Let’s celebrate the legacy of Black people in B.C. and Canada

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I had the privilege of delivering a statement on February 22 on the floor of the Legislative Assembly of British Columbia to honour the legacy of Black people in the province and the country:

“February is Black History Month, a time to recognize and honour the legacy of Black people and celebrate the achievements and legacy of Black people in Canada and British Columbia.

“Despite the history of slavery, colonialism, racism, oppression, underlined by beliefs in white supremacy, we know that Black people have been part of shaping British Columbia’s history for more than 150 years. So many of their stories are unknown by most British Columbians and live on in relative obscurity.

“For example, at the age of 17, Burnaby’s Barbara Howard was the first Black woman to represent Canada in an international competition. I had the honour to meet Barbara. She competed in track and field in the 1938 British Empire Games in Australia, winning two medals.

“Seraphim Joseph Fortes is heralded as Vancouver’s Citizen of the Century for saving at least 29 people from drowning. He taught three generations of children to swim, while working as a lifeguard in English Bay during the 1900s. It’s stories like these that inspire us to learn more about the history of our province.

“We know that Hogan’s Alley was once a lively hub in Vancouver’s Black community, but like so many low-income neighborhoods, it was characterized as a blight on the city. In 1971, the city of Vancouver began constructing Georgia and Dunsmuir viaduct right through the middle of this vibrant neighbourhood. That history is not far behind us. That doesn’t mean it’s not too late to do things differently. Today we know that there are efforts to revitalize Hogan’s Alley as a historic site. The city of Vancouver is also investing in Nora Hendrix Place to support Black and Indigenous residents who are experiencing homelessness in Hogan’s Alley.

“Earlier this month, schools in Surrey launched a Black studies course to teach school-aged children  about Black history in Canada, and people across British Columbia are listening to Black musicians, reading books by Black authors and buying products from Black businesses this month. We recognize the diversity of the global African diaspora in many contributions they’ve brought the world, and I know that I’m joined by all members here in the Legislature to go beyond words and find meaningful ways to make sure that the contributions of Black Canadians have made to this country are never forgotten.”