Most years, the University of Winnipeg’s (U of W) English department hosts a wide variety of events, open to students, academics and community members. Because of the shift to online learning, however, the department adapted this year’s programming. One of their new initiatives is the Black Writing in Canada virtual speaker series.
Throughout this academic year, this seven-part series will feature various speakers via the Zoom platform. These presentations are open to the public, although they require pre-registration.
All events feature Black speakers, who are writers or experts on Black writing in Canada. The first two occurred in early October and were presentations by Dr. Karina Vernon, an associate professor at the University of Toronto, and Titilope Sonuga, a Nigerian-Canadian writer. Those who were unable to attend the presentations can access them at the link at the end of this article.
Chigbo Arthur Anyaduba, an assistant English professor at the U of W, says these were well-attended events.
“Students participated in ways that we were very impressed with, and the writers, as well, did incredible jobs,” he says, “calling to some of the issues we believe students should know about.”
Anyaduba, who specializes in African literature, says this series “adds to the conversation on anti-Black racism.”
“It’s something that should have been happening long before now,” he says.
Ciarra O’Reggio, an English student and member of the UW Writing Group, agrees.
“Following the Black Lives Matter demonstrations earlier this summer, a response was required from the (English) department to have a greater attention to Black writing throughout Canada,” they say. O’Reggio notes that the online format is the most effective way to make these presentations accessible, given the circumstances of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
“It’s important to look at Black writing, and I hope that this isn’t just something that happens right now, but in the months and years to come,” they say. For individuals looking to diversify their reading lists, O’Reggio recommends they research both the works that they are and are not familiar with.
The next few weeks are going to be busy ones for the Black Writing in Canada series. On Nov. 19 from 12 to 1 p.m., award-winning author and creative writing professor Tessa McWatt will speak. Lillian Allen, a poet, recording artist and advocate, will present on Nov. 25 from 2:30 to 3:30 p.m.. Finally, Chimwemwe Undi, a Winnipeg-based poet, will be featured on the Dec. 2 event from 4 to 5 p.m.
Two more events are planned for the winter term, featuring poet and spoken-word artist Brandon Wint in January and writer Zalika Reid-Benta in February.
For more information on the Black Writing in Canada series and how to attend, visit bit.ly/34mmAvl.
Published in Volume 75, Number 07 of The Uniter (October 29, 2020)