Article by: Doug Gallant
To celebrate black history month, the PEI 2023 Canada Winter Games has partnered with the Confederation Centre of the Arts to deliver a new art exhibit spotlighting Island athletes of colour.
Now on view in the Centre’s concourse gallery, It’s More Than Sports: A Celebration of BIPOC Athletes on Prince Edward Island features BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, and People of Colour) athletes from the past and present, with a glimpse into what sport could be in the future.
In 1883 Prince Edward Island, boxer George Godfrey was named Colored Heavyweight Champion. He had begun to box in Boston just four years earlier. By the time he stopped boxing in 1896, he had more than 100 fights to his credit. His success paved the way for other black boxers from P.E.I. and other communities in the Maritimes.
Michael Thomas, born on Lennox Island in 1885, established himself early on as an extraordinary distance runner. In 1910, he generated national attention for his running skills and became the first Islander invited to take part in the Boston Marathon. He experienced great success before health issues related to arthritis forced him to quit.
Mohammad Alhaj Ali plays with the Holland Hurricanes Men’s Soccer Team. He has earned many awards including Holland College Athlete of the Year for 2021-22 and Holland College Men’s Soccer MVP for 2021-22.
Kaiya Maracle, who’s been described as a force to be reckoned with on the ice, has been active in women’s hockey since 2020 and in a relatively short space of time has made quite an impact as a forward. Every game becomes more exciting when she takes the ice.
All four of these accomplished athletes and many others are featured in the new exhibition, which draws attention to the often unacknowledged and powerful contribution of BIPOC peoples to the Island sporting communities using historical photos and artifacts, and contemporary photographs by Mi’kmaw photographer Patricia Bourque. It also includes drawings from Island children and features a vision statement for BIPOC sports on P.E.I.
Curated by Bianca Garcia, the exhibition was organized by BIPOC USHR, with support from the 2023 Canada Winter Games, and the Confederation Centre of the Arts.
Sobia Ali-Faisal, executive director of BIPOC USHR, says that although Prince Edward Island has a long history of BIPOC peoples competing in sports, their accomplishments rarely get the attention they deserve.
“We hope that through this exhibition we are able to show people from across Canada that BIPOC athletes have always been around, have always been demonstrating their excellence in sport, and will continue to be a vibrant and skilled part of the Island sports community,” Ali-Faisal says.
There will be a reception for the exhibition on Saturday, February 25 at 7 p.m. A Family Sunday event will also take place on Sunday, February 26 from 1:30 – 2:30 p.m. This workshop is a free opportunity for families to explore visual art together, creating their own mixed media story books inspired by the exhibition using cut paper, pencils, markers, and other provided materials.