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"We Are Historians" - A groundbreaking Initiative for Black History Month

With Sheridan College's students immersed in its creative direction
Historians | Sheridan College
Historians | Sheridan College

"Do you know a Black man without a job? I don't."

These are the words shared by Akil Mckenzie, as he stares into the camera. His face betrays no emotion, except a look of challenge, defiance, and deep-rooted pain felt by the pangs of an entire community.

Fabio Hernan Buritica
Fabio Hernan Buritica

"From the moment we are born, we are given the part-time job as a Warrior," says Akil, calling out the vast accolades of marginalization felt amongst the Black Community. Notable call outs of tragedy include:

"We are Historians."

What's Happening?

After the racial devastations, continued brutality, inequality, and suppression that have finally been brought to light in 2020 (even though it has been going on for long before). Akil Mckenzie - Sheridan College alumni and spoken word poet (As featured in our story about Oakville's Underground Rap Scene) has banded together with a group of dynamic artists, influencers and organizations in the creative anecdotal space to produce 'Historians' -  A Spoken Word Visual Narrative serving as a campaign of encouragement, hope, and inspiration to the black community.

Fabio Hernan Buritica
Fabio Hernan Buritica

"We need to make sure we are doing our due diligence to solidify the change that we've been aiming for in 2021," explains Akil, illustrating the rhetoric with which his partners and the moving pieces behind the project have come together. 

Fabio Hernan Buritica
Fabio Hernan Buritica

'Historians' serves as an encouraging black empowerment video for Black History Month. "After continuous fighting and so much loss, we would like to push this piece as an encouraging campaign to keep striving as we already have. Not only is black beautiful, but black is powerful. Black is resilient. And Black Lives Matter," says Akil. "We are looking for as many people and organizations as we can to help rejuvenate and push this movement to make sure that 2021 is our biggest step to racial equality thus far. Whether this video is downloaded and reposted... or even if it's just shared... there are brothers and sisters who need this upliftment right now to keep having the courage to push forward through this new year and they're the ones we want to share this video with the most."

Who's Involved?

The production is a community endeavour with more than one single party bringing the message together. Akiil has partnered up with Fabio Burtica - Executive Producer of Hallowed Grounds Creative House and Production Company.

The official crew mentions are:

  • Joint production between Akil's production company (Falling Motion Productions) and Fabio's (Hallowed Grounds)
  • Director/Writer/Performer of Historians - Akil McKenzie
  • Executive Producer of Historians - Fabio Buritica
  • Cinematographers - Cam Roden & James Arthurs
  • Several Talent including Oman Akot - Previous Visual Creative Arts Student at Sheridan College.

In addition to this powerhouse of innovators, many well established influencers are geared to support and spread awareness for this initiative including:

Tyrone Rex Edwards (T. Rex) - @mr1loveto   

Fabio Hernan Buritica
Fabio Hernan Buritica

Kardinal Offishal - @kardinalo

Mark Strong - @strizzzyeverywhere

"As artists we carry a gift and a duty. Our gift is to be able to create and talk about things in unique ways," says Fabio Buritica - Executive Producer on 'Historians.' Our duty is that we need to use what we do to make change, we can't stand idly by. Akil took the charge and created this poem, using his gifts, to bring light to so many issues that people of colour face, with a goal of giving hope and making change. Being able to rally many artists from many formats I believe helped lighten the load. I believe that together we helped amplify this message of hope and change for those that need to see it or hear it."

Involved academic bodies apart from Sheridan College include University of Alberta, University of Victoria and Lincoln University.

On a professional front, the entire production crew has a particular fondness for using RED equipment during their shoots (with Akil and Fabio both nursing an affinity towards the camera brand). In an instrumental plan of outreach, the production team reached out to RED Digital Cinema to promote this message, who have also agreed to promote 'Historians; on their own channels and brand storytelling artifacts. Others helping promote the message include black-owned businesses and popular social media pages.

Fabio Hernan Buritica
Fabio Hernan Buritica

Taylor King, talent and photography artist on Historians weighed in on the art direction of this ambitious project. "Too often do we see one colour representation of black. On Historians, there are multiple skin tones because at the end of the day... We are all black. What's happening in the world affects everyone in that video...from light to dark."

The project is not intended to be a one-off narrative that seeks to fuel the community with motivation in a short-lived albeit impactful capacity. It is intended to inspire community spirit in the face of some of the most tumultuous hardships the world has faced. According to an article published by CTV,  black people, in particular, are twice as likely to develop a case of the virus as compared to white people (attributed to several socio-economic factors).

A Brighter "What's Next?"

'Historians' is a visual narrative to inspire us to move forward in a more enlightened manner, staying informed of the travesties of justice, helping stay resilient in some of the disparities in aggrandized racial discrimination. Yet what 'Historians' seeks to do most isn't to merely call out acts of racial injustice, reminding everyone of the fallen victims of brutality.

It is instead a signal of hope and intended to inspire the community to keep their chin up, move forward towards a brighter day. As Black History Month rolls in. it's important that we all take stock of what's happening to people of colour, friends in our communities, and of course seek to educate ourselves on how to provide ally-ship in the black community.

Fabio Hernan Buritica
Fabio Hernan Buritica

"It's nice to have close friends and loved ones around us share this piece, but, this message is intended to reach the larger community of people who are on the receiving end of racial stigma and brutality," explains Akil. Thus we created the entire piece, with a full production crew, with many moving pieces coming together. We have received incredible support including some bold brands and local celebrities. We want to take the message to the people who need to see it most."

Akil's words remind us that above all. we must stay hopeful in the face of a new day, ever-growing and ever steadfast on the mission to embrace each other. At the end of the day, despite the tragedies of the past, it is pivotal that we learning from it, so that we may tackle the future together.

In the words of Akil Mckenzie "We are Historians. And the job descriptions Black." To watch the full videos, click here or check out several of the mentioned promotional partners who are helping spread the message. The official launch date for 'Historians' is this day, February 1st.

A Special Shout Out goes to the following Oakville Community Members who came together for the project:

Sheridan Alumni: Rhea Miller (Makeup Artist), Daniela Pinto (Re-recording Mixer), John Gatzole (Talent).

Sheridan Students: Alex Chung (1st AC/Music Supervisor), Jessie Thompson (Production Assistant,)  Tantoluwa Tejumola (Artist), Taylor King (Art Photographer and Talent), Nenyi Keborku, Baruch Frimpong, Stevie Ray Hunter, Ayo Adeojo, Oman Okrant (Talent).

Donated Easels to the production, courtesy of the Canadian Caribbean Association of Halton and Oakville Museum.