"Don't Forget Black me"
Sola Olowo-Ake's reflections on ‘Resisting Erasure: Black Artists in Vancouver’
Yesterday, I attended an online conversation that was hosted by the Vancouver Public Library. Lama Mugabo moderated a conversation between himself, Jane Wade, an artist, and Nya Lewis Williams, a writer and curator. The conversation explored how we can resist erasure as black artists in Vancouver and offered reflections, as Jan and Nya spoke about their experiences being a black artist and curator (respectively) in Vancouver.
I was intrigued by the topic itself as a black designer. I have also been reflecting on this issue of black erasure through whitewashing and my experiences with the stifling effects of that awareness through storytelling. But this conversation really inspired me to reflect.
What happens when we also forget ourselves (alongside the systems that continuously erase us)?
For me, I’ve found it somewhat difficult to navigate this environment with the awareness of the history and current practices of black erasure in Vancouver. I’ve found it even more difficult at times to resist in my design work without compromise- leaving necessary pieces of my identity behind to ‘fit in’. So after I graduated from my Master of Design course and transitioned into ‘the work life’, I was so conscious that, like Nya and Jan, I would also be one of the very few black people in my daily spaces. And no matter how fitting these spaces are with my ever-growing design skills, I’ve never really felt a sense of belonging in any of them.
So I wrote a poem to remind myself to carry all of me into the spaces that I go into. And in honour and celebration of the conversation yesterday, I would like to share it here.
This is ‘Don’t forget black me’.
Don't forget black me