Black Excellence Day
Today is Black Excellence Day – a day to celebrate the contributions and achievements of Black communities across Canada.
The day was born out of Black Shirt Day, which falls on January 15th, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday, and is a day to show solidarity with black communities. But because of the traumatic associations with the term “black shirt” for Holocaust survivors, the Ninandotoo Society decided to create their own event, and thus, Black Excellence Day was born.
Black Excellence Day usually falls on January 15th, unless the 15th is on a weekend, in which case it falls on the Friday before. Hence why Black Excellence Day takes place on January 13th this year.
In order to celebrate the contributions of Black communities in British Columbia, we have to acknowledge the erasure of Black history and the struggles of Black communities. Part of what the Ninandotoo Society advocates for is mandatory curriculum on Black history. Until that’s achieved, we want help by doing our part here at FIRST UNITED.
Because the stories and experiences of Black communities often aren’t taught in schools, we miss out on learning, understanding and celebrating important parts of our city and province’s history. One of the stories excluded from our textbooks is the story of Hogan’s Alley.
Hogan’s Alley was located between Union Street and Prior Street, and Main Street and Jackson Avenue. It was a multi-ethnic neighbourhood that was home to many Black residents and Black-owned businesses. Many found themselves there because of housing discrimination from other Vancouver neighbourhoods, according to Places That Matter.
Hogan’s Alley was a hub for entertainment in the 30s-60s and was home to notable talent, including the Crump Twins, Thelma Gibson-Towns, Leonard Gibson, and many more. It was also home to Nora Hendrix (Jimi Hendrix’s grandmother) who co-founded the Fountain Chapel, which was Vancouver’s first Black church, and was a cook at Vie’s Chicken and Steak House (and whom the temporary modular housing units that currently sit on 258 Union Street are named after).
In the late 1960s, the City of Vancouver attempted to build a freeway that would run through Hogan’s Alley and Chinatown. Although construction of the freeway was eventually stopped, the completion of the Georgia viaduct meant that houses in Hogan’s Alley were demolished, displacing residents. This put an end to Hogan’s Alley.
Today, the Hogan’s Alley Society, a non-profit organization, is doing great work to preserve and promote Black contributions to Vancouver, B.C., and Canada. This includes a recent partnership with the City of Vancouver to provide housing, amenities and a cultural centre where Hogan’s Alley used to be.
Thank you for joining us today to celebrate Black Excellence Day! Here are some more ways you can celebrate the day:
- Learn more about Black History in Vancouver through:
- Visit the Hogan’s Alley Mural on Union St. by Anthony Joseph, a local Black artist.
- And check out some other murals that are part of Black Strathcona Resurgence Project
- Support local Black businesses! We encourage you to take a look at Black-owned businesses in your community and find ways to support them:
Happy Black Excellence Day!