‘We are not a monolith’: New study sheds light on diversity of B.C.’s Black community
When Simon Fraser University researcher Alice Mũrage first moved from Kenya to British Columbia four years ago, she said she longed to connect with other black people of African descent. .
This desire, along with her research experience, inspired her to bring together Black stories in a report to show the diversity of the province’s Black community.
Inner Worlds: Diverse Histories, Identities, and Experiences of Black African Descent in Eastern British Columbia now available to the publicand Mũrage says she hopes that by reading it people will learn about the nuances within the community, as black people are often categorized as a large group.
“We’re not a monolith. We’re so diverse,” Mũrage said.
The study will be featured at the virtual event, African Ancestry Dialogue II, on Saturday, with a discussion led by Mũrage, creating space for study participants and other members of the black community to unpack the results of the project and continue to share their experiences.
According to Statistics Canada, blacks make up approximately one percent of the total population of British Columbia.
Although the community is small, Adelle Sium – one of the event’s discussion leaders – says it’s important for black people not to let this hold them back as they fight for fairness and justice. inclusion.
Growing up in Vancouver, Sium says she was often the only black child in a class and felt like she had to represent the entire black community, even though she wasn’t related to many other black people in Vancouver. diverse backgrounds.
Sium, who is a first-generation Eritrean Canadian, says her involvement in the project has made her proud of her identity.
“That part of my identity constitutes my thoughts, my world, my spirit, my contributions to almost everything I do,” she said.
Diverse histories, identities and experiences
Mũrage partnered with the BC Black History Awareness Society in 2019 to apply for the BC Multiculturalism and Antiracism Grant, which supports projects that build cross-cultural understanding and challenge racism and systemic barriers. They got the scholarship in 2020.
The study features the stories, identities and experiences of 162 participants, shared through a survey. About 25% of this group agreed to participate in further interviews and focus group discussions.
Forty community reviewers, including Sium, provided feedback ahead of the report’s release.
The nearly 200-page document has three main chapters: diverse histories, diverse identities, and diverse experiences.
Through personal anecdotes, the report shows how black people have experienced racism, how they choose to identify, and the spaces in which they feel they do or do not belong.
One example that emerges from Mũrage is how some people, mostly from African countries, do not identify as black. According to the study, it was not until they moved to Canada that their skin color was used as an “identity marker”.
“There’s a lot of power in storytelling…that’s what it’s all about, it’s telling stories and sharing our truth,” she said.
Mũrage says she is talking with a few study participants about using the results to write a children’s book and produce educational videos.
“It’s pretty exciting to see the community engagement this project has brought.”
For more stories about the experiences of Black Canadians — from anti-Black racism to stories of success within the Black community — check out Being Black in Canada, a CBC project that Black Canadians can be proud of. You can read more stories here.