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Black History Month recognized in Delta

City and library have lots of programs events
A photo of the product produced by John Sullivan Deas, who was a free black tinsmith born in South Carolina and moved to Canada for a better life. Delta Archives

Delta city hall lights up in green, red, and yellow to celebrate Black History Month in February, but motorists on Hwy. 99, need only to give a nod in the direction of Deas Island Regional Park or Deas Slough to recognize the month even further.

Both names come from John Sullivan Deas, who operated the leading salmon cannery on the Fraser River in the 1870s.

Deas came to Canada from the U.S. in about 1862 and started canning salmon in 1871.

He operated the cannery, which had three larger buildings, plus a wharf and sheds, until 1878. But even back then, salmon runs were unpredictable, with the cannery not able to fill 200,000 cans during the 1872 season.

Deas sold the cannery in 1878 and relocated to Portland, Ore., and died two years later.

Deas also hired a black artist, Grafton Tyler Brown, from the U.S., to design the labels for the canned salmon.

B.C. Premier David Eby noted Black History Month is “a time to recognize, honour and celebrate the contributions of the Black community in building British Columbia into the place it is today.”

In a news release, he pointed out that Mifflin Gibbs was the first Black person elected to office in what is now B.C. and who encouraged B.C. to join Confederation. He also noted social worker Rosemary Brown, whose advocacy against sexism and racism led to her becoming the first Black woman elected to the B.C. legislature

and Eleanor Collins, known as Canada’s “first lady of jazz.”

“It is these inspirational lives and more that encourage us all to contribute to the well-being of our province, including by learning more about our history and those who have helped build our province,” Eby said.

“Strengthening topics like Black history and other diverse cultural histories is key to ensuring all students are included and represented throughout their studies,” added Minister of Education and Child Care Rachna Singh.

The Fraser Valley Regional Libraries in Delta are recognizing Black History Month.

At Ladner Pioneer Library, there’s an art nook activity inspired by Christian Robinson, an author and illustrator of children’s books, who values inclusivity.

Children of every colour, background and condition of life can identify with his books, say staff at the library.

The activity is based on an episode from Robinson’s video series called, Making Space. Participants can collage a map, then share their artwork for display in the art corner for the rest of the month.

At the Tsawwassen Library, kids can fill out colouring sheets.

In North Delta, the George Mackie Library evening book club read books written by black authors and will discuss them at its next meeting, Feb. 13, at 7 p.m., in the George Mackie Library.

Readers can also read up on black history by going to the Fraser Valley Regional Library website at and clicking on the “list” drop-down menu and typing in “black voices.” Library staff have curated a reading list on Black History Month.

The library also has a book display marking the month.

The city is also promoting awareness of the month through reader boards, newspaper ads, and social media posts and ensuring people are aware of the B.C. Black History Awareness Society.