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Tours of Hogan’s Alley educate Vancouverites during Black History Month

Shayla Bird is organizing tours throughout February to teach folks about the years when Hogan's Alley was a vibrant community and home to many black families. Angela Bower reports.

In the southwestern corner of Vancouver’s Strathcona neighbourhood, tours of Hogan’s Alley are educating Vancouverites on the history of the Black community that once thrived there.

Throughout February, recognized as Black History Month, educator Shayla Bird is organizing tours to teach folks about the years when Hogan’s Alley was a vibrant community and home to many Black families.

“In 1972, that’s when the viaduct started being built and these homes started getting taken down and families were displaced,” Bird said.

Bird says before the Georgia Viaduct was built, Hogan’s Alley had many businesses run by Black female entrepreneurs and was a bustling community built on the diaspora of many black families.

“I want to read a newspaper article that the City of Vancouver printed in 1930,” Bird said during a tour.

“It is a slum with the worst sense of the world, with huge rats basking in the sun, unmindful of the tribal of mongrel dogs that yap at one’s heels,” she read. “In some spots, an open drain carries off filthy water.”

Sisters Flavia and Oliva Kajoba took part in one of Bird’s tours. They say they learned a lot on the tour about Black history, which they didn’t learn about through the B.C. education system.

“What I found most interesting about the tour was learning about the history of James Douglas,” Flavia said.

Sir James Douglas was the first Governor General of British Columbia and a central character in B.C.'s Black history
Sir James Douglas was the first Governor General of British Columbia and a central character in B.C.’s Black history. (Angela Bower, CityNews)

“In 1858, Sir James Douglas became the first Black Governor General of British Columbia,” Bird said on the tour. “He was the first and only person who has encouraged Black migration to B.C.”

Flavia and Olivia say they want to see a change in B.C.’s school curriculum

“They don’t teach anything about Black history in schools. We just learnt about slavery,” Flavia said.

“Definitely something that is lacking and I hope that changes soon,” Olivia added.

Bird says British Columbians don’t often learn about the contributions of people of colour and how they helped shape B.C. as it has come to be known today.

Bird’s tours are on selected Saturdays throughout February, in hopes of educating people on Black history.

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