The Black and Caribbean Book Affair was informative and empowering

Audley-Coley and Yolanda Marshall

The 2023 Black and Caribbean Book Affair, hosted by the Blackhurst Cultural Centre, was a huge success. The book affair kicked off on October 12th with an empowering presentation by Kemba Byam, Acting Manager, City of Toronto’s Confronting Anti-Black Racism Unit.

Sarah Onyango was set to interview GauZ, the author of the novel, “Standing Heavy,” which has been shortlisted for the International Booker Prize. Unfortunately, GauZ was unavailable for the virtual visit, but an informative discussion about the book’s narrative on the experiences of African immigrants by Sarah and Neil Armstrong inspired many attendees to purchase the novel.

It was an evening of delicious fruit juice and gourmet pizza for the big group of guests. On Friday, October 13th, historian Kathy Grant shared knowledge about the No.2 Construction Battalion, also known as the Black Battalion. Canadian artist, Ken Daley educated students who wanted to learn more about the role of an illustrator and the creation of children’s books. Gayle Gonsalves interviewed Sheila White about her book, “The Letters: Postmark Prejudice in Black and White.” We were shown letters and images of her parents Vivian Keeler, a determined white Canadian woman who risks it all by falling in love with her dad, a Black man. It was a nostalgic journey into the past for many of the guests.

On Saturday, the “World of Distribution-the Dos and Don’ts” workshop for up-and-coming writers, was presented by two leading experts in the publishing industry, Maria Martella, owner of Tinlids Inc., and Kwame Scott Fraser, President, and Publisher of Dundurn Press. The presentation was information for new

Author Asha Bromfield

and aspiring writers. Audley-Coley and Michelle Muir discussed mental health and the book, “Audley Enough: A Portrait and Recovery in the Face of Mania and Depression,” written by Patricia Lavoie and Lesley Whyte Redford.  Award-winning children’s literature author Nadia L. Hohn presented, “The Antiracist Kitchen:21 Stories (and Recipes),” which was followed by Asha Ashanti Bromfield’s book launch of her latest title, “Songs of Irie.” The events ended after an empowering discussion between three Black historians, Dr. Karen Flyn, Dr. Funke Aladejebi and PhD candidate Catherine Grant-Wata about “Black Women, Oral History and Social Activism in Canada.”

Overall, it was a momentous book affair and, one I proudly participated in on Saturday. Suzette Vidale and I hosted, “Storytime and Steel Pans,” for all ages. The centre was filled with kids and adults who enjoyed reading three of my picture books about soca music, carnival, Caribbean nations, and steel pans. They thoroughly enjoyed the sweet Caribbean sounds of Suzzette’s steel pans as each page introduced a Caribbean song. Our performance has the crowd singing and dancing. The biggest highlight for me was receiving the 2023 My People Award from the Blackhurst Cultural Centre on the opening day.


L-R Kemba Byam, Yolanda Marshall, and Neil Armstrong