Meet the Team
A Black People’s History of Canada Project is backed by a team of senior scholars and graduate students in the field of African Canadian history, led by principal investigator Dr. Afua Cooper, award-winning historian and author.
Dr. Afua Cooper
Dr. Afua Cooper is a multidisciplinary scholar, author, and artist. Her 13 books range across such genres as history, poetry, fiction, and children’s literature. Her indomitable research on slavery, and Black history has made her one of the leading figures in African Canadian studies, and the authority on Canadian slavery. Her book on Canadian slavery, The Hanging of Angelique: The Untold Story of Slavery in Canada and the Burning of Old Montreal broke new ground in the study of Canadian and Atlantic slavery.
Dr. Cooper led the “Universities Studying Slavery” initiative at Dalhousie University and was the lead author of the subsequent report Lord Dalhousie’s History on Slavery and Race. These initiatives revealed the connections between the Canadian academy and the Atlantic slaving systems. Furthermore, she has curated and co-curated nine exhibits on slavery, and Black history. In 2021, Prof. Cooper was appointed as the Canadian representative for UNESCO’s International Scientific Committee Slave Route Project, whose main objectives is to conduct research on the Transatlantic slavery system and its legacies. A celebrated poet, in 2020 Dr. Cooper was Awarded the Portia White Prize, Nova Scotia’s highest recognition for the arts. She is also the winner of the J.M. Abraham Atlantic Poetry Award for her poetry book Black Matters.
Afua Cooper currently teaches in the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences at Dalhousie University, where she holds a Killam Research Chair, and co-ordinates the Black Studies Minor.
As a result of her scholarship and praxis, Dr. Cooper was awarded a one-million-dollar grant from the Department of Canadian Heritage to direct the A Black People’s History of Canada project. From 2011 to 2017, Dr. Cooper was the James Robinson Johnston Chair in Black Canadian Studies at Dalhousie University, Halifax. Dr. Cooper is also the founder of the Black Canadian Studies Association, an organization that she chaired for ten years, and the Dalhousie Black Faculty and Staff Caucus.
Afua Cooper earned her Ph.D., in history from the University of Toronto. Her fields of study included African history, Islam in Africa, Caribbean history, Canadian and North American history, Slavery and Abolition, Black education, the Black Press, Women and Gender history, and the African Diaspora.
Adrienne Shadd is a consultant, curator, and author who has conducted research for plaques, films, and exhibits, including ‘I’ll Use My Freedom Well,’ an exhibit at Uncle Tom’s Cabin and Black Mecca: The Story of Chatham’s Black Community. Most recently she has collaborated on the Black heritage of ‘The Ward’ neighbourhood for installation at the new Ontario Courthouse just north of Osgoode Hall, Toronto. She is the author, co-author and editor of several books and articles, including The Journey from Tollgate to Parkway: African Canadians in Hamilton (2010), The Underground Railroad: Next Stop, Toronto! (2002, 2022) with Drs. Afua Cooper and Karolyn Smardz Frost; “We’re Rooted Here and They Can’t Pull Us Up”: Essays in African Canadian Women’s History (1994) and Talking About Identity: Encounters in Race, Ethnicity and Language (2001), with Dr. Carl James. She has also collaborated on the award-winning children’s publication, Freedom (2014), and Early Civilizations of Africa (2015), both part of the Sankofa Heritage Collection, with Rubicon Publishing. Adrienne has been recognized with the William P. Hubbard Award for Race Relations and the J.C. Holland Award for Arts Achievement for her research and writing. She is currently working on a book on Toronto settler and freedom seeker, Deborah Brown.
Natasha Henry is an award-winning author and an award-winning curriculum development consultant. A respected historian with both a B.Ed and M.Ed., she has been an educator for 22 years specializing in the development of learning materials that focus on the African Diasporic experience. Natasha was the 2017 recipient of the ETFO Curriculum Development Award. The current president of the Ontario Black History Society, she is is a PhD candidate in the Department of History at York University. The 2018 Vanier Scholar is researching the enslavement of African people in early Ontario. Her publications include Emancipation Day: Celebrating Freedom in Canada (June 2010), Talking about Freedom: Celebrating Freedom in Canada (2012), a number of youth-focused titles including The African Diaspora (2014) and African Canadian Firsts (2014) in the Sankofa Black Heritage Collection by Rubicon Publishing. Firsts received the 2014 Gold Medal Moonbeam Children’s Award for Multicultural Non-Fiction. She has also written several entries for the Canadian Encyclopedia on African Canadian history. Through her various professional, academic, and community roles, Natasha’s work is grounded in her commitment to research, collect, preserve, and disseminate the histories of Black Canadians.
