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B.C.’s Black Pioneers are Part of our Landscape

church with white clapboard siding, grey roof in treed setting. front steps to entryway.

Central Saanich United Church, formerly Shady Creek Church. This is a rebuild of the original church that was designed and built by some of the Black Pioneers.

Alexander Park, Deas Island, Giscome Portage Trail, McClore Mountain, McDame Creek, Starks Crossing and Starks Road are all named after Black Pioneers.  There are plaques commemorating the Black Pioneers as a collective and individuals such as Mifflin Wistar Gibbs, Emma Stark, and John and Charlotte Dandridge.

public square showing pavement with double row of gray bricks with etched names

Commemorative Bricks in Bastion Square, Victoria

There are bricks embedded in the sidewalks along Fort Street and in Bastion Square in Victoria with the names of 14 of these Black pioneers, inlaid as part of the Fort Victoria Brick Project (Spring 1986) to commemorate influential pioneers in Victoria’s history.

In the Vancouver area specifically the contributions of 20th century pioneers are commemorated: Emery Barnes Park, John Braithwaite Community Centre, Joe Fortes Memorial Fountain, Barbara Howard Plaza, the Harry Jerome Statue in Stanley Park, and Pullman-Porter Street named for the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters.

These Black pioneers are a part of British Columbia’s history; and through these plaques, place names and monuments they are a part of British Columbia’s landscape.

The stories of these men and women are not well-known, largely ignored in our history books and education curriculums. The B.C. Black History Awareness Society ensures these stories have their rightful place in the history of Canada as part of the broad panorama of migration and settlement of this country.

The poem“You Ain’t Gone” is by Spoken Word Poet Adelene da Soul Poet.  Adelene was born Bertha Clarke in San Francisco and raised in Vancouver. She is a direct descendant of the first of BC’s Black pioneers, who settled on Salt Spring Island and Victoria. Her grandmother owned and operated Vie’s Chicken and Steaks, a famous restaurant on Vancouver’s Union Street, an area that is often referred to as Hogan’s Alley. The restaurant operated from the early 1940s to the late 1970s.

“You Ain’t Gone” Adelene da Soul Poet (captions available in both French and English). View this video with an English transcript.


The poem “You Ain’t Gone” is Copyright ©Bertha Clark aka Adelene da Soul Poet.