Western Canada: Hogan’s Alley once again offers hope for Vancouver’s Black community

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After years of efforts to redress the obliteration of the cultural corridor, now may be the time that all levels of government are moved to act

has taken on new prominence these past weeks as protests against egregious and deadly police use-of-force in the wake of the death of George Floyd have focused attention on what it means to be Black in Vancouver. After years and years of efforts to redress the obliteration of the cultural corridor that was Hogan’s Alley, now may be the time that all levels of government are moved to act.Bertha Clark grew up in the neighbourhood.

As Mike Hager, Ian Bailey and Xiao Xu write today, more dust-ups followed and she quickly learned swear words in Italian and the Cantonese dialect of Taishanese from shopkeepers openly hostile to the presence of a Black girl like her. But the four-block stretch Ms. Clark and Vancouver’s Black population called home for seven decades offered respite from the racism that could feel inescapable.

For decades, Vancouver City Hall spent little to no money on the area’s sidewalks or infrastructure, and its industrial zoning made it nearly impossible for its homeowners to get mortgages or home improvement loans. By the 1960s, many neighbourhood amenities were gone. The city was not picking up garbage or looking after the streets, and some of the buildings were left to decay. Local newspapers derided Hogan’s Alley and its neighbouring area, labelling them the slums of Vancouver and rundown.

Oludolapo Makinde, a graduate student at University of British Columbia’s law school, said the displacement of Black families, businesses and community is still being felt today.“People who come to Vancouver, Black people who come to Vancouver, cannot identify themselves within the community because the Black community was dispersed way back,” she said in an interview, noting that about 1 per cent of the Vancouver population is Black.

 

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