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Where are you really from? Stories on being Black in Vancouver
February 13 | 6:00 PM - 8:30 PMFree
What does it mean to be asked questions like this? Being Black in Vancouver holds something different for many people who grew up/live in this ethnically-diverse city. Join writers Chelene Knight, Juliane Okot Bitek, and Wayde Compton, artist Chantal Gibson, and special guest Randy Clark for a unique mash-up of stories on being Black in Vancouver.
Through art, the written word, and our personal stories … we can create space and understanding in about where we are REALLY from.
- Chelene Knight was born in Vancouver and is a graduate of The Writer’s Studio at SFU. In addition to being a workshop facilitator for teens, she is also a regular literary event organizer and host. She has been published in various Canadian and American literary magazines. Chelene is currently the Managing Editor at Room Magazine. Braided Skin, her first book (Mother Tongue, March 2015) has given birth to numerous writing projects including her second book, Dear Current Occupant (BookThug, 2018). She is a judge for the 2017 Vancouver Writer’s Festival Contest and currently working on a novel set in the Strathcona neighbourhood of Vancouver in the 1930s-50’s known as Hogan’s Alley.
- Wayde Compton writes fiction, non-fiction, and poetry. Three of his books have been finalists for the City of Vancouver Book Award. The Outer Harbour won the award in 2015. His book 49th Parallel Psalm (Arsenal Pulp, 1999) was a finalist for the Dorothy Livesay Prize. In 2002, Compton co-founded the Hogan’s Alley Memorial Project, an organization devoted to the public memory of Vancouver’s historical black community, and he presently serves as a member of the Northeast False Creek Stewardship Group. Compton is the Program Director of Creative Writing in
Continuing Studies at Simon Fraser University, where he administrates the Writer’s Studio.
- Juliane Okot Bitek is a poet and prose writer. She holds a Master’s Degree in English and a BFA in Creative Writing, and is currently a PhD student in the Interdisciplinary Students Graduate Program at the University of British Columbia’s Liu Institute for Global Issues. Her doctoral research focuses on the impact of social forgetting on citizenship through the exploration of the quiet story of a 1979 naval accident where several Ugandan exiles lost their lives. Her book, 100 Days (University of Alberta Press, 2016) is a poetic response to the twentieth anniversary of the 1994 genocide in Rwanda.
- Born in San Francisco, California, before moving to Vancouver with his mother and four siblings in 1965, Randy Clark’s genealogy reaches back to 1858 as the first group of black settlers (from Missouri via California) arrived in Victoria / Salt Spring Island, BC. Then a 12-year-old boy, Randy fondly recalls spending time working at his grandmother’s restaurant, the renown Vie’s Chicken and Steakhouse located for 30 years on Union Street in Hogan’s Alley. He describes Vie’s Chicken and Steakhouse as a popular, bustling and dynamic restaurant, where people from all different walks of life came to enjoy good food. Randy recounts on the presence of his Grandmother and Mother, noting their influence on customers that frequented the restaurant. Randy also lived in Hogan’s Alley during the 60s, and notes that while developmental pressures resulted in the physical deterioration of this area, Hogan’s Alley still remained a place where people were as friendly and giving as ever. A seasoned educator (retired) of the Vancouver school system, Randy continues to advocate for a broadened and more in-depth public understanding of Hogan’s Alley, such as with his involvement with the Hogan’s Alley Working Group.
- Chantal Gibson is an artist-educator living in Vancouver. Her work is inspired by her interest in the cultural production of knowledge. From her altered history book sculptures to multimedia installations, her goal is to explore and illustrate
social/political/cultural issues through the creative use of everyday objects and materials. Her work new, Souvenir, will be exhibited at the ROM in 2018. Chantal uses her artistic practice to promote discussion and critical inquiry in public forums, conferences and community facilitated workshops. She is currently working on her first book, a mixed-genre exploration of Black Canadian Women and the power of literacy. She teaches writing and design communication in the School of Interactive Arts & Technology at Simon Fraser University.