• Vinessa Antoine as Marcie Diggs in CBC's new television show Diggstown

    Vinessa Antoine plays Marcie Diggs in CBC's new television show Diggstown, set in Nova Scotia. (Photo: CBC)

I recently shot the first season of Diggstown in Nova Scotia, which is a place I had never visited before. When I started to do research for my character, Marcie Diggs, I learned that Nova Scotia has Canada’s oldest and largest black community, North Preston in Halifax. It was great to visit that community and see the rolling green landscape, the nearby white sand beaches, the neighbourhoods, the homes, the churches. It was all so beautiful and raw.

The black community in Nova Scotia has some really sad connections as to why and how it came to be in Canada, and that brings up all sorts feelings for me. First, I was really angry and confused that I had not learned about black Canadian history and its strong ties to the Maritimes in school. I grew up in Scarborough, Ont., but my roots are in the Caribbean; my parents are both from Trinidad and Tobago and my community felt very Caribbean to me. For many years, I had this incorrect knowledge that most black Canadians were Afro-Caribbean. I wish I would have learned earlier about African Canadians and places like North Preston. There were so many black people who were an integral part of life throughout Nova Scotia. They owned land and businesses, and were involved in a lot of firsts. Take Rose Fortune, for instance, who was the first female police officer in Canada and lived in Annapolis Royal, N.S. Knowing these things earlier would have given me more of a sense of identity as a black Canadian.

Diggstown premieres on CBC on Wednesday, March 6 at 8 p.m. EST.

—As told to Michela Rosano