In the spring and summer of 1858, 600 blacks moved from San Francisco to the colonies that would eventually become British Columbia. The move was in part initiated by an invitation penned by the governor of the British colonies, James Douglas, who is commonly believed to have had African ancestry, a rumour he neither confirmed nor denied. His appearance was such that he could "pass" for white. By 1871, after swelling to over 1,000, the black population in BC had dwindled to fewer than 500. But in the late 19th century, and on into the twentieth, blacks continued to come to BC From the time of the first arrivals, the population and history of BC's black community has been always in flux. If there is a unifying characteristic of black identity in BC, it is surely the talent for reinvention and for pioneering new versions of traditional identities that such conditions demand.
And in all this time, BC's black citizens created poems and stories and lyrics. Some were written, others spoken. Bluesprint is a groundbreaking, first-time collection of this creative output, and includes the work of such individuals as: Rebecca Gibbs, Nora Hendrix (grandmother to Jimi), Austin Phillips, Rosemary Brown, Yvonne Brown, Hope Anderson, Lorena Gale, Mercedes Baines, David Nandi Odhiambo, Michelle La Flamme, Shane Book, Peter Hudson, Rascalz, and many others dealing with issues surrounding race, community, gender, and genre. From the literal writings of James Douglas, a figure whose "blackness" can only be construed from rumour and speculation, through to the contemporary hip hop lyrics of Rascalz, and including the work of poets, journalists, letter writers, biographers, fiction writers, and speech givers, Bluesprint is a comprehensive anthology of literature and orature by black British Columbians. Some of these "BC" writers no longer live here; some are included on the strength of a few years stopping over; some are here to stay.
But they all had something to say.
Wayde Compton is the author of two books of poetry, 49th Parallel Psalm (Dorothy Livesay Poetry Prize finalist) and Performance Bond. He also edited the anthology Bluesprint: Black British Columbian Literature and Orature. His non-fiction book After Canaan: Essays on Race, Writing, and Region was shortlisted for the City of Vancouver Book Award, and his first work of fiction, The Outer Harbour, won the City of Vancouver Book Award. Wayde is the director of the Writer's Studio and the Southbank Writer's Program at Simon Fraser University Continuing Studies. He lives in Vancouver.
A treasure-trove . . . a valuable historical reference work that attempts to trace a cultural lineage for a population that has always been in flux.
-The Globe & Mail - The Globe & Mail
This is an extremely important collection and is well served by its editor, Wayde Compton.
-BC Studies - BC Studies
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