Tag Archives: Black History Month

Black History Month Author Visit: Kern Carter

Celebrated Toronto author Kern Carter, author of Boys and Girls Screaming

Celebrated Toronto author Kern Carter will be visiting Vaughan Public Libraries on Thursday, February 22, 7:00 pm on Zoom. Please register on Eventbrite and join us for an evening of great conversations on writing, publishing, parenting, Black heritage, and more!

I’m really excited about this event because Kern is a “long-lost” friend. Last spring when I was waiting for my massage therapist at her clinic, I saw a familiar face on the TV screen being interviewed by the CTV host, and I recognized that was Kern! He was chatting with the host about his latest novel Boys and Girls Screaming. The first time I met Kern was back in 2014 when he was promoting his first book Thoughts of a Fractured Soul. He was still an independent author back then. He was very tall and handsome (only much later I found out he was also a basketball star, lol), but with that strong presence, he was extremely polite and gentle, just like his words in that thin, little novella … Since then, I haven’t heard from Kern for years, and I can’t believe when I see him again, he’s on TV!

So, when I went back to work that day, I looked him up like a little superfan. I read and read, trying to find out what he has gone through all these years, his struggles, tears, laughs, and successes … Apparently, he has been working hard in the past ten years and has created a long list of accomplishments that he can show off on his website: “From selling thousands of books independently, building a community of emerging writers, establishing a freelance career, landing book deals with the biggest publishers in the world, to now running my own business … Add to the mix that I was a teen father and high school dropout who ultimately graduated from university and built a successful writing career …” Indeed, after all the hard work, his dream of making a good living by just writing has now come true!

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The Sleeping Car Porter: Canada’s Hidden Black History

February is Black History Month! To celebrate, VPL has put together programming for all ages, including Black History: The Music and the Message for kids, and an adult book club where we’ll discuss The Skin We’re In by Desmond Cole. For more programming options, check out our What’s On Magazine.

Suzette Mayr’s The Sleeping Car Porter uncovers a portion of Canadian history lost to time—more specifically, Black Canadian history, lost to time due to institutional neglect. The 2022 Giller Prize winning novel follows a young Black man in the 1920s named Baxter, who has come over from the Caribbean for a job as a train porter in order to save up money for dental school. The novel’s timeline is a single cross-country train journey, from Montreal all the way to Banff, during which Baxter’s lack of sleep results in a blurry delirium made worse by the constant demands of his customers.  

I’ll admit I knew nothing about sleeping car porter history prior to reading this novel, but there were enough intentionally placed, specific references to suspect that there was likely a well of history behind Baxter’s story. Why, for example, did (white) customers keep calling him George? What was this Brotherhood they keep mentioning? Turning the last page over to Mayr’s extensive bibliography was the final clue that this novel is very, very heavily based on real Canadian history. So like any good nerd, I went on a bit of a deep dive and checked out They Call Me George: The Untold Story of Black Train Porters and the Birth of Modern Canada by Cecil Foster and My Name’s Not George: The Story of the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters in Canada by Stanley G. Grizzle, two titles from Mayr’s research that are available at VPL. They Call Me George is a particularly useful companion read to The Sleeping Car Porter, as it often answers the questions brought up in the novel. What I learned took me by surprise: Black porters were not only part of the Canadian cultural consciousness of the early to mid-20th century, they were also instrumental in instigating a Black middle class, and even helped cement—not by accident, but by will—our identity as a multicultural nation, on which we now pride ourselves.  

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Black & White & Read – Poetry Recommendations for Black History Month

Photo by Jon Tyson on Unsplash

I was thinking about February, the month of love, chocolate, and honouring the history, contributions, and future of Black folks in our country, and I figured it would be a great time to feature poetry by Black writers.

(My thought process was Valentine’s Day > Love > Poetry. Hence the somewhat pun-y title, because I couldn’t resist.)

I never used to be big on reading poetry—sometimes poems (especially those assigned in school) felt a bit too esoteric or plain baffling for my taste, especially when coupled with assignments to demonstrate what the poems might be saying. But the more I read, the more I slowly fell in love with it, and even began trying my hand at writing my own poetry, some of which I’m quite proud of.

Who knows, one day I might publish a poetry collection and join the ranks of these vaunted writers. In the meantime though, I can recommend a few reads. The following is a small collection of great poetry by Black authors that you can find in our catalogue, featuring excerpts of their poems when available. I find there’s no greater hook for a reader of poetry than the content, which often resonates better than any blurb or synopsis could.

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