By Jessica Brodeur
VANCOUVER — If you’ve wondered about Black History Month in Vancouver and why in past years no one’s heard much about it, you aren’t the only one. The lack of a coordinated effort to facilitate cultural celebration, shared history, and education hasn’t gone unnoticed. Luckily thanks to the Black Artists’ Network in Dialogue (BAND) and TD Bank, Black History Month kicked off on a new foot last year with the first Then & Now series, a Black History Month celebration of past & present black communities in Vancouver. This year it’s back and bigger, with a kick-off ceremony acknowledged by the City, who does officially recognize Black History Month.
“There’s already a big difference in numbers [compared to last year] and the goal further down the line is to have a bigger presence throughout the year for artists representing black cultural art forms.” Those are the dreams of singer, music development teacher, and BAND Vancouver organizer Mimi Beyene. The mother organization, BAND Toronto, operates year round to support black artists in a multitude of pursuits. The calibre of talent isn’t lacking in Vancouver, it’s just the coordinated organization. “All of the artists are doing things all the time – they’re professional performers,” remarks Beyene, a performer herself.
BAND has actually spread across Canada, but with each grassroots branch spiced in it’s own flavour. Vancouver’s flavour? “The numbers are different in Vancouver. There’s a broad representation of the diaspora of Africa,” educates Beyene. A mix of everyone from Francophone Africans to local born and bred Vancouverites of black descendance is what gives the West Coast feel. The cross-section isn’t just geographic either, but includes artists from hip hop to Motown, radio drama to dancers and beyond.
Not only is Then & Now a collaboration of artists, but computer specialists, videographers, educators are a part of the series. Last year the Black Strathcona Project launched with funding for a new media project about Vancouver’s black history that diminished with the Georgia Viaduct’s construction. This year, a teacher study guide for high school aged students was produced to go along with the video series and get the tragic story of a minority community betrayed by its own city developers into classroom discussions. From theatres to private spaces to public education institutes, the story of Black Strathcona and Hogan’s Alley, BAND and Black History Month is being told and heard across the city this month..
Check out http://band-rand.com/ for Black History Month events happening now through March 1 in Vancouver and across Canada.BAND, BC, Black Artists’ Network in Dialogue, Black History Month, British Columbia, Hogan's Alley, Vancouver black history