privilege to
experience several social classes so, I was born in Montreal
Nord, Montréal-Nord, for my Frenchies out there. Which means that it was a very poor area. It was actually the first place where I experienced
racism with my parents. We were just gently
walking on the sidewalk, and a car passed by and threw
a bunch of garbages at us, and called us the N-word. I mean, I was really young. So I wasn’t sure what it meant, but based off of my parents reaction, I knew it was a bad thing. Fast forward moving into
Ottawa, in grade six. I was also called the N-word by a girl, in class, at that point
I’m in grade six, right? So I already listened to
Biggie, I know what it means. But, I felt, for the first time, the responsibility as a
Black man to not react, the way I was expected to react, when I was being called that word. And, I really feel like, being in a society where
you have to stand up for what you believe
in, as a Black person, where you identify as a Black man, it changes your perspective,
especially from a young age. (mellow music) (hip hop music) From Aretha Franklin to Usher,
to Brandi, to John Legend. All these people have something in common, and that is that they also live in church. Today, I want to focus on the Afro-Canadian church
music of the 19th century. So, the church plays a very big part in the musical experience
we have today as people. We can hear it in Pharrell’s
biggest hit “Happy.” Where the whole song is carried
by a traditional church clap And we even hear the church’s
influence in the music, like Kanye’s latest
album, “Jesus is King.” But, where do us Canadians,
fit in this redefining sound? Well, the journey of the
Afro-Canadian church music started in the 19th century. Where different
communities across Ontario, gathered together and
created their own church. And that is where they would sing, what we call, “spirituals.” So those spirituals were based
off of their slavery days. And their experiences, and
the skill to sing spirituals was so valued back then, that ministers would
travel all across Ontario, to sing to different congregations. The abolition of slavery
in Canada in 1833, reflect in the lyrics
of certain spirituals. Many of these slaves were taken out of the United
States, and they escaped. And you can see that through their lyrics. Slave masters did not have the rights, to teach those slaves
how to write, or to read. And that is why they had to
communicate through spirituals. And that is very much reflected, in early spirituals that we hear today. A very important figure
in Canadian history, is Portia May White. She was the first Afro-Canadian
singer to go international. Though she was not born, or she did not find fame
in the 19th century, she did in the 20th century. I think it’s still very important
for us to highlight her. Especially considering the fact, that she started in the church, as well. She began signing at the age of six, under her mothers direction. And then, through vocal training, and performance training,
she expanded her gift, and started teaching, and
also singing on the radio. Later on, she moved on to
expanding her platform, and signing internationally, in New York. She was the first Canadian to perform at the New York Town Hall, as well. I think it’s really important
for us to realize that an Afro-Canadian who went international, who was also black, made
their way in church, and also went international. And I think that, that
is why it’s important for us to recognize
Portia May White today. To learn more about Afro-Canadian
church music history, from the 19th century,
click on the link below. (upbeat hip hop)

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