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Northernstars Celebrates Black History Month
By Ralph Lucas, Publisher

(February 1, 2014 – Toronto, Ontario) When Northernstars began life in the late 1990s our hope was to push the creation of a Canadian star system into high gear. As a nation we have generally done a poor job of keeping track of who we were, which makes the job of defining who we are more difficult. Today we begin a special initiative. Each day for the month of February we will feature a Black Canadian actor, actress or director on our home page. The names were selected over the last few weeks. Limited by the number of days in the month we did our best to find balance within our list and regular users of this website will know we have far more Black Canadian actors and directors listed than just those who will be featured this month.

Thanks to the Internet you can within minutes discover that Sam Lucas was the first African American actor to appear in a feature-length movie. Samuel Midmay Lucas was born in Washington D.C. on August 7, 1839 and died in New York on January 11, 1916. He appeared as Uncle Tom in the 1914 film Uncle Tom`s Cabin. It is, as far as we know, the only film credit he has. Using identical search terms we tried to discover who was the first Black Canadian to appear in a movie, but so far our search has proved fruitless.

We do not have a film history that includes a Hattie McDaniel or a Paul Robeson. McDaniel was the first Black American to win an Oscar® for her role in the 1939 classic Gone With The Wind. Paul Robeson was a singer and actor who became famous for his work in a number of Eugene O’Neill`s plays beginning in 1924 and later sang a riveting rendition of the song Old Man River on stage and in the 1936 film version of Showboat. More importantly, in the grand scheme of things, he became a staunch advocate of human rights and used his power wisely to further the condition of people everywhere. Tired of the stereotypical roles offered to him over his career he announced in 1942 that he wouldn’t make any more movies until there were better roles for Black actors. His last film was the 1942 feature Tales of Manhattan.

This series beginning today could not have been accomplished without the support of our past Associate Editor, Wyndham Wise. The majority of the mini-biographies we will publish this month was researched and written by him. The list of names we have decided to feature was largely decided on by him based on his profound knowledge of Canadian film. It is my hope that we can make this an annual event and that with each passing year we will have added significantly to this category.

If you are a Black Canadian actor, director or screenwriter and you cannot find your name within our pages, my sincere apologies. Northernstars is a work-in-progress and with each new crop entering the field seemingly every day, our job here will never be complete. When we are not updating existing pages, covering various industry events, interviewing actors or directors, researching and writing biographies, expanding the Northernstars Collection, we are constantly adding pages. Recognizing the fact that sometimes doing our best is still not good enough, allow me to make the promise that we will try to do better in the months and years ahead.

We begin with an actor who was born in the poor Montréal neighbourhood of Sanit-Henri in 1918 and went on to fame on stage, in film and on television, Percy Rodriguez.