Spear: Canada’s Truth and Soul Magazine launched in Toronto in 1971 with distinctly middlebrow ambitions. Under the helm of publisher Dan Gooding, Jr. and editor J. Ashton Brathwaite, it aimed to become a Canadian version of Ebony, Jet, Tan, and Essence, the pretty, vacant African-American rags appealing to Black upward mobility and the iridescent accessorizing of Black Power as Black consumerism. However, budget constraints prevailed and Spear quickly became something of an anomaly, a self-published “little” magazine that ran centre folds, a popular magazine that tackled political issues and featured poetry, a celebrity tabloid that covered cultural events.
After Brathwaite went into self-imposed exile in Brooklyn, Brand was one of a number of editors including Ghana-born journalist Sam Donkoh, future Share publisher Arnold Auguste, and the Guyanese-Canadian polymath Arnold Itwaru, who manned the helm of Spear through to the 1980s. With the changes, the journal’s quality improved and Spear‘s pages came to embody something of the cultural paradoxes of Black Canadian middle-class being. Sometimes the juxtapositions were sublime. Spear occasionally found a sort of harmonic convergence of the parallel galaxies of Black political and aesthetic radicalism. In one issue, a profile of Jamaican diva Grace Jones ran next to an interview with Trini Trotskyite CLR James.
The moment wasn’t sustained. By the early 1980s, whatever radical edge Spear maintained was dulled. For the final few issues before it suspended publication in 1987, what was once Spear: Canada’s Truth And Soul was re-tagged as Spear: Canada’s Black Family Magazine. Brathwaite’s initial vision appeared fulfilled.
J. Ashton Brathwaite, Odimumba Kwamdela, Danny F. Gooding, Jr., Dionne Brand, Sheldon Taylor, Arnold Itwaru, Femi Ojo-Ade, Gerson Williams, Sam Donkoh, Harold Hoyte, Dalton Clarke
- At the Crossroads
- Black Images: A Critical Quarterly of Black Culture
- Black Youth Speaks
- The Canadian Negro
- The Dawn of Tomorrow
- The Harriet Tubman Review
- The Islander
- West Indian News Observer
- Word Magazine
- George Elliot Clarke, “A Primer of African-Canadian Literature,” Books in Canada 25.2 (March, 1996): 5-7
- Odimumba Kwamdela, Soul Surviving up in Canada (Brooklyn: Deep Roots, 1998)
- Odimumba Kwamdela, Niggers This is Canada (Kibo Books: 1972)
- Katherine Mckittrick, “Their Blood is There, and They Can’t Throw it Out: Honouring Black Canadian Geographies.” Topia: Canadian Journal of Cultural Studies, 7, (2002): 27-37.
- Norman (Otis) Richmond, “Bathurst St. has always been part of Black life in T.O.,” Share (October 14th, 2009)
- Theodore Jurgen Spahn and Janet Peterson Spahn, “SPEAR: Canadian Magazine of Truth and Soul,” From Radical Left to Extreme Right: A bibliography of current periodicals of protest, controversy, advocacy, or dissent, with dispassionate content-summaries to guide librarians and other educators (Metuchen, NJ: The Scarecrow Press, 1972), 1517-8
Peter James Hudson