Charisma Grace Walker
Project & Finance Manager
Charisma Grace Walker is well known for her leadership role as a consultant to many African Nova Scotian Communities, Black Students, and educational institutions in the province. With her initial educational and professional background in Science and Health Care (Bachelor of Science Degree in Nursing) from Jamaica, she has additionally worked hard to enhance the wellbeing of African Nova Scotians as a Health Coach at Diabetes Canada from 2017 to 2019. She holds combined honors in Social Anthropology and Psychology from Dalhousie University with a graduate degree in Education and Counselling from Acadia University.
Walker’s comprehensive support for the youth, African Nova Scotians and Black students was noticeable during her tenure as the first African Nova Scotian/ Black student & Community liaison at Saint Mary’s University from 2020 to 2021. She has been acquainted with students' needs and concerns while working to find successful outcomes. With her training and experience also in Equity and Diversity, Charisma has worked as the Director, Opportunity and Belonging at NSCAD University from 2021 to 2022; where she was dedicated to creating a culture that is equitable, diverse, and inclusive across campuses and for international students.
Her enthusiasm in Black History and cultural experience has been consistent since the 2018 Pan-African Youth Conference in Ghana, which became her foundation and honors thesis which also explored the disconnection between identity and nationality of displaced African people.
She got her start into project management through a nonprofit organization, Alzheimer Society of Nova Scotia as a Project Coordinator where she also pioneered work in the Black community, and soon found her knack for setting deadlines and objectives to attain a larger goal.
Over the years, the versatile Charisma Grace Walker’s passion for education in Black History and African descents in the diaspora who want more knowledge about their roots, has grown profoundly and she now delivers unmatched value, and abilities in coordinating internal and external resources to achieve the objectives of the BPHC Project. Along with being the Project and Finance Manager, Charisma is a registered therapist, and currently pursuing a PhD degree in Clinical Sexology with the International Institute of Clinical Sexology (IICS).
Soliel’s professional journey begun in the medical industry as a Physiologist with specialization in exercise and rehabilitation in the Bahamas, after her studies at Oakwood University (a Historical Black College & University) in the USA. After her bachelor's degree in 2014, Soliel Gibson acquired a master's degree in Kinesiology and Exercise Science from Life University, after which she worked closely with the YMCA of Metro Atlanta as a Wellness Coach for over a year.
Her fervor for knowledge and exploring different career paths brought her to Nova Scotia where her administrative training and experience developed. Although S. Gibson experience has been in diverse fields, her focus and interest in Black, African, and Caribbean history, in all aspect of culture, migration and human rights has gradually increased over time.
Valued for her multitasking, analytical abilities and attention to details and deadlines, Soliel is also skilled at handling payroll tasks, data processing, record keeping, scheduling, and organizing operations that supports the BPHC team. She is devoted to community service and has been a member of numerous social groups and focused clubs/organizations including Rotary International and Soul’s Harbor Rescue mission in Halifax. Outside of her professional duties, Soliel loves to spend her free time volunteering and listening to news from around the world to stay updated and enjoy traveling to see historical places across the globe.
Web Content & Communication Specialist
Benedicta Appiah is a Public Relations practitioner whose experience focused on client relations and satisfaction and organization’s communication with the public. Her experience and training over the years includes facilitating clients' enquiries, producing and managing organization's social media pages as well as press and media relations and negotiating the best prices in advertising. Benedicta has driven impressive results in terms of successful advertising campaigns in both profit and nonprofit organizations. Having her bachelor's degree in communication studies from Ghana, Benedicta has also worked in the educational institution and nonprofit organization as an Assistant Programs & Communications Coordinator for about more than 2 years.
Appiah recently acquired her master's in public relations in Canada from the Mount Saint Vincent University and a professional training in Customer Service. Benedicta’s skills are also presented in reaching target audiences and promoting products or campaigns that are key to driving public attention.
Aside from her training in Public Relations, Benedicta has a passion for fashion, which motivated her contemporary exploration into the History of Black fashion, the story of African fabrics and its contribution to the global economy during her graduate studies. She prefers to spend her free time creating fashionable pieces and learning new techniques.
As the Web Content & Communications Specialist, Benedicta brings to the BPHC project a great level of dedication, creativity, and customized service for success.
Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.
We must open the doors and we must see to it they remain open, so that others can pass through.
Black history is not just for black people. Black history is Canadian history.