With a passion for storytelling and a relentless devotion to showcasing the untold stories of Black Canadians, KhaRå Martin stands as a shining light in the journey to recognize, amplify and celebrate these voices. Produced by OYA Media Group, Black Community Mixtapes is a five-part docu-series streaming on Citytv Toronto which examines the invaluable contributions of these unsung icons while highlighting history that is integral to our nation’s identity.
“History is polyvocal,” KhaRå tells me. “Most times we look at history through the same lens of the same people. This show is about covering the stories that we know and love through a different perspective. We go back to the communities and let the people who were there from the start tell history from that perspective.”
Created, produced and directed by Alison Duke and Ngardy Conteh George, the show follows KhaRå on her quest to rediscover Canada’s Black history and unveils personal archives which have shaped the Canadian Black culture into what it is today. “Starting off, my idea was to travel across Canada to explore history,” she reveals. “However, we decided to start right here, from our backyards to basements and even garages. It was amazing to discover how much personal archives we have here.” Although this fifty- year-long remix of Canadian history specifically focuses on Toronto, KhaRå tells me she still plans on travelling all over Canada to uncover the countless untold stories of Black history.
Driven by the relentless mission of elevating underrepresented and overlooked voices, this series transcends the pages of repeated history and enters the world of lived experiences, hardships and insightful conversations. KhaRå explores these voices in one of her episodes focusing on Caribana. “We had people who were actively involved in the development of Caribana. It was interesting to look at history in that way from the mass camps to the Canadian queen show and even all the people on the ground who made it a reality,” she says.
“All our guests were specifically curated for a reason as we looked at history through a marginalized lens by inviting people who do not get many opportunities to tell their own story,” she says. “When we look at Hip Hop, we think of the artists rather than the radio DJs who were interacting with them. This could also be said for activism as this applies to the protesters, but what about the photographers or videographers who capture them? Without them, we won’t know anything during that time. It is important we tell history from that perspective.”
KhaRå also has a personal connection with Black Community Mixtapes, and used some of her own family’s old footage in the series.
“I am Caribbean, half Jamaican and half Trinidadian,” she says. “I had to go into my grandfather’s house to get those tapes which were more than 100 VHS. We were able to digitize history which we have never seen before.”
For KhaRå, the series was an opportunity to encourage future generations and the government to archive history. In her own words, “ It is up to us as the future generation to digitize and store this. It does not just stop here but I think it is time for the government to create a Black museum where we can archive our history and give it a proper resting place.”
It’s safe to say that KhaRå Martin is not stopping anytime soon. Reflecting on the memorable moments of filming the Black Community Mixtapes, KhaRå shares with me the joy of working in a Black-led production company with many women of colour. “It was nice to work in that environment where we are telling stories by us.”
She’s continuing to tell these stories in her latest project called Scarborough Love, loosely based on her parent’s love story, as well as Durham to the People, which looks at the sustainability of the housing markets through the Black lens. “These are stories which reflect my upbringing and as a form of representation for marginalized voices”.