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Art installations, virtual events mark Black History Month in Vancouver

As February begins in Canada so does Black History Month, a time to mark the achievements and remember the experiences of Black British Columbians. A variety of organizations in Vancouver are doing so in a variety of different ways.
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Poetry by Otoniya J. Okot Bitek with portraiture by Chantal Gibson make up 'un/settled,' part of the Black History Month programming taking part across Vancouver this February.

As February begins in Canada so does Black History Month, a time to mark the achievements and remember the experiences of Black British Columbians.

A variety of organizations in Vancouver are doing so in a variety of different ways. The City of Vancouver has created an interactive photomap, for example.

'Give Them Their Flowers' is a map that marks locations important to 10 "Hometown Heroes" as well as important sites in Vancouver, such as Hogan's Alley. The heroes include organizations like BLM Vancouver and Judith Kasiama (Juju Milay). 

"I encourage everyone in Vancouver to take a look at the map and find out more about the exceptional contributions these community members have made to this city and the lives of their fellow residents," says Mayor Kennedy Stewart in a press release. "I would also like to thank BlackArt Gastown for creating this map and for their ongoing work to shine a light on some of the very many historic and ongoing achievements of Vancouver’s Black communities.”

The Vancouver International Film Festival (VIFF) has asked guest curator Nya Lewis to put together series of films for VIFF Connect. Called 'Everywhere We Are,' the series takes a look at the language of revolution and resistance from a Black perspective.

"Against all odds, Black filmmakers create reflections of the nuanced social, political and economic experiences of the Black community. The definition of resistance is in constant flux, shape shifting. It is as resourceful as we are, ever expanding to find fuller ways to continue the critical discourse surrounding the politicization of Blackness," Lewis writes on VIFF's site.

The Loft Lounge (1184 Denman St) has a weekly trivia night Wednesdays; for all of February they'll be about Black history. Proceeds from the nights will go to the Hogan's Alley Society.

A variety of organizations are holding speaker's events and workshops over the month as well. The Vancouver Maritime Museum (VMM) and the National Congress of Black Women Foundation (NCBWF) are presenting 'Changing the Narrative,' a workshop that'll look at Black history in B.C.

"There is much recent conversation about the need to insert Black History and awareness into BC curricula. Without reference or acknowledgement of our history on this land, we are virtually invisible, quietly erased," says Lolly Bennett of the NCBWF in a release.

The online workshop is directed at anyone interested in BC's history and educators; it's set for Friday, Feb. 12 at 10 a.m.

An online symposium and concert series will be held by the Victoria-based African Arts and Cultural Centre starting Feb. 4. UBC's Phil Lind Initiative will host New York Times columnist Charles Blow on Feb. 4 as well. 

Ensemble Theatre Company will be hosting the online arts festival 'Us' over the month as well, with free shows released every Thursday thru Feb. 25.

Simon Fraser University an arts project at their downtown Belzberg Library that relates to Black History Month. Called 'un/settled' the piece combines poetry and portraiture and will remain in place to May 31. The piece is in part a tribute to Breonna Taylor, the healthcare worker who was killed by police in her home in Kentucky.

"A towering photo-poetic piece, un/settled literally drapes Black womanhood over 240 square feet of Belzberg Library’s streetfront windows. It centres Blackness - an identity often erased or maligned - in a hypervisible fashion that celebrates Black thought, creativity and joy while situated in the ongoing systematic violence against Black people, Indigenous people, and people of colour," states a release from the university.

The piece can be viewed at the corner of West Hastings and Richards. A pair of speaking engagements related to the piece and poetry are planned for Feb. 10 and Feb. 17.

For more about Black history in B.C., there's the BC Black History Awareness Society, which has stories and video online. They're also hosting or helping with a variety of events this month.