Remixed media presentation tracks the black history of Montreal and Canada - Montreal Gazette - Canada News Media
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Remixed media presentation tracks the black history of Montreal and Canada – Montreal Gazette



Hip-hop, slam poetry, PowerPoint and student participation tell the almost-forgotten stories of Canada’s black communities.

Little Burgundy in Montreal was once called the Harlem of the North. Its wildly successful jazz club Rockhead’s Paradise would bring in acts like Ella Fitzgerald and Billy Holiday to town.

Hogan’s Alley in Vancouver was once a vibrant neighbourhood with a largely black population. Jimi Hendrix’s grandmother lived in Hogan’s Alley and he visited her on a number of occasions. Africville was a thriving black community in Halifax for close to 160 years.

Stories about these and other black communities from across Canada form the backbone of Tracking Black Canada, the latest Overture with the Arts production. The show tours Quebec, Ontario, Alberta and British Columbia over the course of Black History Month, kicking off at Champlain College in St-Lambert, Jan 29.

Overture with the Arts was established by Kirkland resident Akilah Newton 10 years ago. Her twin brother Omari, an actor, slam poet, playwright and stand-up comedian, is the performer in the productions the two created to fill what they saw as a void in the black history experience. The show combines PowerPoint, hip-hop, slam poetry and a measure of student participation.

“Omari and I grew up in a home surrounded by black history,” Newton said. “But at school our background and contributions were strangely absent. When Black History Month started to gain momentum in schools, it consisted of stories about Martin Luther King Jr., Harriet Tubman, etc., but with very little, or nothing, about our rich heritage right here in Canada.”

Tracking Black Canada not only underlines the contribution of these black communities from across the country, it details their demise, brought on by “urban renewal” projects spearheaded by city administrations. Africville was bulldozed between 1965 and 1969. Half of Hogan’s Alley was levelled to build a freeway.

Little Burgundy is where jazz greats Oscar Peterson and Oliver Jones grew up. It’s home to Union United Church, the oldest black congregation in Canada.

“Because it was located close to the train station, porters and their wives came to Union United to worship,” Newton said. “Club owner Rufus Rockhead ran Rockhead’s Paradise in a time when it was unheard of for a black man to own a business and have a liquor licence.”

Rockhead’s Paradise closed in 1980. The closure was followed by the construction of the Ville-Marie Expressway. The neighbourhoods’s demographic has shifted ever since.

“This year we are doing 55 presentations,” Newton said. “Every year, the tour grows. There is a craving for this type of material.”

Two Overture with the Arts events are open to the public. The annual Caribbean Luncheon is at the Centre Communautaire Gerry-Robertson, 9665 Gouin Blvd. in Pierrefonds, Feb. 8 from 1 p.m. to 3:30 p.m. Hosted by media personality Catherine Verdon-Diamond, the luncheon’s special guest is Zanana Akande, the first black woman to be elected to the Ontario legislature and serve as a cabinet minister. Omari Newton will perform excerpts from the show.

And Tracking Black Canada will be performed, in its entirety, at the Pierrefonds Public Library, 13555 Pierrefonds Blvd., Feb. 17 at 2 p.m.

In 2018, Newton and co-author Tami Gabay self-published Big Dreamers: The Canadian Black History Activity Book for Kids Volume 1 (Bright Confetti Media Inc.). The focus was on high-achieving Canadian black men and women. Volume 2 will be ready by early June. It will focus black communities in Canada.


For more information about Overture with the Arts, visit

Tickets for the Caribbean Luncheon cost $20. To reserve, email


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'Viva La VPN': Kashmiris use VPN apps to skirt social media ban – Al Jazeera English



Last week, India restored limited internet access in Kashmir after close to six months – the longest in a democracy – but major social media sites remain blocked for seven million residents of the Muslim-majority region.

People have resorted to virtual private network (VPN) apps in a bid to bypass the firewall to access social media websites. VPNs use proxy servers that allow users to change their location to circumvent regional internet blockades.


Widely popular social media sites like Facebook, WhatsApp and Instagram continue to be blocked.

Authorities in India-administered Kashmir resumed slow-speed 2G services on Friday but granted access to only 300 odd “whitelisted” websites, which include tax collection, education, banking and government department websites.

Inside Kashmir’s media facility amid blackout

Sheikh Adnan, a film studies scholar based in the Indian capital New Delhi, could video call his parents back home in Kashmir for the first time in almost six months, thanks to VPN.

“It was very overwhelming. I hadn’t seen my parents all these months. When I learned about this VPN thing, I asked my friend to rush to my home and fix VPN for my parents. They downloaded half a dozen VPN applications before one eventually helped in connecting a video call through WhatsApp,” Adnan told Al Jazeera.

“I couldn’t hold my tears nor could I look into her eyes. The call was very brief owing to poor connectivity issues,” he said.

Fearing widespread protests, internet services had been suspended in the conflict-wracked region since August 5, when India revoked the region’s partial autonomy and statehood.

On Monday, many of the Kashmiris could be seen announcing their arrival on social media portals like Facebook and Instagram with messages like “Viva La VPN”.

“If you see this post, please rate VPN’s with 5 stars,” wrote Aaqib Junaid on his Facebook page.

