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Surrey stage for ‘Black in B.C.’ celebration, free for all on Feb. 1

Event to kick off Black History Month in the city
Garrison Duke, Chief Operating Officer of Surrey-based DIVERSEcity Community Resources Society. “What I would like to see now is that evolution where more Black people are represented at the tables that are important for making decisions,” he says. “We’re getting there.” (Contributed photo)

In Surrey, February’s Black History Month will kick off with a special event focused on Black excellence at the arts centre’s 400-seat Main Stage. Admission is free and open to the general public on Thursday, Feb. 1, starting at 3 p.m.

Home to the largest Black population in B.C., Surrey is a suitable city for such a celebration of Black talent, culture and achievements.

For a second year, the “Black in B.C.” event is brought to the stage by DIVERSEcity Community Resources Society, which helps newcomers settle here.

The Newton-based organization’s Chief Operating Officer is Garrison Duke, who is Black.

“I’ve been with DIVERSEcity for five years, and the organization has been in existence since 1978,” Duke explained.

“I’ve been here for 30 years, and back then you’d hardly see any Black people,” he added.

“And I tell you, I’ve seen our demographics change. In Toronto, where I’m from, there’s a very prominent Black culture, and they went through the rigors of elevating Black voices. They’re still doing that today but they’re much further ahead than we are here. But I’m starting to see, you know, a lot of Black organizations in B.C. and people in leadership (roles), but more needs to be done.”

The second annual Black in B.C. event is billed as a significant gathering for the Black community in Surrey and the rest of B.C.

“Our goal is to empower and amplify the voices of the Black community by showcasing their unique talents and celebrating their remarkable resilience in the face of adversity,” explained Lenya Wilks, DIVERSEcity’s director of partnership and stakeholder engagement.

The event, held in partnership with Surrey Local Immigration Partnership (LIP), will include a DIVERSEtalks panel of local leaders moderated by Duke, fashions by Black designers, music and dance, free African food, the inaugural Black Brilliance Awards and a showcase of Black businesses and organizations. Event details are posted on, registration on

“We launched this event last year on a smaller scale at a different venue, with around 300 people,” Duke noted. “This year we wanted to make it bigger, a flagship event.

“We’re seeing a lot of interest,” he added. “In general, this is about elevating and building awareness about the Black community and giving opportunity and voice to members of the community that wouldn’t be normally highlighted.”

Duke says Surrey and Metro Vancouver is now home to capable Black leaders at various organizations and companies, but there’s still room for better representation.

“One of the things that have disturbed me over the years is that we’re usually linked to, you know, excellence in sports, entertainment and pop culture,” Duke said. “But now people are seeing the excellence in leadership, and Barack Obama (former U.S. president) has something to do with that, too. His election was really significant, highlighting capable Black leadership.

“What I would like to see now is that evolution where more Black people are represented at the tables that are important for making decisions. We’re getting there.”

Tom Zillich

About the Author: Tom Zillich

I cover entertainment, sports and news stories for the Surrey Now-Leader, where I've worked for more than half of my 30-plus years in the newspaper business.
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