The University of Winnipeg’s Department of English is continuing its Black Writing in Canada lecture series with three online events featuring Brandon Wint, Afua Cooper, and Zalika Reid-Benta, January 28 to February 10.
The series began in October 2020 with a lineup of multi-talented Black Canadian writers representing different locations across the country.
“I’m thankful to the Department of English for giving a platform to these powerful writers to share their truths in an impactful manner,” said UWinnipeg student Rachel Smith.
Smith especially appreciated the chance to hear from Black Canadian writers whose backgrounds and lived experiences were completely different from one another.
“This is important because the Black Canadian identity is often invisible,” she said. “The work they have produced is evidence that Black identity is here, it is real, and it is necessary for a full, accurate picture of Canada.”
UWinnipeg student Mary Okon says hearing different poets speak about their work has helped shape her understanding of the value of creativity.
I’m thankful to the Department of English for giving a platform to these powerful writers to share their truths.
“I definitely look forward to listening to more Black writers because I find a sense of identity and inspiration knowing that I’ll be like that one day,” she said.
Dr. Candida Rifkind heard similar sentiments from other students. Her English 3709 class hosted the fall readings by Dr. Karina Vernon and Poet Lillian Allen.
“Dr. Vernon’s personal stories about being a Black undergrad student looking for Black prairie writers really resonated with many of the students of colour, and Lillian Allen’s vitality and hopefulness that the combination of Covid and Black Lives Matter means we are ‘in a moment of transition’ was an energizing intervention at the end of a really tough year,” said Rifkind.
The readings connected to one another in a synchronicity that Department of English Chair Brandon Christopher found moving.
“Hearing Dr. Karina Vernon’s wonderful account of seeking out and finding the history of Black writers on the prairies, and then, the very next day, getting to listen to Titilope Sonuga, one of the writers in Dr. Vernon’s anthology, read her poetry (which I loved) and talk about her experience as a Black writer on the prairies was one of my favourite moments in the series,” he said.
The winter readings promise to be just as inspiring and thought-provoking.
“I am looking forward to the variety of views and experiences that our speakers may evoke,” said Dr. Chigbo Arthur Anyaduba, Assistant Professor, Department of English. “The way Brandon Wint turns words and performance into a mechanism for justice, the way Afua Cooper makes history into an intimate, poetic experience of the everyday, and the way Zalika Reid-Benta provokes feelings through vignettes of growing-up experience.”
Thursday, January 28, 10:00-11:00 am
Brandon Wint is an Ontario-born poet and spoken word artist who uses poetry to attend to the joy and devastation and inequity associated with this era of human and ecological history. He uses written and spoken word as a tool to examine and enact his sense of justice, and to imagine less violent futures for himself and the world he has inherited.
Register via Zoom.
Thursday, February 4, 1:00-2:00 pm
Afua Cooper, Halifax’s seventh Poet Laureate, is an accomplished scholar and author of several works, including the critically acclaimed Copper Woman and Other Poems, The Hanging of Angelique: The Untold Story of Slavery in Canada and the Burning of Old Montreal, and My Name is Phillis Wheatley. Cooper collaborated with photographer Wilfried Raussert on Black Matters, a book of poems and photographs focused on everyday Black experiences.
Register via Zoom.
Wednesday, February 10, 2:00-3:30pm
Zalika Reid-Benta is a Toronto-based writer. Her debut short story collection Frying Plantain won the 23rd annual Danuta Gleed Literary Award, recognizing the best first collection of short fiction by a Canadian author published in 2019 in the English language. Frying Plantain also won the 2020 Kobo Emerging Writer Prize in literary fiction, was shortlisted for the 2020 Trillium Book Award, and was longlisted for the 2019 Scotiabank Giller Prize.
Register via Zoom.
This series is made possible thanks to financial assistance from the League of Canadian Poets and The Canada Council for the Arts through The Writers’ Union of Canada. All Zoom public presentations require pre-registration, with spaces reserved for UWinnipeg students.
Visit the Department of English Black Writing in Canada event page to register and to learn more about this dynamic line-up of Black Canadian writers.
Related programs and courses
In Fall 2020, Dr. Candida Rifkind taught ENGL-3708: Topics in Canadian Literature: Black Canadian Writers where students played a key role in co-hosting two speakers in the fall Black Writing in Canada series.
Learn more about the Department of English.