I love the country of my birth, and hearing the anthem and seeing the festivities in Vancouver makes me feel thankful to live in this great land.
I love my people, and observing and participating in specialized programming this month has reminded me of the power and potential of the black Canadian community.
It all began with an invitation to take part in the Toronto Public Library's event "Big Voices, New Voices" where I was in awe that I was sitting on the same panel as the legendary Dr. George Elliott Clarke and Austin Clark, along with another new writer Yvette Trancoso, and journalist Dalton Higgins.
Yvette and I were introduced as new voices in black Canadian writing, and had the opportunity to share our thoughts on what it means to be a black writer in Canada.
The following weekend, Dr. Clarke (in photo) wrote a review of my novel "Video Light" for the Halifax Chronicle-Herald which was an absolute honour for me.
I attended and briefly spoke at the the opening ceremony for the University of Toronto's Black Students' Association, I attended the Royal Bank of Canada's Black History Month program at the Royal Conservatory of Music on Bloor...and then in an intimate setting at Harlem Restaurant (Richmond/Church) I participated in "Dialogue" on the 21st.
"Dialogue" was a discussion about my book "Video Light" where readers had the chance to come together and discuss the themes, characters, and relevance to our every day lives. Moderated by Dwayne Dixon of Linkage Movement, we had a comfortable space to explore what it means to be black in Canada...right now.
Last night I returned to the Toronto Public Library's Bram & Bluma Appel Salon to hear CBC radio host Garvia Bailey discuss "A New Black Literature" with author and journalist Dalton Higgins and writer and actor Trey Anthony. Already inspired by the work they have contributed to black Canadian culture, I was encouraged to hear them speak of things that are always on my mind:
Black Canadians are hungry to see images and reflections of themselves, be it on television, in print, or on stage.
There are a few more events that I plan to attend before the month's end, and I'm not sure if my soul can take all of this excitement, eagerness, and passion. The performances I've seen, the voices I've heard, and the proud Canadian flags waving across Vancouver this month have reaffirmed my commitment to contributing to these images and reflections.
Yes, my stories are extremely fun for me to write, they're a pasttime, but I can't help but feel that there is a bigger social infrastructure that I am hoping to have them fit into.
The Urban Toronto Tales are stories about my peers, about black Canadians, first generation Canadians, urban Canadians...about people we know, places we go to, and things that we do.
As Dalton Higgins said last night at the Toronto Public Library, we need to be unapologetic about the work we are creating. And so I'll say it loudly, and I'll say it proudly: I do believe my writing has a purpose. Not just for entertainment, but just for the sake of validating the black Canadian experience, and reminding the greater Canadian public that our stories are relevant, they are important, and they do need to be documented.
The best thing about February is it's just the beginning...I look forward to having these good vibes stay with me for the remanining months of the year.
"Video Light," "Friends with Benefits," and "Request to Rewind" from the Urban Toronto Tales collection are available through my website, http://www.staceymarierobinson.com/.