True crime, but make it moral

Digital project presents true crime and Black history through decolonial lens

Local activist Jayda Hope’s new podcast Girl, You Haven’t Heard?? explores true crime and Black history through a decolonial, anti-racist perspective. (Supplied)

According to NPR, in 2021, “half of the top 10 podcasts are focused on true crime.” That’s a lot of tragic murders being told between jokes and Squarespace ads.

Girl, You Haven’t Heard?? is a multifaceted true-crime and Black-history project from creator Jayda Hope. It includes a podcast, YouTube videos and a Patreon.

The content discusses “true-crime cases without the ridiculous copaganda others love to include, but most importantly (discusses) Black history in the context of these colonial borders from a decolonial and critical lens,” Hope tweeted.

During the summer of 2020, Hope was engaged in activism on the ground, and part of her work was researching Black Canadian history.

“I was typing out all the Black historical events, and I was like, it’s kind of crazy that I don’t even really know what these are, and I’ve lived here my whole life,” she says.

Hope’s interest in true crime and her experience feeling like activism was not the most efficient way to share her knowledge led to the creation of Girl, You Haven’t Heard??, a collection of Black history and true-crime content that disrupts the popular genre.

“I didn’t like the way that the cases were discussed, and I didn’t like the fact that (the victims) weren’t talked about like they were people, (and) it was just something for entertainment purposes,” she says.

According to Hope, thorough research and consideration of the victims’ families, particularly for unsolved cases, are central to the project.

“The first case that I did, I reached out to talk to (the victim)’s mom ... It felt more honourable than doing a story on her daughter and then never hearing from her.”

An article in Time Magazine chronicles the perspective of families of people featured in true-crime productions. They report that although true-crime productions can reinvigorate cases, people and businesses profiting and creating entertainment from families’ pain can be unhelpful and re-traumatizing.

The project is more than a new take on the true-crime genre. It’s also a resource for teaching and learning about Black history. Hope offers notes, workbooks and definition sheets on her Patreon, so teachers can use them in their classrooms.

In April 2021, the Winnipeg Free Press reported on the status of Black history in Manitoba classrooms, stating the province last updated its anti-racism and Black-history material in December 2020, “but teaching the material is not mandatory.”

Hope says the project offers everything “that would be needed to teach the topic, but without any necessary work for the teachers, because I know ... they’re spread really thin, especially with COVID.”

Hope emphasizes that Girl, You Haven’t Heard?? “is definitely one way of taking in this knowledge, but that people should always do their own research outside of what I say.”

She hopes listeners and viewers will see “the importance and the value of learning about Black history from a Black source, not just hearing it from a colonial perspective, which is often told incorrectly.”

Find Girl, You Haven’t Heard?? on Youtube, Anchor and Patreon.

Published in Volume 76, Number 2 of The Uniter (September 16, 2021)

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