Afro Van Connect seeks positive space for Black creative community

Jun 17 2020, 8:53 am

Afro Van Connect will host a virtual Black Space Symposium, bringing artists and professionals together to explore new approaches of community building and development. The main goal of the event is to raise funds in support of creating safe, sustainable spaces for people of African descent.

The local arts and culture organization has scheduled the symposium for July 23 to 25. Tickets will cost from $45 to $100, with all proceeds going directly to assist in creating the infrastructure and spaces needed to support the Black community in the province.

In the wake of the Black Lives Matter marches and protests around the world, the need for positive spaces for people of African descent is extremely critical.

The group formally met at The Pace community centre, which has since been forced to shut down permanently, leaving Afro Van Connect in search of a new location.

 

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“Cultural spaces are super vital to creatives, artists and entrepreneurs who are just starting out within our community. It’s very valuable for us to start to build and create the type of spaces that we want to be a part of in the city of Vancouver,” said Deanna Shields, founder and executive director of Afro Van Connect.

Since the group started in 2019, the programs they have created during that time have evolved, catering to the growing and changing needs of the Black community.

Some of the programs include Creative Wealth, which focuses on entrepreneurship, Black Space Media workshops where people of African descent can get access to equipment to record and write, the Wisdom Cypher, which focuses on tapping into diaspora authentic voices, and many others.

 

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“We were able to create programming in our shared spaces that are specific to our community and our demographics. One of our newest initiatives is the Legacy Grow Collective, where people of African descent can come and practice afro-indigenous farming practices. This is a space where we can offer healing to the land and also healing to ourselves and our community through growing traditional herbs and foods,” she said.

Afro Van Connect has not had a space of its own and usually meets in shared spaces of other organizations. Shields said she understands the need to connect with other groups is important in order to move the vision forward.

“We have been doing a lot of work in connecting our community with other communities, that’s been a really important piece in inspiring collaborations. We have connected with the Jewish community, the Downtown Eastside community, and the list goes on. We have connected with these communities in order to create these Black spaces,” she explains.

 

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While support from these other community allies has been welcomed, Kor Kase, cofounder and director of Afro Van Connect, said there were still some limitations.

“Those spaces have limitations in how we show up. As generous as those individuals were and how grateful we were, there were still limitations on how we utilized the space. Ultimately for our community, we know we need autonomy to define our own environment, our own experience, and the desire to promote healing and expression and community building,” said Kase.

Kase said the history of spaces in Vancouver for people of African descent has been sparse, with minimal opportunities for people to come together. With the Black Lives Matter movement gaining momentum across Canada, he said the Black Space Symposium is an opportunity to reach those who could not be reached before, as the need for visibility has become even more clear.

“There’s a power that happens when we come together and if you want to make change consistently, you need to have a consistent space. When we look at Black Lives Matter and the issues that were discussed, I think being and belonging, the ability for people of African descent to just express themselves in a space, is being infringed upon. So the necessity of having spaces where we can be, is essential.”

Tickets for the Black Spaces Symposium are available online,  with all proceeds going directly to assist in creating the infrastructure and spaces needed to support the Black community in the province.

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