'Start a conversation': U of A political scientist launches podcast exploring systemic racism


For Andy Knight, the murder of George Floyd, a Black man in Minneapolis, by a white police officer in 2020, was a pivotal moment even from nearly 2,000 kilometres away in Edmonton.

Knight, a well-known political scientist and the first Black chair of the University of Alberta’s Department of Political Science, wanted to have a conversation about race, the systemic nature of racism and its history.

“So that’s the basic genesis of it. It was really to inspire people to think about these issues more seriously, to use that occasion of the George Floyd moment to alert people as to the historical legacy that led to this kind of anti-black racism,” Knight said.

On May 25, 2021, one year after Floyd’s murder, Knight and co-host Zack Penddah, a University of Alberta political science student, launched BlackTalk a podcast featuring interviews with prominent Black figures from around the world and stories from Black community members closer to home.

“The idea behind this is to start a conversation not just with Canadians, but people across the globe, on what the Black experience has meant and what anti-Black racism has done, basically, to try to limit the progress that Black people have made over the years. But we also try to bring about a sense of hope,” he said.

The five-episode first season features a talk with historian Sir Hilary Beckles about the history of white supremacy dating back to the 1600s in Barbados as well as an episode with journalist Cecil Foster about the historical context of anti-Black racism in Canada.

Former MP Celina Caesar-Chavannes, well known for leaving the federal Liberal caucus and accusing Prime Minister Justin Trudeau of tokenizing her, talks about the way racism has affected her mental health.