Headline News By Christine Maki 174 Views

New photo blog captures diversity of Ottawa's Black community

A fitness instructor and mom. A martial artist and musician. A youth worker. An African dancer and designer.   

Kafia Barkat and Vanessa Dorimain say they weren't seeing a wide range of Ottawa's Black community portrayed in the public realm, so the pair teamed up to create a new photo blog called The Melanin Project to spotlight the diversity of Black people who live here.

"You know, the narrative is always around Black scholars. We hear about Black lawyers, we hear about Black doctors. There's also normal Black people, you know?" said Barkat, who works at the University of Ottawa and moonlights as photographer using the name Kafia Someday.

"There's a lot of us here and we're very involved and doing so many different great things. But we just don't know about each other," added Dorimain, who writes the stories for the site.

"It's important to showcase how we're so different … but we are still so beautiful in all of the things that we do."

Spotlight on the positive

The site was launched at the end of September, and profiles a different member of Ottawa's Black community each week.

For Dorimain, who works at an international non-profit involved in women's employment issues and also co-chairs the Ottawa Black Diaspora Coalition, it was especially important to focus on the bright spots.

"I think that in this city specifically, Black people mainly come together when there's a tragedy … to organize … to grieve, but we don't really come together to celebrate one another or share our accomplishments.

"We wanted to create something where you could hear about someone else, read their story and … be connected," said Dorimain, who was recently arrested at an Indigenous and Black Lives Matter protest.

"We wanted to be able to bring our community together without pain."