CELEBRATING BLACK HISTORY MONTH

February is Black History Month and a great time to remember the immense contributions and accomplishments of the Black People in Canada. It is the time to honour their legacy and their communities, by paying homage to their Stalwarts past and present.

“Black Excellence: A Heritage to Celebrate; A Future to Build” is the 2024 theme for Black History Month in Canada. This theme as the title indicates, felicitates with vigour and gratitude the past struggles, victories and valuable Black heritage, keeping an eye on the future, with aspirations to embrace new opportunities and avenues for growth. The theme has been chosen to align with the 10th year of the ‘ International Decade for People of African Descent’ which recognizes that this group is particularly vulnerable and has to have their human rights protected, advanced and acknowledged.

The Thirteenth Amendment outlawed slavery in the United States. February 1 is known as National Freedom day in it’s honour.

Two important facts about Black History Month : It was first celebrated in the second week of February in 1926 to coincide with the birthdays of Abraham Lincoln on February 12th and Abolitionist/editor Fredrick Douglass on February 14th. Carter G.Woodson initiated the first celebration which led to Black History Month and then officially in 1976 as part of the U.S.A’s bicentennial the week was expanded to a month.

Reverend Jesse Jackson’s march for jobs – around the White House

A couple of biographies down below of great and famous Black people in Canada, who have helped shaped our Canadian heritage and identity and have left an indelible mark on Canadian History and society, thereby promoting the wellbeing and prosperity of our great country.

Harriet Tubman : A former enslaved woman from Maryland, she went on to become ” The Moses” of her people and “conductor” who led hundreds of enslaved Blacks to freedom along the Underground Railroad. Despite great personal risk when the United States Fugitive law was passed, and having angry slave owners posting bounties for her capture, she continued her work guiding runaway enslaved people further north into Canada. She became a leader in the Abolitionist Movement and during the Civil war worked as a nurse and spy for the Union forces in South Carolina.

Ihlan Abdullahi : She is an educator in public health , a professor at Simon Fraser University, a dedicated community organizer, story teller and advocate residing on the unceded territories of the Musquea, Squamish and Tsleil-Waututh Nations. Her relentless work addresses health and social inequities, helping to contribute to the collective liberation of the communities she belongs to . Her focus is particularly on Black youth and newcomers. As an immigrant to Canada she draws her inspiration from her family’s journey and struggles. In 2020 she was nominated for the Top 100 Black Women to watch in Canada and in 2021 was shortlisted for the Woman of the Year Award, hosted by Muslims Achieving Excellence. She made her Directorial debut in 2021 with her Documentary “Dreamers”, which follows the journey of two Somali youth with dreams of becoming Professional Soccer players. She has centred Black refugees in her work in research, hoping that she can can explore the role of community organizing and social innovation in public health systems. Her other aspiration is to explore how grassroots community organizing and the process of decolonization through systems change lens can contribute to the upliftment and liberation of these communities.

The Honourable Lincoln M.Alexander : Born in 1922, he served with The Royal Canadian Air Force during the Second World war between 1942 and 1945. A graduate of Hamiltons’s McMaster University, he later passed the bar examination as a alumni of Toronto’s Osgoode Hall School of Law. He was appointed as Queen’s Counsel and was the first Black person to become a member of Parliament in 1968 serving in the House of Commons until 1980. He was also the Federal Minister of Labour in 1979-80. He was appointed as Ontario’s 24th Lieutenant Governor in 1985 and was the first member of the racialized community to serve as the Queen’s representative in Canada. Education and Youth were the hallmarks of his Mandate. His illustrious career also included being the Chancellor of the University of Guelph, the Chair of the Canadian Race Relations Foundation and also the Honorary Commissioner for the International Year of Older Persons Ontario Celebrations. He was appointed a Companion of the Order of Canada and to the Order of Ontario in 1992 and was Named the “Greatest Hamiltonian of All Time.” On December 2013 the Province of Ontario proclaimed January 21st(Lincoln Alexander’s birthday) as “Lincoln Alexander Day”

Carrie Best : She was born on March 4, 1903 in New Glasgow, Nova Scotia, married in 1925 and died in 2001. In the 1940’s, she and her son Cal were arrested for sitting downstairs in the Whites-Only seats at the Roseland Theatre in New Glasgow. They were then charged with disturbing the peace, convicted and fined. She founded the first Black-owned and published Nova Scotia newspaper called ‘ The Clarion ‘ and in 1952 aired her radio show ‘The Quiet corner’ Some of her landmark achievements are:

  • Member of the Order of Canada in 1974
  • Awarded the Queen Elizabeth medal in 1977
  • Officer of the Order of Canada in 1979
  • Awarded an honorary doctorate of civil laws (DC.L)
  • Founded the Kay Livingstone Visible Minority Women’s Society of Nova Scotia in 1975
  • Inducted into the Nova Scotia Black Wall of Fame in 1980
  • Received the Harry Jerome Award in 1986
  • Received the Harambee Membership Plaque in 1987
  • Received the Black Professional Women’s Group Award Certificate in 1989
  • Received the Minister’s Award of Excellence in Race Relations- Minister of State for MultiCulturalism in 1990
  • Received the Nova Scotia Human Rights commission Award in 1991
  • Received the Town of New Glasgow Award for work in race relations in 1992
  • Received the Congress of Black Women Certificate in !993

I conclude with a noteworthy quote by Marty Meehan ” BLACK HISTORY MONTH MUST BE MORE THAN JUST A MONTH OF REMEMBRANCE; IT SHOULD BE A TRIBUTE TO OUR HISTORY AND REMINDER OF THE WORK THAT LIES IN THE MONTHS AND YEARS AHEAD.