Recognizing and Celebrating People and Historic Events

The Society works in partnership with local, provincial, and federal organizations to remember, commemorate, and recognize individuals, groups and events. Since it's inception the Society has held more than 15 ceremonies and celebrations. Annual recognition events during Black History Month include Heritage Day, the Ross Bay Cemetery Tour and the Shady Creek Church Service.

Heritage Day

This is an annual event held in February.  The event includes displays, information, artifacts and an opportunity to meet and talk with members of our Society and representatives from other societies including Old Cemeteries Society, Saanich Pioneers Society, Victoria Genealogical Society.  There is also a guest speaker, entertainment and refreshments.

gravemaker

Ross Bay Cemetery Tour

This is an annual event held in February.  It is a guided tour of the graves of pioneers and others who played a role in the migration of Blacks to B.C. in 1858 including Sir James Douglas.  The tour is co-hosted by Valin Marshall, previously a Director and now a life-time member of our Society, and John Adams, owner and operator of Discover the Past Tours.

Shady Creek Church in Central Saanich

Church Service at Central Saanich United Church, formerly Shady Creek Church.

This is an annual event held in February.  The Service is led by Karen Hoshal, a Director with our Society and a direct descendant of Charles and Nancy Alexander who made their first home in Saanichton. Charles helped build the original church and was the first Preacher. Tea, coffee and home-made baked goods are available after the service.  Charles and Nancy Alexander, some descendants and other Black Pioneers including Fielding Spotts are buried in the Shady Creek Church cemetery directly behind the church.  The  plaque commemorating the arrival of the Black Pioneers in 1858, commissioned by the Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada is also located here.

"Art at the Archives"

June 25, 2019: Grafton Tyler Brown was a cartographer, lithographer, and landscape painter; the 1st professional Black artist, working and living in the Pacific North West as well as British Columbia and California. He had a studio at the corner of Wharf and Johnson Streets circa 1883.  In March 2018 the Royal BC Museum, with the assistance of the Friends of the BC Archives, purchased one of Brown’s paintings; Giant's Castle Mountain: A.L. Fortune's Farm, Enderby B.C.; dated October 6, 1882.

This painting was displayed along with other artifacts (photographs, images, documents) related to the Black Pioneers. The BC Black History Awareness Society hosted this event in partnership with the BC Archives and the Friends of the BC Archives. Why June 25th? It was June 25th, 1883 when Brown opened a 1 week art exhibit here in Victoria. Find out more about G.T. Brown.

Mifflin Gibbs Commemorative Plaque in Irving Park, Victoria

Plaque Unveiling for Mifflin Wistar Gibbs - Person of National Historic Significance.

May 4, 2019: Mifflin Wistar Gibbs was honoured by the Government of Canada on August 4, 2009 with these words: “Our government is proud to honour a man who worked tirelessly for the local Black community as a politician, businessman, and defender of human rights.” A plaque was then commissioned by Canada’s Historic Sites and Monuments Board, and was presented to our Society in February 2017. Following some restoration/landscaping work in the park, the City of Victoria installed the plaque in January 2019.
Why Irving Park? Gibbs’ home and estate was situated at this location. It is believed the land was sold to Captain John Irving who then built another home there circa 1884; which was also demolished circa 1929. The City of Victoria then purchased this land and established "James Bay Park" in 1944. In 1981 it was re-named "Irving Park". Dr. Verna Gibbs, great-great grandniece travelled from San Francisco to attend this event.

Verna Gibbs, grandniece of Mifflin Wistar Gibbs steps into the Mifflin Wistar Gibbs Study Room

Opening of the Mifflin Wistar Gibbs Community Room.

May 26, 2018: This community room was opened at the newly built Greater Victoria Public Library sxʷeŋxʷəŋ təŋəxʷ James Bay Branch. Dr. Verna Gibbs, great-great grandniece traveled from San Francisco to attend this event.

To mark the 100th anniversary of the First World War and the Battle of Vimy Ridge.

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.

Mifflin Wistar Gibbs "Person of National Historic Significance" commemorative plaque presented by Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada.

February 19, 2017: Mifflin Wistar Gibbs was honored with a bronze plaque commissioned by Canada’s Historic Sites and Monuments Board; and presented 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".  " On the far right of the photo is Dr. Yvonne Brown, Lecturer (2006), Faculty of Education, University of British Columbia who prepared the initial submission.

Welcome Home Mifflin Gibbs event

Mifflin Wistar Gibbs Day

November 18, 2016: The City of Victoria proclaimed 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.

Abraham Lincoln Legacy Citizen Engagement Project

Abraham Lincoln Legacy Citizen Engagement Project

January -February 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

Grave markers for Charles and Nancy Alexander

August 16, 2014: The unveiling ceremony took place at Central Saanich United Church, formerly the Shady Creek Church.  The refurbishment was paid for by Karen Hoshal with some assistance from family members. Karen Hoshal, a Director with our Society, is a direct descendant of Charles and Nancy Alexander who made their first home in Saanichton. Charles helped build the original church and was the first Preacher. The  plaque commemorating the arrival of the Black Pioneers in 1858, commissioned by the Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada is also located here.

Dandridge Heritage House

Unveiling of the plaque at Dandridge House

February 9, 2014: 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. In 2006, after being meticulously restored by the current owners; they won both Hallmark Society and Heritage Society of BC awards for their work.

Grave maker for Corinthia (nee Pierre) Alexander and daughter Eva

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  were part of the migration to Victoria in 1858. 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 represent six generations of at least 170 individuals.

Commemorative Stamp Launch for Fergie Jenkins and Carrie Best Feb 26, 2011

Launch for "Fergie" Jenkins and Carrie Best  commemorative stamps in partnership with Canada Post

February 26, 2011: The BC Black History Awareness Society, in partnership with Canada Post, hosted this commemorative stamp launch. Ferguson 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.

Grave marker for Nancy and Peter Lester

February 2002:  Nancy and Peter Lester were both staunch supporters of the abolitionist movement in the United States.  However they joined the migration of Blacks to Victoria in 1858.  Peter Lester, though seemingly living a quiet life, he was well-known in Victoria and respected partner in the firm of “Lester and Gibbs” - a business that is said to have rivaled the Hudson’s Bay Company in colonial Fort Victoria. In 1860, he was the first Black to sit as a juror.

Plaque Commemorating the arrival of Black Pioneers in 1858

The arrival of the Black Pioneers in 1858 is designated as a "National Historic Event"

February 20, 2000: The arrival of the Black Pioneers to B.C. in 1858 was designated as a National Historic Event on September 22, 1997. This plaque was then 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.   The plaque states "In 1858, nearly 800 free Blacks left the oppressive racial conditions of San Francisco for a new life on Vancouver Island. Governor James Douglas had invited them here as promising settlers. Though still faced with intense discrimination, these pioneers enriched the political, religious and economic life of the colony..."    Read more about Why They Came

Rebecca Gibbs Gravemarker at the Ross Bay Cemetery

Grave marker for Rebecca Gibbs

This grave marker was erected by the Victoria Black Peoples Society, a forerunner of BCBHAS, in partnership with the Old Cemeteries Society. Rebecca Gibbs was a laundress and nurse but is most remembered for her poems and is considered one of Canada's first Black female poets. While she spent much of her life in the Cariboo she is buried at the Ross Bay Cemetery. One side of the grave marker bears her most famous poem “The Old Red Shirt”.