Inspired by the Black Lives Matter movement after a discouraging experience with a Canadian publisher, Toronto writer Tiyahna Ridley-Padmore has launched a Kickstarter campaign to raise money to self-publish a new children’s book about Black history in Canada.
Ridley-Padmore spent the last three years researching and writing Trailblazers: The Black Pioneers Who Have Shaped Canada, a collection of stories, written in rhyme, about influential Black Canadians, with illustrations by Ottawa artist Merryl-Royce Ndema-Moussa.
The book highlights more than 40 trailblazers, ranging from historical figures such as 17th-century explorer Mathieu da Costa, the first documented free Black person to arrive in Canada, to contemporary ones such as Michaëlle Jean, the first Black Governor General of Canada.
The idea began to germinate when Ridley-Padmore, a University of Ottawa grad and lifelong bookworm, found out about da Costa, who came to Canada as a member of Samuel de Champlain’s exploring party. He spoke several languages and is believed to have been instrumental in cultivating peaceful relationships with Indigenous Peoples.