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Poetry Canadian

I Am Still Your Negro

An Homage to James Baldwin

by (author) Valerie Mason-John

The University of Alberta Press
Initial publish date
Feb 2020
Canadian, Women Authors, Black Studies (Global)
  • eBook

    Publish Date
    Feb 2020
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  • Paperback / softback

    Publish Date
    Jan 2020
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Social Justice Poetry Spoken-word poet Valerie Mason-John unsettles readers with potent images of ongoing trauma from slavery and colonization. Her narratives range from the beginnings of the African Diaspora to the story of a stowaway on the Windrush, from racism and sexism in Trump’s America to the wide impact of the Me Too movement. Stories of entrapment, sexual assault, addictive behaviours, and rave culture are told and contrasted to the strengthening and forthright voice of Yaata, Supreme Being. I Am Still Your Negro is truth that needs to be told, re-told, and remembered. Foreword by George Elliott Clarke.

I was your Negro Captured and sold I am still your negro Arrested and killed —from “I Am Still Your Negro”

About the author

Poet, author, and public speaker Valerie Mason-John (a.k.a. “Queenie”) highlights issues of the African Diaspora and the Black, female, Queer identity, and resists the currently existing overt and covert forms of colonialism through their fierce and brave writing. They are the author /editor of ten books. Their debut novel, Borrowed Body, won the 2006 Mind Book of the Year Award. They co-edited the award-winning anthology, The Great Black North: Contemporary African Canadian Poetry, and co-produced Their most recent book is an edited collection: Afrikan Wisdom: New Voices Talk Black Liberation, Buddhism, and Beyond. Valerie lives in Vancouver. Find them online at

Valerie Mason-John's profile page


  • Short-listed, Gerald Lampert Memorial Award, League of Canadian Poets
  • Short-listed, Dorothy Livesay Poetry Prize, BC and Yukon Book Prizes, West Coast Book Prize Society
  • Winner, AUPresses Book, Jacket, & Journal Show - Poetry and Literature

Editorial Reviews

"I Am Still Your Negro hauls us all up by the collar to face our shared complicity. A lot of damage has been inflicted through racism, sexism, greed. Mason-John opens some wounds in the hope of healing them."

Alice Major, author of Welcome to the Anthropocene

"[T]he wide range of Mason-John’s vision ... traverses history, geography, and culture.... [Her poetry] is significant for its reappraisal of our collective past, which so often overlooks or writes over marginalized voices and experiences. [Mason-John is] explicit in calling out a hypocritical Canadian multiculturalism that pays lip service to inclusion while simultaneously entrenching systemic biases and processes that maintain a racist and exclusionary status quo." [Full review at ]

Quill & Quire

"This poetry collection grabs you... Readers are confronted with the violence of the Black experience, from the haunting spectre of slavery to the current and ongoing terrorizing of the Black diaspora at the hands of the police. All of the messy, the painful, the enraging -- what we’re conditioned to believe as shameful -- is laid bare for the readers and brought to the fore. Many of these accounts traverse various places -- whether in the U.K., the U.S., or Canada -- and the bluntness and force of her words arrest you." [Full article at]

Junie Desil

“The topics range from slavery and colonization to global politics and historical realities, addressing the racialized and gendered intersections of African identity, diaspora, and ancestry…. Mason-John’s poetry sheds light on these harsh realities through personal and vulnerable narratives. Their writing also offers hope for our futures by reminding readers of our collective reservoir of power, resilience, and creativity. With these tools in our hands and our ancestors beside us, we may still be negros, but we ain’t silent about it no more.” [Full article at]

The Arrow

Included on CBC Books's list of top Canadian poetry of the year in December 2020.

"I Am Still Your Negro takes no prisoners. With sheer brilliance, Valerie Mason-John creates poems that burn Babylon and Rome; bring you to tears; make you shout hallelujah. Her voice is that of the lamenting mother, vengeful goddess, triumphant warrior, compassionate lover, a cool ruler with a pure heart. I am left with only one conclusion about this book: it is a tour de force."

Afua Cooper is Halifax's Poet Laureate, a global Dub poet, and Black Studies professor at Dalhousie University

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