Join the Conversation During Black History Month in Vancouver

“View of Hogan’s Alley” (1958): Major Matthews Collection, Bu P508.53 (City of Vancouver Archives); a Black cultural hub in Strathcona

February is Black History Month, making it a particularly important time to raise your awareness and join the discussion about the innumerable contributions that Black Canadians have made to Canada and to Vancouver.

The theme for this year’s Black History Month is “The Future is Now,” a call to recognize and honour the important cultural work and mobilizing initiatives that are being done by Black Canadians to effect positive change.

While many 2021 events are being held virtually in light of the pandemic, the energy is still the same: one premised on education, celebration, and transformation.

Give Them Their Flowers: Celebrating Vancouver’s Hometown Heroes

Photo: City of Vancouver

The City of Vancouver partnered with BlackArt Gastown to create Given Them Their Flowers, an interactive photomap that showcases ten Black residents/groups of Vancouver who are shaping the city through their impactful leadership, advocacy, and creative endeavours. The worthy individuals/groups spotlighted include Shanique Williams (DJ Softie Shan) who works to forge inclusive spaces for those who are marginalized; BLM Vancover; and Roger Collins, art director, co-founder of Calabash Bistro, and community organizer/mobilizer.

The photomap also features flowers for locations connected to Black history in the city, such as Nora Hendrix’s house, Vie’s Chicken and Steak House, and the Harlem Nocturne, all thriving and vibrant sites of Black community and culture that suffered erasure during the City’s urban renewal policies and construction of the Georgia viaduct that began in 1967. You can follow the map and visit these sites in honour of Black History Month.

Black Like Me – Outdoor Edition

While Canadian identity has often been conflated with the wilderness and adventures in nature, this notion of the outdoors has often excluded racialized Canadians, particularly Black Canadians. Colour the Trails, an organization committed to creating intersectional and “inclusive representation in outdoor spaces” is presenting Black Like Me – Outdoor Edition, a month-long film series that pays tribute to “Black Excellence in the Outdoors.” The series consists of 8 short films (1 hour 44 minutes in total) that will be available from February 8 to February 28. The film Safe Haven, directed by Tim Kressin, for example, tells the story of a climbing gym in Memphis that has forged community and broadened notions of who has access to outdoor skills, like climbing. The series culminates in a virtual panel discussion with Demiesha (@browngirloutdoorworld) on February 26 at 7:30pm. An access pass is $15, with proceeds going in support of Colour the Trails and Demiesha (@browngirloutdoorworld).

Changing the Narrative: An Interactive Virtual Workshop

On February 12 from 10am to 12pm, the National Congress of Black Women Foundation (NCBWF) in partnership with The Vancouver Maritime Museum (VMM) is presenting Changing the Narrative, a workshop held virtually that will be educating attendees about the invaluable and frequently unrecognized contributions that Black Canadians have made to this province, and strategies for addressing these omissions. While the workshop is geared toward educators (given that February 12 is a professional development day for many B.C. teachers), it’s open to anyone interested in learning more about Black Canadian history. The event will consist of a short video, a panel discussion moderated by Shelley-Anne Vidal (Vice-Chair of the NCBWF), a Q&A, and a quiz that can be used in classrooms. Panel participants will be Dr. Joy Walcott-Francis, a Black feminist scholar, educator, and researcher; Chantel Gibson, a local artist-educator; and Adam Rudder, educator and past co-chair of the Hogan’s Alley Society. Tickets are $20 for educators/adults and $10 for students, with partial proceeds going to the NCBWF Fall 2021 scholarship/bursary fund.

Black Art Matters

The Vancouver Art Gallery is holding four talks on the Gallery’s Instagram account centered on Black Arts Matters from February 8 to 11. The talks are in conversation with the Gallery’s current exhibition Where Do We Go From Here? (until May 30, 2021) that, in collaboration with guest curator Nya Lewis of BlackArt Gastown, explores the Gallery’s problematic overlooking of African diasporic artists in its exhibitions and collections and considers how its bias can be shifted to become more inclusive and less Euro-centric. Nya Lewis hosts all four talks, with artist Jessie Addo in conversation on February 8 at 4pm, artist Rebecca Blair on February 9 at 4pm, artist and curator Anique Jordan on February 10 at 4pm, and artist Tania Willard on February 11 at 4pm. The talks aim to raise awareness about overlooked artistry by drawing upon important voices of Black and Indigenous creators.

VIFF’s Everywhere We Are

Nya Lewis is also curating Everywhere We Are, a dynamic spotlighting of Black cinema for VIFF’s Black History Month film series. Available via VIFF connect until March 4, the film series includes 7 features and a shorts program, covering diverse and shifting Black resistance across the globe in places like Africa, the Caribbean, the UK, the US, and Canada. The films range from Nationtime, which tells the story of the monumental 1972 National Black Political Convention in Gary, Indiana, to Softie, which spotlights Mwangi, an activist and former photojournalist who is fighting to bring about political change in Kenya in the face of considerable personal and familial cost. A three-ticket pack is $20, with special free access for VIFF+ Silver, Gold, and Monthly Connect Members who do not need to pay for tickets to KENBE LA, Until We Win, and Keyboard Fantasies: The Beverly Glenn-Copeland Story.  

Stratagem: Black Queer Futures

Premised on intersectional feminism, social justice, and anti-oppression, Stratagem builds community through its mobilizing conversations and events. This year, they’re hosting a virtual series of workshops and talks over the month of February. It’s an incredibly diverse and nuanced examination and discussion of the lives and experiences of the LGBTQ2S+ community that is committed to being open, inclusive, and connective. Talks include “Afro-Indigenous Resilience” on February 13 from 10am-12pm with speakers Orene Askew, Joy Henderson, Jade Byard Peek, and Ignacio G Hutía Xeiti Rivera who will talk about challenging anti-Black and colonial narratives; “Redefining Black Masculinity” on February 23 from 5-7pm with speakers Azuka Nduka-Agwu, Crystal Mason, KB Boyce, and Rev. Louis Mitchell who will reconsider Black masculinity beyond limiting stereotypes; and “Black Brilliance Trivia Night” on February 27 from 6-7pm, which will test your knowledge of Black history. Tickets start at $28.92 for Black participants.


It’s clear based on the exciting line-up for Black History Month 2021 that this year’s events have the potential to bring about a raising of consciousness about the past, present, and future contributions that Black Canadians are making to Vancouver’s richness and vibrancy as a cultural and community landscape.

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