The history of our black pioneers dates back to when the first immigrants arrived in Fort Victoria.
Ron Nicholson, vice-president of the B.C. Black History Awareness Society, is committed to honouring that history through the celebration of Black History Month, running through February. Nicholson, whose great-grandfather escaped slavery via the underground railroad, will present a talk on his ancestor, entitled Adam’s Journey to the Promised Land, Feb. 27 at the Oak Bay library. It’s part of a full lineup of music and cultural events hosted by the society starting this Friday (Feb. 7).
“Many of those descendants of the original pioneers are still here,” he says. “Quite a few have stayed.”
Immigration in recent years has quickened the pace of what has historically been very slow growth within the local black population. The society nonetheless is continuing its mandate of honouring heritage past and present through education.
“To me the history doesn’t change – the history is still the history,” Nicholson says. “And as a society, we try to recognize the current people. It’s not just from the old days.”
One of those current people is vocalist Leon Bibb, an inductee in the B.C. Entertainment Hall of Fame. Bibb and pianist Bill Sample, a former Victorian, will offer an overview of black history in the province through stories and songs at Government House on Friday. The concert, followed by a mixer with Lt.-Gov. Judith Guichon, is the sole ticketed event in a month of jazz and poetry, historical walks, talks and author insights.
RCMP Sgt. Craig Smith, a Halifax-based historian and author of You Had Better Be White by Six A.M.: The African-Canadian Experience in the RCMP, is doing a special presentation at James Bay New Horizons Centre (234 Menzies St.) on Feb. 16 at 2 p.m.
Smith, the RCMP’s diversity policing analyst for Nova Scotia, comes well-prepared to share his knowledge as the creator and presenter of cultural competency workshops for the province.
Feb. 24 sees an evening of jazz, blues and spoken word, featuring Maureen Washington Quartet and spoken word poet Scruffmouth at the Belfry Theatre (1291 Gladstone Ave.). The by-donation event, which features Karel Roessingh on piano, Joey Smith on bass and Damian Graham on drums, is expected to fill up quickly. Doors open at 6:30 p.m.
A dedicated group of about 30 society volunteers work closely with local immigrant groups including the African & Caribbean Students’ Association at the University of Victoria and the Inter-Cultural Association of Greater Victoria to welcome newcomers to the city.
Tickets to Leon Bibb are $35, including a wine bar and appetizers, are only available in advance at ticketrocket.org or by calling 250-590-6291.
For more information and a full listing of free Black History Month events, visit bcblackhistory.ca.