UBC student's fundraiser to create Vancouver Black Library smashes goal

Feb 10 2022, 11:09 pm

Vancouver’s Black and BIPOC communities will soon have a new space to learn and connect with each other, thanks to a new library being created by a driven UBC student.

Maya Preshyon recently launched a GoFundMe for Vancouver Black Library (VBL), a library and community hub run by Black organizers and dedicated to Black and BIPOC community members.


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“This is a space to not only sign out books for free but also to use as a study space, a chill space, a safe space,” said Preshyon to Daily Hive. “VBL will be a springboard for other initiatives like group therapy, workshops, childcare, art exhibitions, poetry readings, book clubs, and more. We will also have an online database of free digital versions of Black revolutionary texts and other critical readings available to everyone for free.

“Ultimately, in addition to connecting people to information, libraries connect people to people.”

The 20-year-old vice president of CiTR & Discorder (UBC’s campus radio station and magazine) was inspired to create VBL after connecting with local artist Simon Grefiel, a member of Vancouver’s Asian community.

Vancouver Black Library

Simon Grefiel (left) and Maya Preshyon, two of the organizers of Vancouver Black Library/Submitted

“As a social work student, an organizer in the arts scene and as a Black person, the desire to assess the infrastructural deficit was always there, but creating a cultural hub was beginning to feel like an impossibility. I didn’t know what angle to approach from,” said Preshyon, currently in her third year of Social Work and Indigenous studies at UBC “That was until Simon told me about Centre A: Vancouver International Centre for Contemporary Asian Art’s library.

“Simon used to catalogue books there and while doing so, he observed that it wasn’t just a library, it was a space that brought like-minded people together to hang out, meet one another and sometimes just chill. It was then that I realized a library would be the perfect communal hub for Vancouver’s Black community.”

VBL’s supporters on GoFundMe agree. In a little over two weeks, the fundraiser has more than doubled its initial goal of $6,000 and is currently at nearly $15,000 raised.

Preshyon and the VBL team, consisting of Grefiel and her roommates Nola and Natalie, have set a new funding goal of $35,000 to facilitate more programming, expand the future location and guarantee longevity by committing to a 12-month lease.

“VBL hopes to secure a location in proximity to historical Hogan’s Alley or around that area, though we are still avidly searching for a location,” explains Preshyon, who is of  Zimbabwean and Indigenous heritage. “Given that our largest priority is opening our doors to the public asap, we are open to exploring all location options in Vancouver. We hope to be open and operational in the spring or summer of this year.”

VBL is also accepting book donations to build a collection sizable enough to fill the library. The founders are accepting books from any genre in any condition, and have also created a wish list of books by Black and BIPOC authors.

Massy Books has created a book registry out of VBL’s wishlist items on their online bookstore where people can order directly to donate to the library.

Vancouver Black Library

Vancouver Black Library/Submitted

“My favourite part about VBL is that even as just a concept and a proposal, I’ve felt more optimism, connectedness and community than ever before in the last two weeks,” said Preshyon.

“Ever since the dismantling of Hogan’s Alley as a Black community hub in the ’70s, Vancouver’s Black community has been fragmented and disconnected. Vancouver has an almost unprecedented lack of infrastructure for the Black community. The effects of cultural isolation on a mental health level and even professional level are intense. When you don’t feel the support of your people and your community, you carry the weight of micro-aggressions, inequities and discrimination alone.

“VBL will be the community gathering place that has yet to fill the space that Hogan’s Alley occupied. The library will give the BIPOC population a stronger sense of connection and community. We will help form a stronger Black and BIPOC support network in Vancouver because everyone needs people to lean on and somewhere to feel uplifted.”

Daily Hive

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This content was created by Daily Hive's Community Partnerships team.
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