A local initiative is helping explore the history of the Black community in Waterloo Region.

Vintage Black Canada is documenting that history while highlighting strength, struggle and strides.

“First and foremost, it is a way for me to pay homage to my community and my family. It is a collection of photos, the majority of them I inherited from my grandfather, Roy Francis. He was a photographer and someone who was very much involved his community, the Jamaican community in Kitchener-Waterloo,” said Aaron Francis, Creator and Curator of Vintage Black Canada.

What started as a passion project last year commemorating his late grandfather, has blossomed into an online archive, documenting the history and contributions of Black families in the region - past and present.

“I’m inspired by it, my grandfather came here from Kingston, Jamaica with absolutely nothing and he became an aerospace engineer at Com-Def working on satellites. This community has produced so many innovating individuals,” said Francis.

Like Master T, boxing legend Lennox Lewis, NBA superstar Jamal Murray and Francis's uncle Errol - a JUNO award winner in 1989.

“There are Black people doing great things daily and involved in our region and in our community that I don't think get a lot of spotlights in a positive light. I think it's great that he's done that and that we're able to show history and that past of the Black people in this region and community,” said Jody Brown, a Kitchener resident and photo contributor.

According to Francis, alongside four other families, his grandparents helped create the region’s first Caribbean and West Indian cultural society back in the mid-1970s, helping other people of colour moving to the region find a sense of community and support. Vintage Black Canada is his way of continuing that work.

In the past year the project has been exhibited at city hall in Kitchener and at Waterloo's Centre for International Governance Innovation.

A new collaboration with local chef Teneile Warren and Counterpoint Brewing Co. is set to help continue connecting with the community not only through art and photographs, but also through flavours and food.

Francis is now working on a photo book heading into 2021, carrying a rich history into the future.