Black Lives Matter Vancouver raise concerns about Solange Knowles shows and Chinatown gentrification

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      While Vancouverites are clearly ecstatic to see activist and artist Solange Knowles perform in Vancouver this week (tickets sold out within minutes on April 25), some locals are expressing mixed feelings.

      Members of Black Lives Matter Vancouver are among those who are excited about Knowles's appearances but are concerned about where she'll be performing. Knowles is scheduled to present the performance piece Scales on Thursday and Friday (April 27 and 28). 

      While the Anti-Oppression Network launched a petition on April 20 to ask Knowles to cancel or relocate her show from the Rennie Museum in Chinatown, Black Lives Matter Vancouver expressed support for such concerns in a Facebook post on April 25.

      Although the Anti-Oppression Network focused primarily on the museum's ties to developer Bob Rennie, BLM Vancouver provided a broader social and historical context for gentrification issues in Chinatown.

      BLM Vancouver acknowledge that all proceeds from the show will benefit the Downtown Eastside nonprofit Atira Women's Resource Society, they add that "many folks have already been impacted by gentrification".

      They point out that Chinatown is the site of the former Hogan's Alley, an area where a local black Canadian community developed in the 20th century until it was destroyed by the development of the Georgia Viaduct.

      "Black people were literally erased from this same area…and continue to be pushed out of the city by isolation, covert/overt racism, and systemic oppression," the group states in their post.

      They also raise concerns about how rising rents and unchanging welfare rents are forcing residents out of the area, including sex workers, drug users, and other marginalized community members.

      "We stand in support of organizers rallying against the harm this does to marginalized racialized communities in Vancouver," they state. "We also recognize the rare opportunities that exist for the black community to come together around art that has been made specifically for us."

      BLM Vancouver also urges the City of Vancouver to listen to groups such as the Chinatown Concern Group or the Chinatown Action Group, while doing more to address gentrification.

      "We are balancing opposing gentrification while simultaneously wanting to honour and respect a black female artist and those who want to attend," they state.

      You can follow Craig Takeuchi on Twitter at @cinecraig or on Facebook