Saturday, November 22, 2014


Shalema Gantt

a personal view of arts and culture in Nanaimo by Dan Appell

I’m hoping this will become a series of articles dealing with the persons and conditions creating cultural experience in Nanaimo. It should give you a bit of a warning about who and what is about to happen, and some insight into what it takes to produce art and cultural events in this city.

My first article is focusing on the Nanaimo African Heritage Society (NAHS) and their upcoming plans for February’s Black History Month.

The African Heritage Society is in its 14th year. It was founded and still directed by Shalema Gantt. The purpose for her society is threefold; to improve our understanding of the contributions black people have made to the people of the West coast, to promote black american and African culture, and bridge the cultural divide between black people and the rest of the world. For Shalema, the focus of these three rather large tasks is February and Black History Month.

For most of the year, Shalema, is involved in one way or another, organizing events for Black History Month. Her efforts become concentrated from now until the end of February. For the next three months, Shalema’s role will alternate between producer, director, editor, salesperson, showman, performer, designer, hostess and whatever else it takes to get this thing done. And each day, seven days a week she is all of these things.

By the end of February, Shalema will have created an Opening Ceremony, a Gospel Song Festival, a Hip-Hop rave, a concert tribute to Bob Marley and a Closing Gala. Plus, she will have produced a small book that informs us about some aspect of black culture, and all the printed material to promote these events. When its over she will have left a small trace of appreciation for the achievements of Black people in this community.

What Shalema does is very difficult, stressful, and exhausting. She has given herself a huge task and everyday she rises to fulfill it.

Without Shalema Gantt its safe to say that Black History Month would come and go without much notice. We would lose an opportunity to be entertained and informed from a perspective that is not our own. Would this matter? Are Shalema’s efforts worth it? All I can tell you, and this is all I’ve ever learned; the more we know and care and understand about other people, the better we become. This is the purpose of culture, and the fundamental belief of all of us involved in cultural endeavours; all of our lives are worth improving.



  1. I'm hoping to create a series of articles related to art and culture in Nanaimo. Please tell me what you think of my first part.

  2. Nice to see this here, Dan and Jim.


  3. Excellent article.. and my compliments to the Nanaimo African Heritage Society! I did a search on under Selma's name and to the best of my knowledge, all her work has been achieved without municipal tax money ! THAT is someone I will support.. Dan, you know where to reach me for a donation!


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