“‘Which VPN you are using’ has replaced ‘Salam Alaykum’ [Muslim greetings] in Kashmir,” wrote another user, Irfan Mehraj, referring to the most asked questions on social media.

‘Audiovisual content’

Since authorities keep on blocking VPNs as well, many Kashmiris are downloading dozens of VPN apps on their gadgets in a bid to enhance and prolong their chance of using social media platforms like Facebook and Instagram.

Tafheem Qadri, an engineering student, says VPN has become necessary to access websites, most of which remain blocked [Courtesy of Tafheem Qadri]

“I downloaded many VPNs, and when one is blocked I will simply switch to the next one,” says Tafheem Qadri, a materials engineer from Srinagar who is travelling back to the Himalayan region from New Delhi.

Qadri has downloaded 14 VPN apps on his mobile to access the internet. “It is not only about social media. I am a student and need access to internet. What they [government] have done is that they have given us access to websites like Gmail.

“I have been looking at universities in order to apply for my master’s degree. Now, for instance, if I apply and I get an offer letter, I will have to go to the website of the university. What if that university has not been put in the whitelisted list? This is where VPN becomes absolutely necessary,” Qadri told Al Jazeera.

Gowhar Farooq Bhat, from AJK Mass Communication Research Centre in New Delhi, told Al Jazeera that the ban on social media is primarily aimed at stopping the audiovisual content from the conflict zone to come out.

“People must have shot videos and audios on their mobile gadgets about what has happened in the region in last six months. Such content is powerful and often leads to mobilisation and social media helps in easy dissemination, so obviously government wouldn’t want it to go viral,” he said.

Despite the increasing use of VPN, many people from the region complain that owing to poor speed of internet they can hardly access it, leave alone social media.

“The speed is so slow, it takes a few minutes for a picture to appear on screen. A simple 10MB file would take you an entire night to download,” said Oman Ahmed, a resident of Srinagar.

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Coronavirus hoaxes circulating on Saskatoon social media channels – Saskatoon StarPhoenix



Fears about a novel coronavirus originating from China have fuelled a tsunami of false reports and speculation about the pathogen’s whereabouts and effects, including here in Saskatoon. 

Travellers wear masks at Pearson airport arrivals, shortly after Toronto Public Health received notification of Canada’s first presumptive confirmed case of coronavirus, in Toronto, Ontario, Canada January 25, 2020. (Carlos Osorio/Reuters)


Fears about a novel coronavirus originating from China have fuelled a tsunami of false reports and speculation about the pathogen’s whereabouts and effects, including in Saskatoon.

On Tuesday, The StarPhoenix traced false reports of coronavirus circulating on social media and found the misinformation apparently stemmed from a Snapchat account in the Philippines.

A Snapchat post appeared to show a woman dressed as a nurse warning about coronavirus at St. Paul’s Hospital. It was shared by several Saskatoon-area Facebook accounts by people who interpreted it to mean the sickness had appeared in the province.

But the image wasn’t from St. Paul’s Hospital in Saskatoon or even St. Paul’s Hospital in Vancouver — it’s from the Philippines, whose capital, Manila, has its own hospital of the same name.

Associated accounts did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

A representative from Providence Health Care, which operates St. Paul’s in Vancouver, said the B.C. hospital was aware of the post but did not believe it would spread significantly.

In Saskatoon social media circles, it spread quickly and amassed more than 1,000 impressions in less than an hour, according to the social media tracking application Crowdtangle. Some of the posts were deleted shortly after. 

Some copies of the image identified by The StarPhoenix appear to have been further manipulated, suggesting the original screenshot was being further spread through Snapchat or a similar platform.

Three coronavirus cases had appeared in Canada as of Tuesday afternoon: a husband and wife in Toronto and one presumptive case in British Columbia.

There have been no cases in Saskatchewan. Authorities are monitoring airports, but the Ministry of Health says risk of infection is very low.

Misinformation about coronavirus has been rampant on social media, with multiple Twitter accounts spreading conspiracy theories about the virus’s origins and infectability. Buzzfeed News reported Monday that even Chinese state media had spread misinformation about the virus. 

On Sunday, Ontario public health officials said they were concerned by potential misinformation about the virus and urged the public to consult trusted news sources and official websites for the latest information.

“People may actually take the wrong course of action and engage in what they believe are protective measures that are in fact not warranted and in some cases may be harmful,” said Dr. Eileen de Villa, Toronto’s medical officer of health.

— With Canadian Press files

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NFL investigating social media hack – Edmonton Sun



The NFL is working with authorities to investigate the hacking of numerous social media accounts throughout the league.

The official Twitter accounts of the league and a number of its teams were hacked over the past two days, the league said Tuesday.

“On Monday, the NFL cybersecurity department became aware of a breach of a league-related social media account,” a league statement said. “Targeted breaches and additional failed attempts were discovered across the league and team accounts. The NFL took immediate action and directed the teams to secure their social media accounts and prevent further unauthorized access.”

The league added that the team’s social media sites “have resumed normal operations.”

A group called OurMine took responsibility for the attacks. On at least one team account, the group said it was out to “show people that everything is hackable,” ESPN reported.

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