Community Learning Circles - Shiloh Baptist Church
Hearing from Shiloh Centre for Multicultural Roots about the history of black settlement and migration in the Prairies.
The early black settlers of Alberta were descended from African American slaves. Like many early settlers, they formed block settlements that allowed them to find belonging, safety and common ground within their community. However, their descendents feel they are lumped in with other black communities that don’t represent their experience and their distinct identity.
The church and christian faith are important identifiers for this community. Music (gospel, motown and jazz) and sports (baseball) were important community activities, especially in the early days.
The Railway was a source of good paying jobs for many men black settlers, while the jobs for women were as maids; except Hatties Chicken Shack, which provided work for some women as waitresses.
Overall, the community members present wanted us to get a sense of the peaceful spirit of the early black settlers who saw themselves as new Canadians, wanting to live quietly alongside their neighbours across the Prairies. They suggested a depiction loosely based on ‘Soul Train’ that shows the evolution of the community from then to now; how can we depict the current day Black diaspora in all its diversity? “We are the Roots” is a local documentary detailing the history of Amber Valley and other settlements and highlighting contributions from the community.