Dear Gossips,   

Earlier this week I interviewed Camille Dundas for ETALK. Camille is a public speaking and corporate diversity consultant, a television producer, a writer, and the founder and editor-in-chief of, an award-winning online magazine covering stories of interest to the Black Canadian community, spotlighting the efforts and achievement of Black Canadians, and amplifying the voices of Black journalists who have been overlooked by legacy Canadian media. 


Camille and I talked about the importance of examining stories through lenses that have been underrepresented in news, entertainment, and sport. And, since it was on Monday, we talked about Beyoncé and her upcoming country album, and how B, through her work, is helping to reclaim a space for Black artists in country music and, overall, in country western culture. 


On that note, Camille recommended a documentary directed by Cheryl Foggo profiling cowboy John Ware, a formerly enslaved Black man who was one of the first ranchers in Alberta. For those of you who are not Canadian, Alberta is sometimes referred to as the Texas of the North. And just like Texas, there’s a pervasive image of what an Albertan cowboy looks like.

John Ware was an agricultural pioneer in the province. There’s a mountain and ridge, and a building and even a school named after him in Alberta. He’s been referred to as a legend, but even that description is controversial because his legend was largely told by white people focusing on his superhuman strength and riding ability and his survival skills. As filmmaker Cheryl Foggo has said:

“On its surface, it looks like a complimentary story. But when you really dig into it you realize there is a willingness to think of him more like a beast or animal than man. It’s important to examine that sort of mythology around John Ware and try to recognize where it’s pretending to uplift him but actually isn’t.”


Mythology can be dehumanising, and this is what Cheryl is interrogating in the film. The way his story has been presented by the white people who were pretending to honour him only further entrenches racist tropes about Black men – this is still othering only costumed as praise. One of Cheryl’s goals in making the documentary was to reframe John Ware not as a “mythical creature” but to show that he’s “more than a prop in a happy story my country likes to tell itself about itself”. 

I am embarrassed to say that I didn’t know about John Ware before my interview with Camille. Since then I’ve done more reading into his background, and I’m planning to watch the documentary this weekend. If you’re interested, here’s the link to the film. The trailer is below:



To go back to Beyoncé and how she’s using her platform to remind people of the erasure of Black people, their innovation and their contributions to country and country music, in doing more research on John Ware, I’ve been reading about how the word “cowboy” itself has problematic roots. And there’s also a lot of irony here, because white cowboys have been proudly stomping around calling themselves cowboys for a long time but in the United States, it is widely believed that originally, “cowboy” was a word that was used specifically for Black men. As journalist and broadcaster Garvia Bailey explains on episode five of the Strong and Free podcast, “John Ware: The Legend of Canada’s ‘First’ Black Cowboy”:

“…in the United States prior to the Civil War, enslaved Black men and women would work on ranches, doing the hard work of roping cattle, branding, breaking and caring for horses. They did that work alongside white ranchers. The white workers were called “cow-hands” ...but the enslaved Black workers were called “cow-boys.” “Boy” back then, was a common term of disrespect, ownership and belittling. So yeah, the word “cowboy” was...racist.” 

And now, to go back to the irony, we have white people telling Black people who can and can’t be cowboys and who can and can’t be country. 

It’s only been four days, and already Beyoncé has illuminated all these conversations, at least for me. But maybe also for you too. 

Yours in gossip,