An evening of conversation, community-building and food is planned in New Westminster in celebration of Black History Month.
Towards Housing Justice for Black and Indigenous Communities is the name of an event taking place on Tuesday, Feb. 13 from 5:30 to 8 p.m. at Massey Theatre, 735 Eighth Ave.
The BC Poverty Reduction Coalition's Community Action Network and the Changing the Conversation project at Douglas College are hosting an event in a celebration of Black History Month that honours Black and Indigenous solidarity in the struggle for dignified housing.
They’re hosting this conversation alongside the opening of a local housing project between Lu’ma Native Housing Society, Swahili Vision International, Aboriginal Housing Management Association, Aboriginal Land Trust Society, and BC Housing.
“We are witnessing the beginning of a village, the likes of which have never been seen before,” said Jean-Claude Bakundukize, co-founder of Swahili Vision International Association. “Indigenous peoples live, share, caring and enjoy everyday life together with Swahili people; two peoples, two cultures fusing, to raise their children together, learn from each other and enhance one another in a modern village setting, and the beginning of a housing solution to some of our marginalized communities.”
Elliot Rossiter, a New West resident and a professor at Douglas College, has been helping to organize the event with Lama Mugabo and Chantelle Spicer at the BC Poverty Reduction Coalition. He said it includes a light dinner and an opportunity for relationship building for attendees.
The evening will feature a “kitchen table conversation” with advocates, stakeholders, and government officials, who will discuss housing precarity faced by Black and Indigenous people and celebrate the solutions offered by communities working together. Topics will include how community land trusts and non-market housing development can serve as tools for realizing greater housing justice.
The event will open with a welcome from Chief Rhonda Larrabee of the Qayqayt First Nation. It will include presentations from Siobhan Barker (Hogan's Alley Society) and Lama Mugabo (BC Poverty Reduction Coalition), and will involve a kitchen-table-style discussion with Bakundukize, Margaret Wanyoike (Community Action Network leader), Orene Askew (Afro-Indigenous speaker, DJ, and member of the Squamish Nation), and Tasha Henderson (New Westminster city councillor).
Khari Wendell McClelland, an award-winning musician and creative facilitator, will host the evening.
Here’s what attendees can expect: 5 p.m. – doors open, food and refreshments will be served; 5:30 p.m. - welcoming and intent setting; 6:15 p.m. – introduction to the Sixth Street housing project and discussion; and 7:30 p.m. – end of programming and opportunity to mingle
In addition to a general discussion, Rossiter said the event will highlight the soon-to-be-opened building at 823 to 841 Sixth St., which is a partnership between Swahili Vision International Association, Lu'ma Native Housing Society, the Aboriginal Land Trust, the Aboriginal Housing Management Association, and supported with funding from BC Housing. The building will provide 96 affordable rental units, including accessible and family-friendly units for Black and Indigenous members of the community.
“In addition to celebrating and welcoming this building to the neighbourhood, the event will explore how this building and the solidarity between Black and Indigenous communities that helped realized it can inspire our collective imagination about future development in our region that promotes the right to adequate housing for all, especially for those who experience the greatest housing insecurity,” Rossiter said.
Registration is required for this free event.