Thomas Barber is proud of how much the Black community in Ottawa has prospered over time. Thomas tends to look at a darker past not with anger or bitterness. Instead he tends to see Black History in Ottawa as a series of challenges overcome and lessons to be remembered. Understanding the past is key to measuring how far we’ve all come in establishing a more inclusive community, and it’s to our benefit that Thomas relates the past with insight and humour.
Much of Thomas’ presentation highlights his family members' journey confronting prejudice and overcoming these obstacles, but Thomas started his presentation with a history of the many cultures that make up Ottawa, the problems they faced moving here, and how they took on these challenges.
People from all over the world have been coming to Canada for over 200 years, but Thomas focused his attention on why they chose Canada over other places, and (most importantly to Thomas) what these people of such diverse heritage did to make Canada a better place for themselves and for others.
Thomas is the right person to tell this story of his family's achievements. He’s done the research with passion and a dedication to accuracy.
The family of Thomas’ grandfather Paul Barber were one of earliest of African descent to settle in Ottawa. In Thomas’ presentation to the HSO, he talks about how his grandfather had been taught a particular trade by his Kentucky slave-owners and how, after Emancipation, Paul Barber came to Ottawa and earned respect as an expert in this trade as a free man in Canada.
It’s a wonderful story of how one person prospered through adversity, and how Paul Barber passed this tradition of hard work and resilience down through his family.
You can view the full presentation in the video section of the HSO website.