Black Women Who Dared
Black Women Who Dared
Sherona Hall was born in Kingston, Jamaica in 1948 and became dedicated to justice and equality at a young age. She campaigned for a local political party and was a founding member of its youth organization before she was old enough to vote. When Sherona’s family moved to Canada, she hit the ground running as an activist. One of the first issues she tackled from her home base in Toronto was unfit working conditions for newcomers from the Caribbean. Later, she would found the Committee Against the Deportation of Immigrant Women to help those who were facing unfair deportations.
For forty years, Sherona worked tirelessly to help her community. Whatever problems Black people faced, Sherona was ready to listen, organize, and advocate. She addressed issues of labor, gender, youth, health, education, housing, police violence, and immigration. Sherona understood that all injustices need to be challenged because they were all connected to uplifting Black people.
Ten fascinating biographies of influential Black women and Black female-run organizations in Canadian history are showcased in this exceptional nonfiction picture book. Important historical figures are profiled, including Chloe Cooley, an enslaved woman in Upper Canada whose courageous stand against her violent owner precipitated the 1793 Act to Limit Slavery, the first legislation in the British Colonies to restrict the slave trade. Mary Miles Bibb was not only one of the first Black female teachers in the 1850s, but she was also a journalist and published Voice of the Fugitive, the inaugural Black-owned newspaper in Canada. Rosa Pryer was Vancouver’s first Black female business owner. In 1919, Pryor opened up her restaurant, “Chicken Inn”, operating it out of her small living room. The restaurant fed the body as well as the soul of the community.
Contemporary leaders, such as Jackie Shane, the 1960’s trailblazing, transgender soul singer; Sherona Hall, a Toronto community activist who founded the Committee Against the Deportation of Immigrant Women; and Jamea Zuberi, a feminist, educator and organizer of the Blockorama celebration, which started in 1998 during Toronto’s Pride festivities, are also featured.
Information is provided about instrumental women’s collectives, including The Black Cross Nurses, an international organization created in 1920 that provided needed healthcare in communities and training opportunities for Black women. The Hour-a-Day Study Club, a Windsor, ON, group founded in 1934, advocates for child literacy and works to combat racism and sexism, and is still active today.
Toronto artist and writer Naomi M. Moyer shines a brilliant spotlight on these woefully under-acknowledged women and their accomplishments. Moyer’s spectacular acrylic, stencil, ink and pencil illustrations accompany the well-written, engaging biographical summaries. Each portrait is strong and beautiful. Mary Miles Bibb is portrayed seated at her desk, writing by candlelight, with intricate line patterns covering her face and dress. In the background, a purple silhouette shows the long line of people making their way to the Bibb’s safe house, with a glowing orange sun illuminating the scene. Every portrait is celebratory and dynamic.
Despite incredible and revolutionary achievements, the Canadians featured in Black Women Who Dared are rarely recognized in history books. It is important for Canadians to learn their names and share their stories. A must-have addition to all school and public libraries.
Linda Ludke is a librarian in London, Ontario.