In the final instalment for Black History Month, we put the spotlight on ground breaking Black Canadians, who have used their art form or their platform to combat racism and social inequality. We chose four, out of many, who might spark interest to do your own research and learn more about Black Canadians who have made or are making an impact.
“Black history is not just for black people. Black history is Canadian history.” Jean Augustine was the first Black Canadian woman to serve as a federal Minister of the Crown and Member of Parliament. Ms. Augustine has been involved in many boards where her contribution expanded many social causes. She also served as the National President of the Congress of Black Women in Canada. Her work ethic and capacities were recognized by political leaders which resulted in the development and launch of Canada’s official multiculturalism policy in 1971. For more information on Jean Augustine go to: jeanaugustine.ca
“We must open the doors and we must see to it they remain open, so that others can pass through.” In 1956, Rosemary Brown helped in the founding of the British Columbia Association for the Advancement of Coloured People (BCAACP). Rosemary Brown was the first Black Canadian woman to become a member of a provincial legislature and the first woman to run for leadership of a federal political party in 1975. Politician, feminist, writer, educator, lecturer and mother, she has contributed much to B.C. and Canada. For more information on Rosemary Brown go to: bcblackhistory.ca/rosemary-brown
Deanna Bowen is an interdisciplinary artist and has been celebrated for a wide-ranging body of work. She received a Governor General’s Award in Visual and Media Arts in 2020. Her practice has been informed by intense archival research on racism in Canada, Black communities, and her own family history. In “The Klan Comes To Town,” Bowen recreated a 1965 CBC interview between Civil Rights activist Reverend James Bevel and two members of the Klu Klux Klan to challenge viewers to recognize the history of organized racism in Canada. Her writing, interviews and artworks have been published in Canadian Art, The Capilano Review, The Black Prairie Archives, and Transition Magazine. For more information on Deanna Bowen go to: deannabowmen.ca
Stan Douglas is from Vancouver, studied at Emily Carr, works out of Vancouver and Los Angeles and is an internationally recognized artist. Douglas is the first Black artist to create Canada’s official offering at the Venice Biennale. The images are not photojournalism, but elaborately produced reimaginings of real events, all of which took place in 2011. In 2011 ≠ 1848, Douglas links the protests of 2011 to the widespread upheaval of the 1848 “Springtime of Nations,” when bourgeois uprisings against the aristocracy erupted across Europe. But there are key differences: 1848 ultimately led to the formation of nation-states, “whereas the social inequality that fomented the 2011 protests — a ripple effect of the Great Recession from 2007 to 2009 — remains depressingly unresolved.”. While race is a consistent element in Douglas’s work, usually part of a larger exploration of post-colonialism, it’s not explicitly autobiographical. For more information on Stan Douglas go to: davidzwirner.com/artists/stan-douglas