Artists and thinkers whose works sustain and challenge all of us over the long haul (and not just during Black History Month — the coldest, shortest month of the year)
This Trinidadian author can write in a language that is familiar to the Trinbagonian while appealing to an international audience. One of my favourite novels of his is The Wine of Astonishment, where he retells an event in our checkered history involving Leader B and Bolo. It’s the story of persecution of the Shouter Baptists, a Christian sect practiced by post-emancipated Africans in a loud and rhythmic fervour. This boisterous religious worship was outlawed in 1917 and many followers were brought before the courts. The law wasn’t repealed until 1951.
RHOMA SPENCER, ARTISTIC DIRECTOR
I have a quote of hers tattooed on my left forearm, “Deliberate and afraid of nothing.” I love a lot of her work, but have a special place in my heart for her memoir Zami: A New Spelling of My Name. Zami was evidence that Lorde left to tell us that brown queers have always existed. She tells us survival strategies and the complexities of loving and living in her particular time and context. It was also the first time I read about falling in love with a black femme. It made me realize that someone could love me whole — politics, push-up bras and kinky curls.
KIM KATRIN CROSBY, WRITER, EDUCATOR, ACTIVIST
OCTAVIA E BUTLER
She prefers the term speculative fiction for what she writes, over science fiction, in part because her work really does suggest a possible future that may not be far off. Her works, like Kindred and Parable of the Sower, have inspired my own activism and highlighted the importance of community building and social change. For as the main character in Parable of the Sower explains, as she works with others to build a new society after climate change poverty, extreme conservativism and war have laid waste to North America, “All that you touch You Change. All that you Change, Changes you. The only lasting truth is Change. God is Change.”
SYRUS MARCUS WARE, ARTIST, ACTIVIST, DJ
Based on history, tradition and his conviction to humanize the colonized black body, Achebe’s work gives voice to the black African experience. I had my first encounter with his work reading Things Fall Apart when I was 14 years old. The characters were so close and intimate to the world I knew and grew up in. A year later I read No Longer at Ease, which is now my favourite novel. Achebe created a character that is very fitting of the now: the African man in relation to our interconnected world. The characters are honest and their experiences are real and still inspiring to a young artist from Ghana who is navigating his African identity in a new world, in Canada.
TAWIAH BEN M’CARTHY, PERFORMER, PLAYWRIGHT
Her body of work has widened the lens through which I view myself in relation to the world, emancipating my consciousness. My favourite work is her essay “The Transformation of Silence into Language and Action,” where she writes, “The machine will try to grind you into dust anyway, whether or not we speak. We can sit in our corners mute forever while our sisters and our selves are wasted, while our children are distorted and destroyed, while our earth is poisoned; we can sit in our safe corners mute as bottles, and we will still be no less afraid.” My truth is this: If my body is the battleground where I wage war with interlocking systems of dehumanization, then femmeness is my armour, black queerness my ammunition and anti-colonial consciousness my rallying cry for widespread resistance.
EDWARD NDOPU, WRITER, SOCIAL CRITIC, ACTIVIST
RHOMA SPENCER Directs Naomi Abiola’s Seventh Heaven on Tue, Mar 5 and 7as part of Bcurrent’s Afterock festival. bcurrent.ca.
KIM KATRIN CROSBY Co-curates the Resistance and Raunch cabaret at Rhubarb on Thu, Feb 28. buddiesinbadtimes.com.
EDWARD NDOPU The Namibian-born, South African-raised queer disabled activist joins the panel at Queering Black History Month. Lali Mohamed and Rodney Diverlus host. 5:30pm. Thu, Feb 28. Ryerson Student Centre. 55 Gould St. Check Facebook for updates.