“The history of Black people in Vancouver is storied, rich and complex and though representing less than 1% of the population, Black people’s presence rallies for visibility for over 40 years after the destruction of Vancouver’s only Black neighbourhood “Hogan’s Alley”. – Angela Marie MacDougall, Executive Director at BWSS
In commemoration of February as Black History Month 2019, BWSS presents a Vision of the Future.
Black Women’s Program at BWSS
by Theresa Thomas, MCP
When I was approached and asked if I wanted to create and coordinate a Black Women’s Program for BWSS, my initial feelings were a mixture of overwhelmed and excitement; however, my initial thoughts were of caution and insecurity. I knew I could do the work and put the program into practice, but I doubted that as a Black American woman I could connect to the priorities and perspectives of Black women living and raised in Canada. It was through conversations and encouragement from my ED that I realized the sad and wonderful truth; the universality of the Black Experience. It was clear to me that Black Women in Canada, including Vancouver, had the same abuses, marginalization’s, and invisibility as Black women in the US. And, the need was even greater because these issues went largely downplayed. Black Women in the lower mainland had a deep need for a space dedicated to Black Women and cultivated by Black Women; a place they could always go and see themselves represented.
In February 2017 the Black Women’s Program began with a Support Group named Standing on Points of Power: A group for Black Women. Standing on Points of Power, was a weekly group that met and discussed topics such as Identity, Pride, Strength and Vulnerability to name a few. We worked hard to establish a safe space for self-identified Black Women to come together and be perfectly imperfect, powerfully vulnerable, and share the precious wonderful gifts that are our life experiences. We were figuring things out as we went along, but the response from the women was very strong and powerful right from the start. When asked why they attend the group women stated,
“To occupy a safe space and share my experiences and relate to other Black Women” and “I wanted to connect with and learn more about what other Black Women in the lower mainland are feeling. My expectations were exceeded!”
Standing on Points of Power took a hiatus in 2017 and we hope to have it running again by the end of 2019. Expanding our reach and focus in 2018 the Black Women’s Program began hosting dedicated seasonal workshop experiences. In July 2018 Feeling While Black was a 4-week workshop experience that focused on the high emotional and mental cost of the Black Experience, and women were given tools to lessen that impact and embrace their lives and goals with two hands! In September 2018 we hosted I’m a Black Girl, and My Magic is for ME! this workshop also ran for 4 weeks, and women spent time understanding that the qualities and traits that are often under attack by the outside world, are precisely the “Magic” we own outright and it makes us unique and powerful. Women learned how to defend and harness their Magic for their own purposes.
The feedback we received from the women was incredible!
“This group is awesome!! I wish it was long-term having this sort of community is amazing. Thanks Theresa!!”
“I feel at peace, I am really happy I found this group and got to attend. So much truth and freedom and safety in this space.”
“I’ve got so much to write in my journal when I get home! I feel significantly less tension in my body. Grateful for this.”
“I enjoy coming to these groups. They definitely brighten my day. It’s like armour before you head out into the world”
“If you want to reconnect with your magic this is the place to be”
In 2019 the Black Women’s Program will continue with seasonal workshops and seek to restart Standing on Points of Power, as demand dictates. The seasonal workshops will kick off in March with Chocolate High: A Journey into Self, a Pathway to Self-Love. This workshop experience will allow women to journey into their lived experiences and identify barriers to loving and valuing themselves. Women will receive tools to root-out those barriers and replace them with the truth of their worth and value. This workshop is a love story of self. It will run Wednesday evenings from 6-8pm every Wednesday in March. Registration is free and interested participants can call 604-687-1867 the BWSS crisis line and express their interest.
This has been a wonderous journey, connecting with Black Women and seeing what we create together when safety is factor and when visibility is not a liability has, thus far, been one of my life’s outstanding joys!
Theresa Thomas was born and raised in Houston, Texas. Since moving to Vancouver in 2012, Theresa has committed herself to being an a passionate advocate and support for people seeking freedom from abuse and societal oppression. Theresa is a Stopping The Violence Counsellor at Battered Women’s Support Services, and coordinates the Black Women’s Program at BWSS.
Black Girl Magic Workshops at SFU: Workshop Centering Self Love for Black Women and mix raced women.
Tuesdays, February 12 and 19, March 5 and 12
4:00pm to 7:00pm each day at SFSS Women’s Center, TC 3014
We will come together in a safer space for Black Women to discuss the dynamics of Identity; and the Beautiful, Powerful, Magical gifts that Black women received as a generational inheritance. We will provide mutual support, tell our truths, and gain skills for empowerment and self-representation.
Black History Month 2019 with VIFF
This series is curated by Barbara Chirinos in partnership with VIFF Vancity Theatre’s Tom Charity.
This year’s program includes a free all-ages screening of the animated classic Kirikou and the Sorceress
The ground-breaking queer love story Rafiki, a film which had a constitutional impact in its native Kenya.
Acclaimed Oscar short-listed documentary Hale County this Morning, This Evening.
An African superhero movie you need to see, Supa Modo.
Concert documentary Jimi Hendrix– Electric Church.
A rousing slam poetry doc – followed by a poetry slam in the Vancity Theatre atrium! – Don’t Be Nice!
A film about the first African American woman to run for President of the United States, Chisholm ‘72, Unboundand Unbossed.
Spike Lee’s Blackkklansman.
Afro-futurist classic Sankofa.
From the Archives