Past RWWP Events 2008-2009

New Books by Afua Cooper

Congratulations to Dr. Afua Cooper, who has written two new books!

My Name is Henry Bibb
By Afua Cooper

Kids Can Press (2009)

Often shocking, always compelling, Afua Cooper's novel is based on the life of Henry Bibb, an American slave who after repeated attempts escaped in 1841 to become an anti-slavery speaker, author and founder of a Black newspaper. Cooper takes painstakingly researched details about slavery and weaves an intimate story of Bibb's young life, which is overshadowed by inconceivable brutality.

At nine years old, Henry is separated from his mother and brothers and hired out, suffering abuse at the hands of cruel masters so severe he almost dies. Henry's courageous life is described in intimate detail and young readers will learn about everyday slave life on a plantation and in towns and cities, the coded language of slave escapes and the dangerous routes over land and water to safe houses.

As Henry Bibb moves from boyhood to manhood, he knows that one day he will “fly away” as in the old legend of the Africans who flew away to freedom. The first-person narrative, convincingly told in Henry's voice, traces Bibb's boyhood, marriage, fatherhood and the developing awareness of his bondage and his determination to break free of it or die.

My Name is Phyllis Wheatley
By Afua Cooper

Kids Can Press (2009)

This is the remarkable story of Phillis Wheatley, who is born into an African family of griots, or storytellers, but captured by slave raiders and forced aboard a slave ship, where appalling conditions spell death for many of her companions. Numerous sharks follow the ship, feeding on the corpses of slaves thrown overboard.

Weakened by the voyage and near death in a Boston slave market, Wheatley is bought by a kind family who nurses her back to health and teaches her to read and write. Soon her mistress recognizes that the girl is a quick learner and talented. At the age of 12, a torrent of poetry begins to flow out of Wheatley. Proud of her achievements, her mistress organizes readings in Boston's finest parlors and drawing rooms, and Wheatley's fame spreads.

But even when many in Boston are calling her a prodigy and a genius, some remain unsure that a slave should be able to write, much less write poetry. When Phillis travels to London she is a media sensation, feted by the cream of English society. A book of her poems is published, and she finally gains her freedom.

This amazing story, wide in scope, is based on fact and told convincingly from young Wheatley's point of view.

Report on the RWWP Workshop:  Knowledge Production and the Black Experience

Friday, May 1 to Sunday, May 3, 2009

Segal School of Business, 2300 - 500 Granville St. Vancouver, BC

Dr. Cooper’s Academic Workshop (by invitation) was a sponsored event which explored the trajectory of the study of Black peoples in Canada. The scholarly inquiry of the Black portion of the Canadian population has experienced much growth. Yet, there has not been a workshop on the theme of Black Studies since 1990 --- until now.

Scholars and community activists from various parts of Canada, the United States, and the United Kingdom voted unanimously to form the Black Canadian Studies Association (BCSA).

Here are some comments from Dr. Cooper about the success of the workshop: “A big thank you for attending the Black Studies workshop and for all your hard work. Everyone contributed vastly and made the workshop a success. It was my pleasure to host the meeting and though we know that we must now roll up our sleeves and begin the work of making the association viable, we know such work will be done with pleasure. Yes, we formed an association and it is called Black Canadian Studies Association. …I was nominated Chair (and accepted) of the Association and Charmaine Nelson of McGill and Charles Quist-Adade of Kwantlen University are the Vice-Chairs.

Greg Tourino (of SFU) [has set]1 up the listserv and already has created a blog on WordPress []. …Thank you Greg. I have also heard from Marie-Claude Levert of Canadian Studies at St. Jean College at U of Alberta and she is interested in hosting the next meeting. I thanked her and gave her Jennifer Kelly's e-dress, as Jennifer (of same university) had indicated that she would be interested in hosting the next meeting (for 2010). As important, Marie-Claude reiterated her offer to devote a 2010 issue of International Journal of Canadian Studies to Black Canadian Studies. I am therefore asking people to seriously think about this. Some people had indicated that they would develop the papers they wrote for the workshop and submit to the journal. Others wanted to write a new essay. Whatever the plan, I will be contacting people shortly (again) about this issue. Further, Charles Quist-Adade has written an article on the workshop for the Patriotic Vanguard [found at /2009/05/vancouver_black.php]. …Thanks Charles.

I have been getting queries from Black Canada scholars in the United States on the Association. They learnt about it through the notice sent out by the International Council for Canadian Studies. These scholars would like to join the Association.”There was a published article at The Afro News. Another article was submitted by Joy Walcott-Francis and published by

The Afro News. Furthermore, Mr. Honore Gbedze, publisher of the paper has offered to purchase the exhibition posters. Without providing details, Bill Jeffrey says they have now sold 3 or 4 sets. A framed set is going to be on view at the City Of Vancouver Archives from July to September of this year.

Overall, everything went very smoothly. The Segal School of Business was a grand venue for the event, and the service provided by the Events department was superb!

