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Author hosts panel to discuss what it means to be black in Vancouver

Chelene Knight noticed that a lot of the conversations around Black History Month were rooted in American history and she wanted to change the conversation to the contemporary black experience in Vancouver.

Chelene Knight hopes that many black Vancouverites will gather to share their stories

Chelene Knight says growing up in Vancouver, she rarely saw people who looked like her. (Greg Ehlers/provided)

Vancouver poet and author Chelene Knight noticed that most of the conversations during Black History Month are centred around American history and not the current Canadian experience.

So, she says she decided to hold a panel discussion to talk about what it means to be black in Vancouver.

"I know there are black people in Vancouver. I just think that we are all kind of dispersed … I think it's events like this that bring the community together," Knight said.

"I don't feel like we're recognizing our black Canadian artists enough."

The event, "Where are you Really From," about being black in Vancouver, will feature black artists, writers and scholars from the Lower Mainland.

The title of the event stems from a question Knight says she hears a lot.

"It happens constantly, just walking the streets and having somebody stop and stare for a couple of minutes and then say, 'I like your hair, where are you from?'" Knight explained to Stephen Quinn on CBC's The Early Edition.

Since Knight was born and raised right here in Vancouver, that is her answer, but she finds it's often not enough for people.

"There'd be a pause and there'd be another question, 'No, where are youreally from?. I feel like that kind of takes away from my Vancouver identity," she said.

"I think people have their ideas of what a black person should look like and there is no deviating from that."

'I feel like I belong here'

Knight says she feels the need to tackle and answer these questions in her writing.

"Eventually, it does wear you down and it totally affects the way that I write and the work that I produce," Knight said.

"People really want to know where those roots are."

Knight says that the event is meant to inspire people to share their voices and experiences being black.

"If I am struggling with this so so much, I know there's got to be somebody else in the city also struggling with these issues," Knight said.

"Living in Vancouver where it's so mixed and there's so many different types of people here … I feel like I belong here but I want other people to see that and to not dig so deep and to just let me kind of exist."

With files from The Early Edition

Chelene Knight noticed that a lot of the conversations around Black History Month were rooted in American history and she wanted to change the conversation to the contemporary black experience in Vancouver. 7:30