BC Non-Profit Housing Association joins everyone marking Black History Month this February. This is an occasion to celebrate the numerous and significant achievements that members of the Black community have made across society. It is also an opportunity for many to learn about the long-ignored legacy of Black people in Canada, a history that stretches back hundreds of years.
As an organization focused on strengthening the non-profit housing sector in the province, BC Non-Profit Housing Association’s work is underpinned by a commitment to principles of reconciliation, equity, diversity and inclusion. Examples of key actions arising from this commitment include amplifying the voices of those leading social justice and anti-racism movements, and providing educational programming that reflects the diversity of our sector and society. During Black History Month and throughout the year, we embrace the opportunity to celebrate the long legacy and positive contributions of Black Canadians, and show our support for racial equality.
•Mathieu Da Costa is the first known person of African heritage to have arrived in what is now Canada. An interpreter, he came in 1604 with a group of French explorers.
•From 1800 to 1865, the secret network known as the Underground Railroad enabled an estimated 30,000 Black people to come to Canada and escape slavery in the American South.
•Starting in the 1850s, hundreds of Black people fled racial animosity in the United States and settled in Victoria, Saanich and on Salt Spring Island. While the Black community still faced discrimination from white residents, many thrived in their new home.
•For much of the twentieth century, Hogan’s Alley was the vibrant centre and cultural hub of the Black and African diaspora community in Vancouver. The community was displaced in the decades leading up to the construction of the Georgia and Dunsmuir viaducts in 1972.
•Black History Month first received official recognition from the Government of Canada in 1995. This came following a motion introduced by the first Black Canadian woman elected to Parliament, Jean Augustine.
Here in BC, Black History Month is a particularly meaningful time to highlight the story of Hogan’s Alley, once the thriving hub of Vancouver’s Black and African diaspora community. The settlement’s origin has been dated to the early 1900s when many Black railway porters began to make it their home. Located between Union and Prior Streets from roughly Main Street to Jackson Avenue, the community was the site of landmarks including the African Methodist Episcopal Fountain Chapel and the legendary eatery Vie’s Chicken and Steak House.
By the early 1970s, Hogan’s Alley had been destroyed following decades of action by the local government that displaced the community. Housing was eventually razed to make way for road projects including a planned-but-never-built freeway and the construction of the Georgia and Dunsmuir viaducts.
More recently, the City of Vancouver has taken steps to redress the historical displacement while community advocates have fought for the opportunity to reclaim what was lost. In 2022, the Hogan’s Alley Society and the city reached a formal agreement that sets the stage for the creation of a community land trust that will restore the area with affordable housing and other amenities.
Events and Resources
Whether your prefer to connect with others or learn on your own, below is a list of events and online resources that we hope will help you participate in Black History Month. If you have any suggestions for information we should add, please email email@example.com.