In 2019 Vancouver city council voted to name eight West End laneways after local historical figures. One of the people who had a laneway named after them was Rosemary Brown – a prominent Black female community champion who filled many important roles throughout her life including politician, activist, writer, feminist, educator, and mother. The Young Ideas group decided to take time during this year’s Black History Month to honour Rosemary’s legacy by partnering with a local artist on a neighbourhood postering campaign.
The artist that the group worked with is Sade Alexis, a talented local Black artist and Emily Carr graduate who the Young Ideas group came to know through her beautiful portrait series – “Speaking To My Ancestors”.
Sade has a wonderful back catalogue of portraiture work that you can view on her Instagram @sade.b.alexis, as well as a solo exhibition “Safe Home Sarah” currently on view at the Cheeky Proletariat (located at 320 Carrall Street) with Black Arts Vancouver.
There can be a huge impact and power in using visual art to share and honour Black history. Sade expresses that her art is her activism, and the best way that she knows how to understand a person’s life and work. Black people living in Vancouver don’t always get to see a lot of Black faces around them, and through portraiture work Sade aims to make this experience less lonely. Some of the power of Sade’s portraiture work comes from its accessibility, as almost anyone can interact with her work and garner something from it.
Sade explains that while growing up she had believed the commonly heard myth of ‘there are no Black people in Vancouver’. Discovering the work of Rosemary Brown had been a comforting experience because it evidenced the existence of Vancouver’s Black community being heard, a community that has been here for many years and continues to be here today.
Sade considers Rosemary as somebody who paved the way for her to do what she does today, someone who made things possible for Vancouver’s Black community. Sade also shared a personal connection to Rosemary through her father, who years ago used to run in the same circles as her.
Of course Rosemary Brown is not the only Black person in Vancouver who did important work, and learning about Rosemary can be a good starting point for learning more of the Black history of Vancouver.
One last reflection from the artist of this piece was to remind viewers not to simply limit your engagement to Black History Month – support Black artists, support Black businesses, and learn Black history year round.
Sade will have some more cool projects coming up in the future, so be sure and follow her on Instagram to stay in the loop!
If you would like to get involved with this community postering campaign and display one of these posters in a public place in your apartment building then please contact firstname.lastname@example.org
If you see these posters up around the neighbourhood you can help to spread the word by snapping a picture and tagging us and the artist on social media.
Read more about Black history in the West End on our other blog post – the Joe Fortes story.
Last summer we posted some Anti-Racism Resources that included information on where you can learn, spend, and donate. Earlier this month we also posted some information on the origins of Black History Month in Canada.
Check out the website of Black Lives Matter Vancouver.