As a Black Canadian, it was transformational to be immersed in my people and culture. Learning about and having the chance to photograph even a small part of the African and Black Canadian Diaspora was a gift that I’ll cherish for many moons. The different countries and cultures that make up our people was truly a beauty to behold.
Whether discussing Mathieu DaCosta translating Indigenous coastal languages for European traders in the 1600s or Lawrence Hill‘s vast collection of literary works that help shape the landscape for change and advancement that is much needed today, our people have impacted this nation on so many levels.
One of my absolute favorite parts of the Summit was the vibrant and electrifying fashion choices worn by the 1,200 delegates. With so many different and fresh looks and styles, the Summit could have been called Halifax Fashion Weekend!
One of the more special moments that stood out for me took place the last night of the Summit. I was outside the old World Trade and Convention Centre, now a multidisciplinary arts space called Light House Arts Centre, preparing to photograph an 11 year-old artist from Toronto. She and her 9 year-old sister were the youngest delegates, attending the conference with their motheran academic doing her PhD.
Before conducting their photoshoot, I noticed a cardinal-looking woman in a beautiful African-style dress with three people following and attending her. Despite not knowing who she was, her stature de ella and their presence de ella made it clear she was someone of significance.
Quickly and shyly, I asked if I could take her photo. “Of course,” she said, and without hesitation she struck a pose.
I pointed my camera and hastily clicked a few shots without really checking or adjusting my settings. Before I could look up from reviewing my images in the digital display, she had walked away.
I quickly called out, “May I ask where you’re from?”
Looking back with a small smile, she said, “New York, we move fast there.”
When I did get a chance to review the images, I was happy to see that her portrait turned out great. After reviewing the Summit program and doing a little Google search, I was super excited to discover that this stylish and speedy New Yorker was the United Nations delegate Dr. Natalia Kanem. She is the Executive Director of the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), a medical doctor and a graduate of several American universities, including Harvard.
It was an honor and an inspiration to have had the opportunity to take her photograph, and a blessing to have been in her presence during The National Black Canadian Summit.
More photos through Alvero Wiggins’ lens
Through My Lens is a community series that features the point-of-view stories behind photos from across the East Coast.
For more stories about the experiences of Black Canadians — from anti-Black racism to success stories within the Black community — check out Being Black in Canada, a CBC project Black Canadians can be proud of. You can read more stories here.