New series at KPU in Surrey tackles racial discrimination, remembers black history

SURREY — In recognition of two major global events, Kwantlen Polytechnic University (KPU) students and faculty have launched a series aimed at the celebration, reflection and understanding of African heritage.

The Black History and Elimination of Racial Discrimination Series (BHERDS) will run events throughout February and March to mark Black History Month, and the United Nation’s International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (March 21).

Events in the series include a Black History film fest (Feb. 16-17), a Black History Month Confab and Cultural Show (Feb. 18) and an ongoing student poster showcase on black inventors.

“The BHERDS provides a timely opportunity to shed a spotlight on the humble beginnings of Black History Month, which celebrates 20 years of being officially recognized by Canada this February,” said Dr. Charles Quist-Adade, who began organizing the confab on an ad-hoc basis with his sociology students in 2007.

To ensure continuity, he decided to formalize the event, which expanded through collaboration with the Students of Colour Collective and KPU’s Department of History.

“The two events our series recognizes are worthy of observing by virtue of their historical significance and their wide-ranging impact on people everywhere. They remind us of ‘man’s inhumanity to man,’ but also of the human spirit that withstands adversity, that fights oppression,” he added. ”For KPU students, faculty and the general public, the BHERDS will fill gaps in knowledge and provide new information about the history, achievements and challenges of people of African heritage.”

The cultural show – themed “celebrating and reflecting black achievements and challenges” – will feature speakers with topics on the significant contributions of people of African heritage in all areas of human endeavour, from science to art to humanities.

The entire series aims to provide a platform for educating the KPU community and general public on the histories, contemporary relevance and future trajectories of both Black History Month and the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination.

“As recent events in Ferguson, Missouri and New York City remind us, racially-based violence remains a critical issue in the present time. This series brings to life the struggles of the civil rights movement, and relates them to contemporary issues of race, gender and identity in a postcolonial world,” said Dr. Tracey Kinney, chair of KPU’s history department and co-organizer of the series.

More than 500 people are expected to attend BHERDS events. The series is sponsored by KPU’s Department of History, the Kwantlen Student Association and the student-led Kwantlen Public Interest Research Group.

The Black History Month Confab and Cultural Show is planned for Wednesday, Feb. 18 from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. at the Conference Centre, KPU Surrey (12666 72nd Ave.) and, in the evening hours, at Fir Building room 128, KPU Surrey.

Keynote speakers include Dr. Handel Kashope Wright, currently director of the Centre for Culture, Identity and Education at UBC. He has been Canada Research Chair of Comparative Cultural Studies and David Lam Chair of Multicultural Education.

Also featured are Dr. Annette Henry, with UBC’s Department of Language and Literacy Education, where she specializes in race, culture, language and gender in education, and Elaine Brown, an Oakland-based prisoners’ rights activist and former chairperson of the Black Panther Party.

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