The Black Canadian Studies Association (BCSA) will make history later this month when it hosts the first international conference looking at the Black Canadian experience.
The conference, “Where are you from? Reclaiming the Black presence in Canada,” takes place at Brock University in St. Catharines, from Friday, May 24 to Sunday, May 26.
The Right Honorable Michaëlle Jean, former Governor General of Canada, will deliver the conference’s keynote address on the value of advancing Black Studies in Canada and its importance for intercultural dialogue and understanding. Her talk takes place Friday, May 24 in Market Hall from 6 to 8 p.m. and is free and open to the public.
The multi-disciplinary BCSA conference has attracted more than 60 international academic researchers, educational practitioners and scholar-artists who will present their work on a broad range of topics in the field of Black Canadian Studies. The event is also expected to draw more than 400 guests and conference participants to Niagara.
The event is important for promoting research and sharing knowledge about the diversity and complexity of the Black Canadian experience. The conference will contribute to the dialogue about the affirmative evolution of African Canadians in Canada and the challenges they and Canada face.
“African Canadians have, for centuries, contributed significantly to the enrichment of the Canadian experience and the development of Canada,” says Brock sociology professor Tamari Kitossa, BCSA secretary and conference organizer.
“The African Canadian presence is treated ambivalently, moving from reluctant recognition to erasure from the national memory,” he says. “More often than not, African Canadians are framed as ‘newcomers’ or worse, seen as a ‘social problem.’
“This conference has implications to clarify these kinds of public misconceptions and more positively affect public policy in Canada.”
Some of the wide-ranging topics that will be covered at the conference include Africentric schooling, Black/Indigenous relationships, the re-emergence of ‘black face’ minstrelsy, queering Black Canadian studies, Black masculinity and hyper-sexualization, gender and Black women’s empowerment, as well as other issues in areas like religion, health, youth, criminal justice, spoken word and hip-hop.
“This historic conference recovers and celebrates diverse branches of Black knowledge that previously have been subjugated,” says Afua Cooper, noted historian, co-chair of the BCSA and the James R. Johnston Chair in Black Canadian Studies at Dalhousie University. “It also places Black Canadian Studies at the cutting edge of Canadian scholarship”