Ketcia Peters

A Decade: Black Ottawa Scene 10th anniversary

by Ketcia Peters

When we consider the grand scope of time, a decade is merely a fleeting moment. However, if you think about it, if you start reflecting on the past ten years, it’s clear that significant changes and advancements have taken place.

For Black communities in Canada, these changes have brought both victories and challenges, showcasing their strength and determination in the pursuit of justice.

As I ponder the question, “Are we Black people of Canada better off today than ten years ago when we launched Black Ottawa Scene?” I’m reminded of the words of Maya Angelou, who once said, “We all should know that diversity makes for a rich tapestry, and we must understand that all the threads of the tapestry are equal in value no matter their colour.”.

In the last decade, those threads of the Black Canadian tapestry have shimmered with achievements and moments of profound change.

It’s been a period marked by increased media exposure, heightened awareness of racial issues, and a collective awakening to the importance of respecting and embracing diversity.

I couldn’t help but recall the profound changes and challenges that have marked this transformative journey. We’ve seen groundbreaking events unfold globally, resonating deeply within Canada’s Black communities.

A decade ago, as Black Ottawa Scene made its debut, our communities embarked on a mission to amplify Black voices. We shed light on critical issues, we fought for things to change, we protested, we took to the road, we achieved great things, we lost much…

We couldn’t even fathom, a decade ago, how much our initial journey or sharing awareness and talking about black issues would intertwine with significant events, not only in Canada but across the globe, each leaving an indelible mark on the canvas of our collective history.

During these years, Black communities in Canada have witnessed the world evolve. While I won’t delve into specific dates and descriptions, it’s undeniable that several critical moments have shaped the narrative of Black Canadians. These moments encompass struggles and triumphs, challenges and celebrations, all woven into a tapestry of progress.

We’ve faced adversity with unwavering strength, challenged systemic inequalities, and made our voices heard.

The rise of the #BlackLivesMatter movement, ignited by the tragic deaths of Trayvon Martin and Michael Brown, transcended borders, rallying people worldwide against systemic racism and police brutality. While these events originated beyond our borders, their reverberations were felt here in Canada, igniting passionate conversations about racial injustice and inequality.

Protests and events during Canada’s 150th anniversary challenged the celebration itself, demanding recognition of Indigenous and Black perspectives on colonization, slavery, and ongoing racial injustices.

The recognition of influential Black figures in Canada also marked a significant shift.

Viola Desmond appeared in the Canadian $10 bill, becoming the first Black Canadian woman to be featured on Canadian currency. That was a tangible symbol of recognition for her fight against racial segregation in the 40s.

A decade ago, such an acknowledgement might have seemed like an unattainable dream.

We celebrated historic elections, with Rawlson O’Neil King elected as Ottawa City Council’s first Black Canadian city councillor, we celebrated the appointment of Peter Sloly as Ottawa’s first Black police chief as a historic moment, symbolizing progress in our institutions.

And Sloly became a symbol of setbacks for our communities, as well, when forced out of office.

The killing of George Floyd ignited protests around the world, and with it came a seismic shift in global consciousness.

And closer to home, the Nova Scotia Lobster Fishery Dispute highlighted the longstanding struggles of Indigenous communities and their right to a right and just livelihood.

Then the COVID-19 pandemic exposed the stark disparities that Black communities face, from health outcomes to economic hardships. It underscored the urgent need for healthcare and socioeconomic reform to address these inequalities.

And whilst a piece of Black history was made when Kamala Harris became the first female, first Black, and first South Asian to be elected as Vice President of the United States, Canada discovered the existence of unmarked graves at former residential school sites. Making another piece of Black history. A tragic one.

This shattered the nation’s conscience, emphasising the tragic legacy of the residential school system for Indigenous and Black communities.

As we reflect on this transformative decade, it’s essential to acknowledge the challenges that persist. The shadow of a system rigged against Black people still lingers. The effects and trauma of centuries of oppression continue to affect lives, making everyday existence more challenging than it should be.

Although, our journey is not one of despair. It is one of hope and resilience.

It’s about building bridges, fostering understanding, and challenging the current status quo, to foster a better future.

As I sit here writing, reflecting on our past, I think of the power of unity and collective action we’ve shown over the years. In the decade since Black Ottawa Scene first emerged, we’ve seen the power of community-driven change, the resilience of Black voices, and the strength of allyship.

While the road ahead may be long, our journey is marked by determination, unity, and a collective call for justice.

We have come a long way, and yet there is still so much work to be done.

In the coming years, more challenges and more opportunities to drive positive change will arise.

We will confront them and reach for them.

Our fight towards true equality and justice continues now more than ever.

As we navigate the path ahead of us, let’s remember the importance that unity, community, and advocacy had in these years.

As we move forward, let’s remember that raising our voices gave us the power to act, and action gave us the path to change something.

As we go forward in our fight for a better future for all, let us remain committed to the cause of social and racial justice, for in our unity lies the promise of a brighter future for Black communities across Canada.

Let this reflection serve as a reminder of our journey, a call to meaningful action, and a testament to the power of our unity and our perseverance.

Ketcia Peters is an entrepreneur and community advocate for economic inclusion and development for Black Canadians and the social justice sector. Her firm, Ketcia Peters Group Inc. (KPG) provides bilingual organizational and human development services to the public and private sector.  This includes analysis and coaching of HR practices, strategic planning, organizational change, equity and inclusivity, and anti-racism. KPG also provides individual and group coaching.  In recent years, KP Group Inc. has shifted to greatly expand its equity, diversity and inclusivity work at the municipal and community level, with a focus on anti-racism and anti-oppression.  This work centers on a trauma-informed approach in order to ensure we do not cause further harm to those most marginalized in our communities. Visit her website at: