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Vancouver’s first Black library: A place of refuge, at last

September 16, 2022

By Vancouver Sun |

To step into the Vancouver Black Library feels like a walk into a person’s soul, a world filled with burnished stars, and bright, colourful stories, a room that feels like what it is intended to give: Joy.

It doesn’t matter that the stars are made of paper, or that the stories are yet to be collected, or that on the battered Keefer Street building gate someone has scrawled “racist” on a sign that shows the way in. What matters is refuge.

Maya Preshyon has found her place — because she made it herself: “I wanted to improve the way I was feeling, and improve things for others.”

Although the library has only been open a week, the fact that it exists feels almost like magic.

Preshyon, a 21-year-old University of B.C. social work student, conceived of the project in January, when she was “at a low point.” That low was related to something she had felt for years, a sense of isolation, and a lack of “a Black space.”

“There are Black people in Vancouver, we just have nowhere to go,” said Preshyon. “I was feeling lonely.”

Her sense of disconnect started early. At her secondary school in Surrey she was one of the only Black people in her graduating class.

“I felt invisible,” said Preshyon. “It made me feel less valuable than other people. I didn’t resist that narrative, because who was going to listen?”

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