“A people without the knowledge of their past history, origin and culture is like a tree without roots.”
Marcus Mosiah Garvey, Jr.
MARCUS GARVEY (17 August 1887 – 10 June 1940), was a proponent of Black Nationalism in Jamaica and more prominently in the United States. He was called “The Black Moses” and is largely remembered as an advocate for education and self-reliance. We believe his life and this quote embodies the essence of our predecessors and the BC Black History Awareness Society, today and tomorrow.
The BC Black History Awareness Society had its beginnings in the mid-70’s as the Victoria Black Peoples Society (VBPS). Their desire was to bring together people who not only had an interest in BC’s Black History; they were also looking for a community to develop and nurture an interest in Black History for their children. A major achievement of the VBPS is the document "Blacks in British Columbia: a catalogue of information and sources of information pertaining to Blacks in B.C."
VBPS secured funding from the then Department of the Secretary of State Student Community Service Programme. The “catalogue” is 11 chapters, 230 pages with hundreds of references to Canadian, Provincial, and International books, articles, manuscripts and newspapers from across the Province dating back to 1858 … and amazingly this was a summer project, completed in just 15 weeks – all typed on a Smith Corona Typewriter. The original document is housed at the UVIC Archives. Read the Preface and Acknowledgement.
In 2017 the BCBHAS undertook a project to digitize the catalogue; it is presented largely in its original format with the 11 chapters. It is searchable and can be found here as Information Sources
Becoming BCBHAS: In June, 1993 a number of people from the community that included business persons, academics, artists and students, met to address a request from the Royal BC Museum to plan, organize and co-host a number of events that would serve to celebrate Black History Month in February 1994.
The committee called itself "The Black History Special Event Advisory Committee". The events were successful with over 5000 people attending. This success was the impetus for several committee members to want tot continue this work. THye applied for Society status and on on March 18, 1994 the BC Black History Awareness Society received a Certificate of Incorporation.
However, the group was un-able to sustain the desired level of interest, but in the in early 2000's it was re-invigorated and on January 6, 2006 the organization was re-incorporated as the BC Black History Awareness Society as we know it today.
Fulfilling Our Purpose
- Hosting public events throughout the year. The variety of events and activities, the speakers, their credentials and topics, recognizes the breadth and depth of the interests of our members and those who support us. These public events include
- Recognizing and Celebrating People and Historic Moments through Recognition, Commemorative Plaques and Refurbishing Grave markers.
- Arts and Culture with Concerts, Art Exhibits, Films.
- Speaker Series – the society hosts 3 or 4 Speaker Events each year on topics that are of local, national and international interest.
- Black History Month
- Education and Awareness
- Working directly with educators in the classroom and at libraries.
- For many years the Society has been working directly with teachers as well as through the Greater Victoria Public Library delivering presentations that are approximately 45 minutes in length. The schools, more than 17 since 2011 in 30 classrooms, are middle schools as well as high schools throughout the Greater Victoria area and the Saanich Peninsula. In 2017 the Society also worked with the Royal BC Museum Home Learners program to deliver this program to children ages 8 to 11.
- Working with community organizations to provide forums for knowledge acquisition and understandings
- Working with Youth to encourage them through the promotion of Black history, culture and identity.
- The Society also helps to support students financially, through the Rosie Jones and Joan Cook Memorial Bursary that is administered by Camosun College
- Working directly with educators in the classroom and at libraries.
- This website which offers a rich learning environment for educators, students, researchers and historians.
- Our facebook page focuses on events delivered by our Society and other community events that are of interest to our members.
Recognizing and Celebrating People and Historic Moments.
The Society works in partnership with local, provincial and federal organizations to remember, commemorate and recognize individuals who made and continue to make individual and collective contributions.
