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  • Mariah Wilson

What is Black History Month?

Although it’s more widely recognized in the United States, Black History Month is observed within both the U.S. and Canada each February (February 1 to March 1). Black History Month was established to celebrate the achievements of people of African and Caribbean descent within our communities, to learn more about African cultures and to reflect on significant and historical events that African Americans have contributed to. In 2017, Alberta became the fourth province in Canada to officially celebrate Black History Month.


Date: February 9 at 2 pm

In this presentation, we will reflect on what brought Canada to the point of having February “officially” declared as Black History Month. Presented by Dr. Carl E. James, who holds the Jean Augustine Chair in Education, Community and Diaspora in the Faculty of Education at York University. Register here.

Date: February 10 at 7 pm

John Ware Reclaimed follows filmmaker Cheryl Foggo on her quest to reexamine the mythology surrounding John Ware, the Black cowboy who settled in Alberta, Canada, before the turn of the 20th century. Foggo’s research uncovers who this iconic figure might have been, and what his legacy means in terms of anti-Black racism, both past, and present. Access it here.

Date: February 14 at 11 am

This session invites educators, practitioners and policy workers to consider decolonial perspectives in teaching about Africa and African history. Presented by George Sefa Dei, Professor of Social Justice Education & Director of the Centre for Integrative Anti-Racism Studies at the University of Toronto. Register here.

Date: February 15 at 7 pm

Enjoy an in-depth discussion on the creation and impact of the film We Are the Roots: Black Settlers and their Experiences of Discrimination on the Canadian Prairies. Please view in advance at no cost at Dr Este will discuss questions and observations raised by the film as well as new film projects on this topic. Access it here.


3 Books to Read

Africville (2018)

Written by Shauntay Grant and illustrated by Eva Campbell

"When a young girl visits the site of Africville, in Halifax, Nova Scotia, the stories she's heard from her family come to mind. She imagines what the community was once like --the brightly painted houses nestled into the hillside, the field where boys played football, the pond where all the kids went rafting, the bountiful fishing, the huge bonfires. Coming out of her reverie, she visits the present-day park and the sundial where her great- grandmother's name is carved in stone, and celebrates a summer day at the annual Africville Reunion/Festival. Africville was a vibrant Black community for more than 150 years. But even though its residents paid municipal taxes, they lived without running water, sewers, paved roads and police, fire-truck and ambulance services. Over time, the city located a slaughterhouse, a hospital for infectious disease, and even the city garbage dump nearby. In the 1960s, city officials decided to demolish the community, moving people out in city dump trucks and relocating them in public housing. Today, Africville has been replaced by a park, where former residents and their families gather each summer to remember their community." —Calgary Public Library

The Skin We're In (2020)

Written by Desmond Cole

"In his 2015 cover story for Toronto Life magazine, Desmond Cole exposed the racist actions of the Toronto police force, detailing the dozens of times he had been stopped and interrogated under the controversial practice of carding. The story quickly came to national prominence, shaking the country to its core and catapulting its author into the public sphere. Cole used his newfound profile to draw insistent, unyielding attention to the injustices faced by Black Canadians on a daily basis. Both Cole’s activism and journalism find vibrant expression in his first book, The Skin We’re In. Puncturing the bubble of Canadian smugness and naive assumptions of a post-racial nation, Cole chronicles just one year—2017—in the struggle against racism in this country. It was a year that saw calls for tighter borders when Black refugees braved frigid temperatures to cross into Manitoba from the States, Indigenous land and water protectors resisting the celebration of Canada’s 150th birthday, police across the country rallying around an officer accused of murder, and more." —Penguin Random House

Willie (2020)

Written by Willie O'Ree

"An inspiring memoir that shows that anyone can achieve their dreams if they are willing to fight for them. In 1958, Willie O'Ree was a lot like any other player toiling in the minors. He was good. Good enough to have been signed by the Boston Bruins. Just not quite good enough to play in the NHL. Until January 18 of that year. O'Ree was finally called up, and when he stepped out onto the ice against the Montreal Canadians, not only did he fulfil the childhood dream he shared with so many other Canadian kids, he did something that had never been done before. He broke hockey's colour barrier. Just as his hero, Jackie Robinson, had done for baseball. In that pioneering first NHL game, O'Ree proved that no one could stop him from being a hockey player. But he soon learned that he could never be just a hockey player. He would always be a black player, with all that entails. There were ugly name-calling and stick-swinging incidents, and nights when the Bruins had to be escorted to their bus by the police. But O'Ree never backed down. When he retired in 1979, he had played hundreds of games as a pro, and scored hundreds of goals, his boyhood dreams more than accomplished. In 2018, O'Ree was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in recognition not only of that legacy, but of the way he has built on it in the decades since. He has been, for twenty years now, an NHL Executive and has helped the NHL Diversity program expose more than 40,000 boys and girls of diverse backgrounds to unique hockey experiences. Inspiring, frank, and shot through with the kind of understated courage and decency required to change the world, Willie is a story for anyone willing to persevere for a dream." —Calgary Public Library



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