Black History Month • throughout February
Victoria may seem blandly, blithely British, but the population here includes a healthy and diverse smattering of close-knit sub-communities who identify themselves by their cultural and ethnic heritage. The contributions of these communities are many, but they aren’t always visible, appreciated, or acknowledged.
Black History Month in Victoria is a passion project for devoted community members who have formed the British Columbia Black History Awareness Society (BCBHAS). Sylvia Mangue is the president, and explains that even the UN is urging more dialogue and awareness among cultures in any given town. “There are key issues that people should talk about in their communities; not only for black people, but for everybody,” she says.
“The purpose of celebrating Black History Month in Victoria is to make people aware of the contributions and achievements of black people in Canada, not just here in Victoria, but throughout the country.” Entertaining and educational events are planned throughout the month of February; most are by donation. It kicks off with an informational event on Saturday, February 3, noon to 3:00 pm, at the main branch of the Library on Broughton. Members will be available with displays, posters and to talk about upcoming events and answer questions.
At the Belfry Theatre on February 12, 7pm, energizing live music and spoken word combine to create an evening to add some excitement to the pre-spring darkness. Ann-Bernice Thomas, Youth Poet Laureate 2016 for the City of Victoria, will read some of her work, and Vancouver vocalist Cathy Essombe will perform with her band, Ardent Tribe, providing rock, blues, soul, and pop inspired by Tina Turner, Wilson Pickett, David Bowie, and Santana. BCBHAS has joined forces with VACCS (Victoria African Community Cultural Society) to produce the concert and tickets are by donation.
Speaker Michael Regis of Dispute Resolution, UVic will discuss his research on policing on Sunday, Feb 18; and on Feb 23, there will be a guided tour of the graves of Black pioneers at Ross Bay Cemetery.
Mangue is determined to help community groups network. On January 31, leaders from other small ethnic and cultural communities in Victoria have been invited to a special private reception at City Hall, with an aim to build connections among them all. “We need to make people aware;” Mangue asserts, “there is an Islamic group, a Sikh group, a Jewish group…we must let [these groups] know we exist as a community, like they are. It’s about networking, and getting to know each other…different people in our community make it stronger.”
For a comprehensive list of all Black History Month offerings, see http://bcblackhistory.ca/index.php/events or pick up an events booklet at any Greater Victoria Public Library branch.—Mollie Kaye