City of London, Ontario, has a new black library
The city of London, Ontario, has a new black library, an addition to a community centre created by Sandie Thomas, a pastor of Jamaican parentage who also heads Spiritual Blessings Lighthouse Ministries.
During the launch of the WEAN (We Are Here Now) Community Centre in December 2020, Thomas had a vision of a space where the stories of black people are emphasised. The soft launch of the Black Public Library was held this week, in collaboration with the London Public Library.
She says of her motivation: “When I was growing up there were no books about me, and it was as though I was not valued as an individual. I went to high school and we had a library within the school, still no books about me. And I have a granddaughter right now, and to see her face light up that there are books that represent her, that’s important.”“We have a story, we have a history of over 500 years old, we have a community from what I call our ‘wisdom community’ that has, and holds, a lot of the wisdom. And so, this is needed to tell our stories and the stories of our young people, so they can devolve to be the men and women that they were created to be,” says Thomas.
ON BLACK BACKS
She says the history of London, Ontario, was built on the “backs of blacks right through Windsor, right through London, Dresden, Ontario. It goes on and on where we had schools, we had stores, and so we need to cultivate that back, so that others know we have a space that we built.”
Starting in June 2021, a steering committee led by Jamaican Omar Smith, a professor of hospitality and tourism at Fanshawe College, worked with the city’s library which provided technical and material support to make the black library a reality.
Smith says the project came to life against the backdrop of the London Public Library going through an anti-racism and anti-oppression review to guide their strategic plan.
“A broadcast was made by WEAN to the local BIPOC (black, indigenous, people of colour) community here across London and southwest Ontario for title suggestions from their communities to be included in the initial draft of approximately 100 books, which was submitted to the London Public Library to begin the procurement process.”
The catalogue includes many Caribbean authors, stories, and novels across many genres. Smith notes that over 60 per cent of the books are from Canadian black and indigenous authors.
WEAN seeks to support and empower members of London’s black and marginalised communities “by creating initiatives for equal opportunity and equal access to well-being, spiritual health and personal economic prosperity”. The community centre is a subsidiary of Spiritual Blessings Lighthouse Ministries.
Thomas, who was born in Toronto to a mother from St Catherine, a father from St Andrew, and has a stepfather from Clarendon, was ordained as a pastor in 2019 through Canada Christian Ministries.
She has co-written A Collection of Sermons Volume 1, alongside 12 other pastors.
Thomas, who is the senior pastor of Spiritual Blessing Lighthouse ministries in London, also pastors, God’s Pop-up, where she serves in the Black Creek and Trethewey area of Toronto.