There’s a sense of pride to be derived from knowing where you come from, though without much understanding of who we are, it’s easy to feel rejected in a society that doesn’t readily embrace diversity. Getting to know one’s self is the root of Rito Joseph’s projects, CHAM Ent and Afro-Diaspora Tour. Founded in Montreal, Quebec, Joseph’s initiative aims to uplift people of colour, Indigenous people and the Afro-descendant community, regardless of sex, gender, religious or political beliefs. CHAM Ent/Afro-Diaspora Tour is a direct response to the question of wanting to learn more about your identity and where you come from. “I’ve always felt like I was [neither] being heard nor was [my] story being told, so I decided to take [it] upon myself to do the research and learn my/our history.”
For many underrepresented minorities, being understood in society is an on-going challenge, which Joseph believes can at least in part, be attributed to the “lack of understanding and [recognition] of our [historical] contributions” as minorities. Through his initiative, he cites “knowledge of self, self-acceptance [and] inclusion in the diverse Canadian mosaic” as being a few of the areas he aims to repair.
As for how other organizations can help this cause? “By making a conscious effort to understand the peoples’ needs and apply a strategy that can help us move forward as people.” Joseph hopes that developing an understanding of one’s self will lead to increased acceptance in their respective communities. “By learning our history we can have a sense of entitlement of who [we] are and therefore control our narrative; it makes it easier for social cohesion when you know yourself.”
The Afro-Diaspora Tour is a variety of workshops, presentations and conferences aimed at educating the public about pre-colonial Africa, the arrival of Afro-descendants on foreign lands. Joseph plans on taking this educative initiative across North America in the near future, in an effort to take crucial steps towards increased societal and self-acceptance.