The South End Royals of Saint John, New Brunswick (courtesy Heritage Resources and New Brunswick Community College)
Image: Sports gave Black communities a sense of identity and accomplishment. Formed in 1919, the South End Royals of Saint John, New Brunswick were one of the few all Black teams in the province's sport history and one of the best ball teams in Saint John at that time (courtesy Heritage Resources, Saint John).

Because of the socio-cultural and historical development of people of African descent, it is a challenge to have an identity as a Black person. Enslaved people were forced to assimilate, that is, to take on a different culture, so that, over time, they knew more about the culture, religion, and language of the person who owned them than about their own African home. However, enslaved people resisted assimilation by maintaining or incorporating African forms in their foods, religion, music, and manner of speech.

While cultural groups generally have their language or religion to give them their identity, African-Canadians have their early history in Africa and their physical features, significantly their skin colour and their treatment because of their colour, to connect them. Except for recent arrivals from Africa, people of African origin rarely know which one of the 1000 or so language groups they come from. North Americans of African ancestry as a group, have a common heritage as hailing at some time from some part of Africa, having ancestors who were enslaved over a period of 400 years, as being identified as descendants of slaves, and now, as a group, being the most targeted or affected by racism.

How do you develop an identity as an African-Canadian when racism affects your life? How do you feel empowered as a Black person in a society that tends to privilege Whites? The answer is not just about Black people trying to be more like others, or "fitting in." When "Canadian" is viewed as a person of European origin, the skin colour of people of African descent marks them as different.

Rosemary Sadlier