UPEI student on mission to celebrate and uplift BIPOC voices

·3 min read
University of Prince Edward Island psychology student Chanel Briggs, who received an anti-racism micro-grant from the province, hopes a BIPOC anthology she's creating will be used as an educational resource. (Submitted by Chanel Briggs - image credit)
University of Prince Edward Island psychology student Chanel Briggs, who received an anti-racism micro-grant from the province, hopes a BIPOC anthology she's creating will be used as an educational resource. (Submitted by Chanel Briggs - image credit)

Chanel Briggs feels the multicultural community on P.E.I. is on the "precipice" of something big.

She saw it during the protests for justice and racial equality in 2020 following the murder of George Floyd in the U.S., and she sees it every day as more people of colour make P.E.I. their home.

Now she wants to capture that momentum.

Briggs, who was born in the Bahamas and moved to P.E.I. four years ago to study psychology at the University of Prince Edward Island, is one of 15 recipients of the province's anti-racism micro-grants. She received $1,500 to create the BIPOC Creative Anthology, referring to Black, Indigenous and people of colour.

She calls the project a "mission to celebrate and uplift BIPOC Islanders' narratives and experiences."

"The community here currently — particularly the BIPOC community but also just P.E.I. in general — you can see like we're at the precipice of something. Like everything is growing and booming, and in another 10 years I just feel like the P.E.I. community is going to be so much more expanded — and I think it's very important to capture, like kind of take a little Polaroid picture of this momentum."

Briggs is currently calling for submissions. The end goal, she said, is a tangible zine or book that can be shared with various organizations, such as BIPOC USHR and Peers Alliance, and also be used as an educational resource for the broader population.

'Black joy'

"I'm looking to essentially be able to display all the wonderful, beautiful facets of the BIPOC community — whether that is like personal stories or the subject matter can be about just something more abstract like Black joy or anything along those lines," she said.

Briggs defines Black joy as somewhat of a political term about "being able to seek and explore happiness despite, and because of, societal limitations placed on the Black body."

BIPOC stories historically have been told through sort of a white lens. It's been misrepresented in many different ways, and my goal is to uplift and celebrate and make a space for stories to be told authentically and not watered down. — Chanel Briggs

Submissions, which can be anything from short stories to poetry, could share what it was like growing up on the Island as a racialized minority, or moving to P.E.I. and finding a "source of family."

"A lot of people, let's say like international students, that have moved here weren't able to go home during the pandemic — whether it's because of schooling or whatever it may be — and during this period it appears that a lot of people were able to find that source of family here in P.E.I. within BIPOC spaces."

Whatever the topic, Briggs said it's important to offer a space for BIPOC creators to know that their stories are going to be held with respect.

"BIPOC stories historically have been told through sort of a white lens. It's been misrepresented in many different ways, and my goal is to uplift and celebrate and make a space for stories to be told authentically and not watered down."

Racism on P.E.I. a 'quiet rumbling'

Briggs, who has lived in the Bahamas, the United States and Canada, said racism exists on P.E.I., but it is more of a "quiet rumbling."

She said it is imperative that people from all walks of life reach out and learn about what it is to be BIPOC in the P.E.I. community, and that reconciliation begins with education.

"I'm just hoping to inspire authors and creatives and the little me, the little 14-year-old living inside me.... You know what, your story really does matter. I always just thought ... that no one would listen to what I had to say, and at the end of the day ... your tale, your truth is valuable and you deserve to share it."

Anyone wishing to offer a submission to the BIPOC Creative Anthology can email Briggs at thebipocartanthology@gmail.com.

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