For Black History Month, a KPU Lecture Series is Examining Issues in the Black Community

Professors, artists, and activists will be speaking throughout the month of February

Dr. Leland Harper introduces KPU professor Dr. Amir Mirfakhraie before his talk on Feb 7. for KPU’s Black History Month speaker series. (Joseph Keller)

KPU philosophy professor Leland Harper hopes to encourage discourse and collaboration through his new speaker series for Black History Month.

The first event was held on the first day of February. Throughout the rest of the month, the series will feature discussions of issues relating to the Black community in the Lower Mainland and beyond.

“I think that something a lot of people in this area might not realize about this community is how rich the culture and history of Blacks in the Lower Mainland really is,” says Harper. “There’s a tongue-in-cheek perspective of, ‘Oh, there’s no Blacks in Vancouver,’ and that’s far from the truth. There is a rich history of Black communities in the Lower Mainland and [the lecture series] is kind of discussing that history and getting it out and getting something for young Blacks in this area to be proud of.”

Harper says that his main goals for the speaker series was to highlight the work that is being done in British Columbia, particularly in the Lower Mainland, on issues related to the Black community. He acknowledges that Black History Month does not get as much attention in Canada as it does in the United States, but hopes that the topics discussed at the series will encourage more interdisciplinary collaboration on racial issues by students, staff, and faculty at KPU.

The first talk in the series featured local artist and social activist Carline Jackson, who spoke about her role as a white woman in fighting for social causes that are typically prevalent in the Black community. She also spoke about how she has been able to use art as a catalyst for change.

Harper also spoke on Feb. 1 to explain the foundations of racial solidarity. He talked mainly about the Black community, but says that the concepts he mentioned apply to all racial communities.

“I spoke about how it’s getting more and more difficult to find that common thread that runs across all members of one race,” says Harper.

During the Feb. 7 event, KPU sociology professor Amir Mirfakhraie presented a comparative study of how Black people are represented in school textbooks across the Middle East and North America.

“I think it’s very important for all of us at Kwantlen to participate in these kind of activities and celebrations of Black culture and history, especially since, within the context of Canada, we really hardly ever learn about Black history,” says Mirfakhraie. “The inclusion of these topics as part of the culture of Kwantlen is important.”

The next talk in the series will take place on Feb. 23. Author and program director of creative writing at SFU Continuing Studies Wayde Compton will be at KPU to discuss racism in media and video games and how racism otherwise permeates culture.

Finally, Holly Andersen, a SFU associate professor in the philosophy department, will speak about intent and use regarding the naming of sports franchises on Feb. 28. Andersen will be using the ongoing debate over the name of the Simon Fraser Clansmen as an example of this issue on the local stage.