|May 2018: Mifflin Wistar Gibbs Study Room opened at Greater Victoria Public Library sxʷeŋxʷəŋ təŋəxʷ James Bay Branch.|
|April 9, 2017: To mark the 100th anniversary of the First World War and the Battle of Vimy Ridge commemorative events were held at the Victoria Armoury on Bay Street. The Society's display featured Pte. Robert Burt Gilbert who joined the 2nd Canadian Mounted Rifles in Victoria and was with the 103rd Battalion at Vimy Ridge in 1917.|
|February 19, 2017 Gibbs Commemorative Plaque Unveiled in Victoria: Gibbs was honored with a bronze plaque commissioned by Canada’s Historic Sites and Monuments Board; and unveiled as part of B.C. Black History Month 2017. The plaque commemorates Gibbs as a person of National Historic Significance per the following: August 4, 2009 Government of Canada recognizes the historical significance of Mifflin Wistar Gibbs. "Our government is proud to honor a man who worked tirelessly for the local Black Community as a politician, businessman, and defender of human rights." said Minister Prentice. "With today's commemoration, we take another step in bringing the national historic significance of Mifflin Wistar Gibbs to all Canadians"|
|November 18, 2016: City of Victoria proclaims November 18, 2016 as Mifflin Wistar Gibbs Day to commemorate his election to Victoria City Council in 1856. The event included a reception at Victoria City Hall hosted by the mayor. Guests gathered at Victoria City Hall to welcome Mifflin Gibbs back to Victoria; he was here on a book tour to promote his book “Shadow and Light”. Gibbs was portrayed by local actor/play-writer Justin Carter, who delivered a compelling and entertaining performance recounting Gibbs’ time here in Victoria. The “book tour” was co-sponsored by the BC Black History Awareness Society, Victoria City Council and the Community Anniversary Grant from Heritage Canada.|
|January 2015: Abraham Lincoln Legacy Citizen Engagement Project was undertaken with the Province’s Intergovernmental Relations Secretariat, Office of the Premier. The website was moderated by Sam Sullivan, MLA for False Creek and was active from January 31st to February 28th. The site was visited by over 1800 people from B.C. as well as some visitors from the United States. The final letter and attachments were sent to the Abraham Lincoln digital museum and are part of the permanent collections. Read the letter|
|August 16, 2014: The unveiling of the grave markers for Charles and Nancy Alexander took place on Saturday, August 16th at 2:00pm sponsored by Karen Hoshal with some assistance from family members|
|Feb 9, 2014: Unveiling of a plaque at “Dandridge Heritage House” in Victoria. Black Pioneers Charlotte and John Dandridge originally occupied the house from 1861 to 1871. The event was a cooperative effort by the Society and the current owners of the home.|
|February 26, 2011: The unveiling of the grave markers for Corinthia and daughter Eva Alexander, two of Victoria's early citizens. In 1858 the Pierre and Alexander families immigrated to Victoria to start lives free from the unjust treatment of Blacks in San Francisco at that time. These two families were brought together through the marriage of their children: Corinthia Pierre and Thomas Alexander. Thomas and Corinthia had seven children between 1888 and 1907. These children and their descendants now represent six generations containing at least 170 individuals|
|Feb 26, 2011: The BC Black History Awareness Society, in partnership with Canada Post, hosted a commemorative stamp launch for Ferguson Jenkins and Carrie Best Stamps. Jenkins is a Canadian baseball star who also spent most of his career in the U.S, inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame in the U.S. and the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame, Order of Canada member and youth advocate. Carrie Best, born, raised and worked in Nova Scotia is distinguished as Order of Canada recipient, Doctor of Laws in English (LLD), human rights activist, author, journalist, publisher and broadcaster; founder of “The Clarion”,the first black-owned newspaper published in Nova Scotia.|
|February 20, 2000: The arrival of the Black Pioneers to B.C. in 1858 was designated as a National Historic Event (link to Why They Came> on September 22, 1997. This plaque was commissioned by the Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada and was unveiled on February 20, 2000 at the Shady Creek United Church located at 7180 East Saanich Road.|
Arts and Culture
The Society hosts and co-sponsors a variety of Arts and Culture events throughout the year including concerts, films and exhibits.
|Belfry Theatre and Metro Theatre: The Society hosts concerts and shows that showcase local and B.C. blues, jazz, rock and spoken word artists.|
|Leon Bibb at Government House, The concert was hosted by then Lieutenant Governor, the Honourable Judith Guichon. The event was also a celebration of Leon’s 92nd Birthday.|
|Art Exhibit of the works of Grafton Tyler Brown in partnership with UVIC and the UVIC Legacy Art Gallery. Brown was a cartographer, lithographer, and landscape painter. The 1st professional Black artist, working and living in the Pacific North West, British Columbia and California.|
“For Jackson – A Time Capsule” at the Art Gallery of Greater Victoria. This moving portrait incorporates interviews, family footage and archival materials to recount history through two grandmothers, Rosemary Brown (1930-2003) and Ruth Horricks-Sujir (born 1925). The documentary is intended as a time capsule for Jackson, their 7-year-old grandson.
“Mighty Jerome” about athletic great Harry Jerome with producer Selwyn Jacob introducing the film and leading a discussion about the making of this film.
“Go Do Some Great Thing” recounts the arrival of the Black pioneers to British Columbia from San Francisco in 1858. With introduction and discussion led by producer Anthony Brown. The film is based on the book by Crawford Kilian.
Black History Month
Black History Month is an opportunity for the Society to not just tell the story of the earliest pioneers; the Society also helps to create new stories for contemporary pioneers in today’s world. Annual favorites are Heritage Day, “the Concert” and a tour of the Ross Bay Cemetery. Our posters reveal the breadth of events and activities that appeal to a broad audience. Find out more about "the history of Black History Month" and how the Society celebrates today.