Frank Johnson 1984
(Edmonton Journal with permission)
My journey of exploration began on a Greyhound bus on February 11, 2009. I was headed back to the country where I had found that the separation of individuals based on color, ethnic culture and background to be virtually non-existent.
I spent a few years researching the exodus of thousands of black Americans to Canada, and discovered that many had headed to Alberta. As I found out more about their migration, I was fascinated by the openness and drive of people who first occupied the vast prairie landscape, a diverse population to whom race and color appeared not to be an issue at all. My mission was, and still is to learn more about their legacy in Western Canada, and to enlighten all people, especially my fellow Americans, about a country that is so close, but so far from the United States.
The black migrants' journey north was among the thoughts I had as I boarded
the bus that February day in 2009 during the long drive from Oakland, California to Amber Valley in western Canada. Our first stop was Sacramento California, the transfer point for passengers traveling to the Pacific Northwest. The second stop was Seattle, Washington; a city where I once lived and worked. Several hours after leaving Seattle, we arrived at the Canadian border. There were only a few stops left to go; Coquitlam, British Columbia and then Calgary, Alberta.
At the border, the bus driver instructed everyone to remove all their belongings
from the bus and place on the conveyor belt at the border crossing office. The
Canadian customs officer had a rather stern expression, and I recall from previous border crossings that Canadians were quite serious when it came to the people they let into their country. The officer asked me a series of questions regarding the purpose of my visit. I told him that I was on vacation, but still felt apprehensive. Would I be denied entry? Would I make it to the next stop? More importantly, would I be able to continue my journey?