‘Colouring the Pages’ event highlights authors of colour
BSAAT, Mount Allison’s black students’ association, and 7Mondays recently teamed up to bring stories by writers of colour to the cultural fore.
Last Wednesday, BSAAT and 7Mondays jointly hosted an open-mic poetry reading entitled “Colouring the Pages,” intended to bring attention to the literary talents and contributions of authors of colour. While anyone was welcome to attend or read, they asked that only works authored by self-identified people of colour be performed. To facilitate this, BSAAT also provided printed samples for suggested reading.
7Mondays editor Kennedy Lundberg said that during the initial event-planning process, 7Mondays executives discussed the value of limiting the evening’s readings to those written by authors of colour.
“Someone brought up: ‘That’s the point,’” said Lundberg. “It is limiting to do that, and then it makes you more aware of that.”
“There’s some really amazing writers [of colour],” said fourth-year French student and BSAAT executive Malika Rogosin. “I think [the event was] just to show that there are a lot of authors and poets of colour out there, and just to raise awareness and draw attention [to them].”
As someone with family from Guadaloupe, Malika said that writers of colour have been integral to her throughout her life.
“When I grew up, my parents were reading a lot of authors of colour,” said Rogosin. “When I was trying to think of poems [to perform], I was like, ‘Which one? Who do I pick?’ They’re all so great.”
The event featured readings of both historical and contemporary authors from Maya Angelou to Dionne Brand, as well as a few original pieces written by BSAAT members. Although some of the evening’s performances were explicitly political in nature, Rogosin said that the event was also intended to give a voice to “Other themes that aren’t stereotypically attributed to people of colour, like love and romance—not just slavery and colonialism.”
Given that contemporary writers are distanced from the historical origins of racial oppression – though no less affected by them – Rogosin said that the everyday emotions and stories conveyed by people of colour through literature are just as important as a direct political message.
“It just shows that race isn’t some kind of box you can be put in,” Rogosin said. “There’s things, no matter what culture or background or social class, that people all relate to.”
Rogosin discussed the way in which writers of colour, even when included in discussions of literature, are often perceived as a “different genre”—separate from that of the mainstream canon. She also connected this to gender representation in literature, as women and non-binary authors often receive a similar treatment.
“Everything is made to seem secondary to male or more ‘traditional’ types of literature,” said Rogosin. “It’s [seen as] ‘other’ and put into its own little category.”
Rogosin said that this is a result of education systems putting a much smaller emphasis on writers of colour, and likened their treatment to a footnote rather than the main focus. As an example, Rogosin brought up the Négritude movement in 1930s France, in which writers and activists from overseas French territories and former colonies produced a wave of anti-colonial literature and philosophy.
“[It’s] really interesting and a big movement, but a lot of people don’t know about it because we don’t learn about it in our literature courses here or in high school,” said Rogosin. “It’s out there, but [a lot of it] isn’t mainstream.”
“Thank God for Lawrence Hill,” Rogosin added, with a laugh.
BSAAT will be co-hosting a panel on intersectionality on Nov. 4 in affiliation with GetR.E.A.L. and Catalyst.