Black History Month: An interview with Aisha Alfa
Aisha Alfa is a comedian, actor and host/MC who grew up in Winnipeg, Manitoba. She has performed at clubs and festivals across Canada and the world, including Just for Laughs in Montreal and Toronto, the Winnipeg Comedy Festival and Halifax Pop Explosion. Ms. Alfa has also made many television appearances, including MTV’s Degrassi: The Next Generation, PBS’ Odd Squad and as a co-host on Much Music’s Video on Trial.1 In September of 2015 Aisha was a delegate and moderator at ONE: The Mayor’s National Summit on Racial Inclusion, held at the Canadian Museum for Human Rights. For Black History Month, Aisha spoke to me about the fact that there is not one single “Black” history for all people of colour and also about how comedy can promote racial inclusion and human rights.
Is Black History Month important to you?
Black History month is important to me because... I'm part "Black" in the eyes of many. I believe it is most important in America where some "Black" Americans do not know their ancestral history because of the slave trade and lost records. It is a way to honour and discuss the role of a culture built on slavery and how people brought over from Western African countries contributed to it and shaped it. I do, however, believe the term "Black" can be extremely limiting. My "Black" half is Nigerian and so I have a Nigerian history, not necessarily a "Black" history. I am aware of my family there, the history of the country and the meaning of its culture and I am learning more and more all the time. I think if people take Black History Month to be the celebration of all the "Black" people it can be detrimental in that it gives the impression that all "Black" people celebrate the same history. In fact there are many extremely diverse histories from groups with different shades of colour from various countries, regions and cultures around the world that are/should be celebrated.
What kind of challenges have you faced as a Black woman working in comedy and show business?
Everyone faces challenges in the world and being a person who is considered a visible minority and also a woman (hear me roar) means there are subtle things people often do to try to make it easier for me or to make me feel better, but they can be little asterisks’ next to me that slightly set me apart from others. But if I'm honest, I've always loved being unique, different from the group and special so it can also be a positive! YAY ME!
Does comedy allow you to discuss difficult topics like racial inclusion? Does it allow you to reach people who might never have had those conversations otherwise?
Comedy is something that exists in every culture I know of. It brings people together and allows us to discuss polarizing topics without getting defensive. Laughter is contagious and makes people want to join in! Laughing at ourselves, our shortcomings and misguided attempts to be unique and special is such a universal thing it often leads to the most connected levels of inter-group understanding. Laughter is the language of love, understanding, peace and connection. The more we laugh, the more we get back to the things that matter most, the more we diffuse anger, hatred and violence and focus on love, inclusivity and farts...trust me farts always get a laugh.