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A Montrealer Gives Black History Tours Of The City Because You're Not Taught It In School

"People definitely want to bring a change, but they don't know where to begin."
A Montrealer Gives Black History Tours Of The City Because You're Not Taught It In School
Courtesy of Rito Joseph Courtesy of Rito Joseph

Montreal is a city that's rich in history and influences that make the city what it is today. But Rito Joseph's* Black history tours of the city ask: which history have we really been taught?

Joseph is a born-and-raised Montrealer and self-proclaimed "history-lover" who offers Black history tours of the city to fill in a gap that he thinks is missing from history class.

The tour, called "Tourist in My City" goes through Old Montreal, telling stories of people and events that show the influence of the Black community in Montreal and Quebec.

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The tours are part of an important conversation about how we learn about Black history

Joseph's been doing the tours for almost three years and with everything that's happened this year in regards to discussions about race and systemic injustice, he says the tours "definitely gained in popularity."

People from all walks of life take the tour and try to learn more: young, old, Black, White, Francophones, Anglophones, you name it. He says people even come in from out of town.

"People definitely want to bring a change, but they don't know where to begin," he said. 

But Joseph also wants people to know that these discoveries aren't new. Black history is no different than any other history, he underlined.

"Yes, it is Black history, but it's also just local history. It's people that live here, that share the space. We need to acknowledge that." 

The tour attempts to show people a bigger picture of Montreal's history

"I think people really just want to know more and understand why it is that they didn't know about it before."

He said that people who take his tours are often shocked by just how much Black history there is here in Montreal and how much of an impact it's had on the city.

"Some people have been living here for 20, 30, 40 years, going to school and have high-learning studies... they have yet to know how the Black presence has affected the history of the city and the province."

The tour aims to "deconstruct what hasn't been taught to us here in schools, trying to get a deeper, broader, wider understanding of what we're going through what we're going through today."

This is something that Joseph hopes is brought into the school curriculum.

"It's something I would want the schools to implement and start taking seriously."

The tour asks people to think about a "new Montreal"

[rebelmouse-image 26882523 photo_credit="Courtesy of Rito Joseph" expand=1 original_size="750x499"] Courtesy of Rito Joseph

For him, a new Montreal would mean "first of all, acknowledging the people that share the space or the territory."

We talked about "being in control of your narrative." Joseph says that regardless of your background, it's important for all of us to take control, to be knowledgeable and to understand not just our past, but how we can alter our future.

"I feel like that's something that we can all benefit from."

*This article has been updated.

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