Robert Small
Robert Small

Artists recognized on Black History Month poster

By Admin Wednesday February 24 2016 in News
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A multidisciplinary artist and performer is among four talented Canadians featured on this year’s Black History Month Legacy poster.

A gifted student who aspired to be a lawyer, David Woods changed his career course after working with Black youths in Preston, Nova Scotia’s largest Black community. In 1983, he launched the Cultural Awareness Youth Group of Nova Scotia, an agency that utilized cultural approaches to develop leadership among Black youths in the eastern maritime province.

A year later, Woods organized the first Black History Month program in Nova Scotia for the Halifax City Library that evolved into a larger celebration across the province.

One of the earliest spoken word performers in Nova Scotia and the producer of contemporary plays exploring the African-Nova Scotia experience, Woods is the older brother of multi-talented artist Ann-Marie Woods who, in 2013, was recognized for her artistic accomplishments with a Harry Jerome Award.

Also on the poster are 2010 Harry Jerome Award winner and photographic artist Michael Chambers, whose work has been published and exhibited in North America, Europe, the Caribbean, Africa and Tokyo; storyteller and Project for the Advancement of Childhood Education (PACE) Canada president Sandra Whiting and singer/songwriter Liberty Silver, who co-wrote the themes for the 1996 and 2000 Olympics in Atlanta and Athens respectively, opened for several top artists and groups including The Temptations, B.B. King and Harry Belafonte and was the first Black woman to win a Juno Award.

Two decades ago, Robert Small launched posters showcasing African-Canadians who have achieved excellence.

“The focus this year is on the arts and those selected have dedicated decades to the perfection of their craft and excelled while doing so,” he said. “They have also used their talents to tell the stories of people of African descent in powerful ways that have reached an international audience.”

Small graduated from the University of Windsor with a sociology degree and criminology certificate and was in his second year pursuing law studies when he suffered serious injuries in an accident while walking on a downtown Toronto street.

Unable to complete his studies, Small used the inspiration he received from watching Rev. Jesse Jackson address the National Democratic convention in Atlanta in 1988 to create posters featuring Black role models.

Faced with repaying his parents the money they loaned him to create some black and white prints, he used his creativity to produce his first Black History Month poster.

The annual posters feature Black pioneers and trailblazers and other major contributors who are making a resounding impact in myriad fields on Canada’s landscape. School boards and community organizations purchase the historical tools to share the achievements with their students and young people.

The posters, which cost $15, are sold at community bookstores, community agencies, including Tropicana Community Services in Scarborough and the United Achievers Club of Brampton and online at

Small has also produced a 16-page booklet that encourages Black youths to pursue an interest in science, technology, education, the arts and math.

“Through traditional activities like crossword puzzles, word searches and math questions, young people and adults can learn about these disciplines, individuals and historical events,” said Small. “The aim is to create engaging and creative activities that encourage the use of technology, increase dialogue between youths and their parents/teachers and help to prepare young people for the 21st century. It’s definitely an approach to educating the public about Black history that is in sync with this age of technology and the challenges that await them.”

The cost of the booklet is $1.99.

Small is a graduate of the Urban Diversity Initiative at York University for teacher candidates learning how to look at education differently from the point of view of students who feel marginalized in school.

“I went back to university to challenge myself, help push Afrocentric education independently and enhance my ability to support the efforts of Toronto’s and other district school boards to elevate the educational success of Black students,” he said.


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