It’s no secret that the Black population in Vancouver and at UBC is quite small, and for a Black student newly moving to the city, it can be extremely intimidating. When I first moved to Vancouver, I was shocked at how little Black population there was.
Having moved from Nigeria—where everybody is Black—it felt unsettling being, at most times, the only Black person on the bus, in the classroom and in many other settings. Nonetheless, I became friends with students from all over the world. What I loved—and still love—about UBC is the fact that it attracts students from all over the world and in turn has given me the ability to learn about so many cultures and religions through the connections I make.
However, no matter how much I immersed myself in the UBC community, I still struggled with the lack of a Black community. From the despair of my first-year experience, I learned how important it is for a Black student to be part of a Black community at UBC and ultimately in Vancouver. Regardless of who you surround yourself with, no one will truly understand your experiences as a Black person in a predominantly non-Black city as much as other Black people.
Being a part of a Black community at UBC is important for a number of reasons:
Vancouver is undoubtedly one of the loneliest cities in the world. I’ve heard so many experiences of people struggling to make friends in Vancouver and feeling extremely isolated and depressed. As a Black person in Vancouver, your loneliness can be amplified by a lack of a Black community — especially if you’re not originally from Vancouver or Canada. Joining a Black community allows you to connect with your fellow Black peers and develop open communication and support over your similar struggles and experiences. Also, it’s nice to feel like you’re not the ONLY Black person in Vancouver.
As a Black person in Vancouver, it is very easy to feel like an outsider due to the low Black population. It’s hard to ignore the stares and subtle acts people take to avoid you in any setting. This can have awful effects on your confidence and your sense of being. Immersing yourself in a Black community provides you with that sense of family and being that you may lack in your environment. Personally, partaking in activities with my Black friends momentarily makes me forget about the daily microaggressions I face.
If you’re a Black international student, you’ll need to discover Vancouver. Joining a Black community will hook you up with the best and most affordable salons, beauty supply stores, African and Caribbean food markets and African restaurants.
Finding a Black community
Now that we’ve established the importance of a Black community at UBC, your next question may be: “how do I find my Black community at UBC?” Well, the easiest way to find a Black community at UBC is to join clubs! UBC contains an ever-growing variety of Black student clubs — the most popular one being the Black Student Union (BSU)!
Joining the BSU allows you to meet other Black and biracial UBC students from all over the world. The BSU facilitates an environment where connections and friendships can be built; it also provides support for those who may be struggling to adjust to Vancouver and are in need of a community to link them to their country of origin.
The BSU holds meetings and events in which all members are able to attend and participate in activities that establish familiarity and friendship amongst members. In addition, the BSU helps showcase Black, African and Caribbean culture, art, and talent at UBC. If you’re interested in getting involved, attending a BSU meeting or even messaging the BSU Instagram page (@ubcbsu) can provide you with information about their upcoming events for the term.
Honorable mentions of UBC Black student clubs include:
Black Voices at UBC is a new column written by Black members of UBC’s student community.