With Black History Month in Canada well underway, the Chan Centre for the Performing Arts pays tribute to poet Gwendolyn Brooks, the first African American to win the Pulitzer Prize with No Blue Memories: The Life of Gwendolyn Brooks.

In this multimedia work, Chicago’s award-winning Manual Cinema has teamed up with Eve L. Ewing and Nate Marshall to create a unique biographical narrative.

“Manual Cinema creates magic, pure and simple,” says Wendy Atkinson, programming manager at the Chan Centre and curator of Beyond Words. “Through the unlikely pairing of high-tech digital equipment and old-school overhead projectors they are known for completely captivating audiences.”

No Blue Memories traces the political arc of Brooks’ career and the development of her craft. Born in 1917 in Kansas and raised in Chicago, Brooks worked for decades as an artist, mentor, and advocate. Becoming one of the most widely read authors in America, she used her skills as a poet to convey the black experience.

In 1950, her book of poetry, Annie Allen, received the Pulitzer Prize, making Brooks the first African American to ever receive the coveted honour. The work consists of three parts about an African-American girl, Annie, growing into womanhood.

Brooks would also become the first black woman to become a poetry consultant for the Library of Congress, the first to be inducted into the American Academy of Arts and Letters, and was appointed Poet Laureate of Illinois in 1968.

Using a combination of shadow puppetry, vintage overhead projectors, multiple screens, actors, live feed cameras, multi-channel sound design, and live music, No Blue Memories is a fitting tribute to Brooks’ boundary-breaking accomplishments.

Part of the Chan Centre’s Beyond Words series, in addition to the No Blue Memories performance on February 24, Manual Cinema will also present a workshop at the Vancouver Art Gallery on February 23. As well, Vancouver poet Jillian Christmas will explore Brooks’ legacy and literature in a pre-show talk.

No Blue Memories: The Life of Gwendolyn Brooks plays the Chan Centre for the Performing Arts on February 24. Visit chancentre.com for tickets and information.

Other Black History Month events happening around town in February:

Celebrating African art, focusing on resistance – Feb 15 @ SFU Harbour Centre
African Heritage Month Music & Storytelling – Feb 15 @ Cafe deux Soleils
AfroScience with Tonye Aganaba – Feb 15 & 16 @ Heritage Hall
Film Screening: The Issue of Mr. O’Dell – Feb 26 @ SFU Woodward’s