Workshop: Knowledge Production and the Black Experience

Workshop sponsored by: SFU Department of Women's Studies, SFU Office of the President,
SFU Vice President Academic office, SFU Vice President Research office,

Ruth Wynn Woodward Fund,
National Congress of Black Women Foundation,

The Committee to Commemorate and Memorialize the Abolition of the Slave Trades, and

Simon Fraser Public Interest Research Group

Friday, May 1 to Sunday, May 3, 2009
Segal School of Business, 2300 - 500 Granville St. Vancouver, BC

Academic Workshop (by invitation) sponsored event which explores the trajectory of the study of Black peoples in Canada. The scholarly inquiry of the Black portion of the Canadian population has experienced much growth. Yet, there has not been a workshop on the theme of Black Studies since 1990, until now.

Click here to see the program

Click here to read the article "Vancouver: Black Canadian Studies Association Formed" in Patriotic Vanguard

Click here to read the article written by Joy Walcott-Francis, " Knowledge Production and Afro Canadian Experience Workshop in Vancouver, BC sets the trend!" in The Afro News

Here are some of the presenters with their abstracts:

David Austin
Tradition and Emptiness

Tamari Kitossa
Centering African Canadian Studies: The merits and warnings of incorporating of criminology

Moussa Magassa
Moussa Magassa The Incorporation of the African Immigrants into Canada:
The case of B.C and how African newcomers are settled and integrated

Daniel McNeil
A Tale of Two HMV's: Canon building and commodification in the work of Paul Gilroy and the Canadian Hills

Charmaine Nelson
Black Canadian Studies and Art History: Of Disciplines, Canons and Methods

Charles Quist-Adade
Africa and the Canadian Gaze: From Distance and Close-up

Isaac Saney
The Challenge of Black Canadian Studies: Conceptualizing a Framework

Adrienne Shadd
Knowledge Production and the Black Experience in Canada

Karina Vernon
Decolonizing Black Canadian Cultural Studies: The Limits of Black Indigeneity

Barrington Walker
The Politics of Historical 'Presentism': Black Canadians Civil Rights and Reparations

Remembering Hogan's Alley
The Forgotten Quarter

The Peak

Simon Fraser University's Student Newspaper, February 26, 2007

Black Communities in British Columbia, 1858-2008

February 18, 2009

Free event - open to the public - everyone welcome!

SFU Vancouver Campus, 1900- 505 Hastings St
Then view the exhibition to be held at Teck Gallery, SFU Harbour Centre Campus
Available for viewing from February 18, 2009 and continuing to Sunday, May 9, 2009

The exhibit reflects the diversity of the Black communities in terms of gender, age, origins, and occupations. It will be organized into four broad historical periods:

  • The Founders: 1858-1900
  • The Centre of the Community Shifts to Vancouver: 1900-1945
  • The Caribbean Arrives: 1945-1980
  • Africa is Here: 1980-2008

We gratefully acknowledge the financial support of the Province of British Columbia through BC 150, A Ministry of Tourism, Culture and the Arts initiative, the Heritage Legacy Fund of BC, and the Canadian Heritage - Celebration and Commemoration Program, Government of Canada, and Citizenship and Immigration Canada | Citoyenneté et Immigration Canada, Government of Canada | Gouvernement du Canada . Along with these, the Department of Women's Studies, SFU Gallery, and Ruth Wynn Woodward Chair, Dr. Afua Cooper wishes to thank the following partners, sponsors, and collaborators:

Click here to read an article on the exhibit, "Dr. Afua Cooper Presents," in The Afro News.

Comments from viewers of the "Black Communities in British Columbia, 1858-2008" exhibition

"The exhibition; 'Black Communities in British Columbia, 1858-2008' was edifying and highly instructional. It demonstrates the wide breadth and far range of the communities which compose BC. A community needs artisans, educators, scientists, and activists to survive. It was inspiring to see celebrations of these in the Black communities of BC. The many innovators featured help make British Columbia vibrant by continuing their communities' long tradition of contribution to wider BC society." --- Atinuke Bankole

"I'm humbled to say as a modern day African man in this province that this is one of  the most collective and well done memory archived exhibitions ever put together. We send our appreciation and thank you for the job well done by the team." --- Honore Gbedze, Publisher, The Afro News, Vancouver, Canada

Please email if you have seen the exhibition and would like to add your comments.


Other Community activities of Dr. Afua Cooper, Ruth Wynn Woodward Chair

October 15, 2008, Burnaby Campus
Women's History Month Event
Lecture, “The Slave in Court: Black Women and History in Canada"

October 28, 2008, North Shore Public Library, North Vancouver
Sponsored by North Shore Women's Centre
Lecture, “Black Women’s History in Canada: Opportunity or Dead End?”

February 17, 2009, Matsqui Centennial Auditorium, Abbotsford
Black History Month Talk, “Black Communities in British Columbia, 1858-2008”

February 26, 2009, Centre for Women and Gender Studies, UBC
Lecture, “Women and Slavery in Canada”