The University of Winnipeg



English Department hosts Black Writing in Canada speaker series

Lectures, readings, and discussions take place October 2020 to January 2021

Dr. Karina Vernon is the first speaker in UWinnipeg’s Black Writing in Canada virtual speaker series. Photo provided.

The University of Winnipeg’s Department of English is hosting a series of lectures, readings, and discussions October 2020 to January 2021 as part of a new virtual speaker series, Black Writing in Canada.

The initial idea for the series grew out of the English Department’s development of a statement against police brutality and anti-Black racism in spring 2020.

We are so pleased to be hosting multi-talented Black Canadian writers working in different locations across the country, including the prairies.

Dr. Candida Rifkin

“We felt that it was important to back up the statement with some concrete actions,” said Department Chair Brandon Christopher. “While individual department members have already begun to reimagine their courses to include more work that centres Black voices and Black experiences, this series is a chance for us to put resources behind those beliefs in a more public and wide-reaching way.”

While it is not unusual for the University to bring writers to campus to share their work with students and the wider community, this year’s series is much more focused and intentional in scope than the department’s usual offerings.

“We recognize that, to quote from the English Department’s Land Acknowledgment, listening to and promoting the voices of Black, Indigenous, and other writers of colour is one means by which we can work ‘to confront the colonial and imperial histories of our discipline and to engage with the full range of Englishes that energize our research and teaching,’ ” said Christopher.

Special Programs Committee members Dr. Kathryn Ready and Dr. Candida Rifkind have done the majority of the behind-the-scenes planning for this year’s events, soliciting suggestions from fellow faculty members to bring in talented and thought-provoking Black writers that UWinnipeg students are learning about in class. 

“We are so pleased to be hosting multi-talented Black Canadian writers working in different locations across the country, including the prairies,” said Rifkind. “This is a fantastic opportunity to hear work in a variety of genres and forms, from dub poetry, to autobiography, to fiction.”

The series launches with a public lecture by Dr. Karina Vernon, an associate professor of English at the University of Toronto and editor of The Black Prairie Archives: An Anthology (2019), which brings to light a previously hidden archive of literature, from eighteenth-century Black fur traders to contemporary writers. The anthology is available as an e-book from the UWinnipeg library.

Schedule of Events

  • Public Lecture: Changing the Prairie Story: Reading Black & Black-Indigenous Writers in the Prairie Archives with Dr. Karina Vernon, University of Toronto Scarborough, Wednesday, October 7, 2020, 2:30 – 3:45 pm
  • This is How We Disappear: A Reading & Conversation with Titilope Sonuga, Thursday, October 8, 12:00 – 1:00 pm
  • Lillian Allen, Reading and Discussion, Wednesday, November 25, 2:30-3:30pm
  • Tessa McWatt, Reading and Discussion, November 18, 12:00 pm.
  • Chimwemwe Undi, Reading and Discussion, Wednesday, December 2, 4:00-5:00pm
  • Zalika Reid-Benta, Reading and Discussion, Wednesday, February 10 (time TBA)
  • Brandon Wint, Reading and Discussion, Thursday January 28, 10:00 am – 11:00am

“These are great writers and scholars across the board, and I feel lucky that we’ve been successful in inviting them all to join us,” said Christopher. “I’m also grateful, in these isolated and isolating times, to have a chance to come together as a community, even if only virtually, to share an experience in the way that I think many of us had, until March, taken for granted.”

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.

“It is a tiny silver lining of our current situation that we can afford to invite writers from around the world to speak with us virtually, which would have been difficult, if not impossible, to pay for in a normal year,” said Christopher.

Visit the Department of English Black Writing in Canada event page to register and learn more.

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