Black History Month 2017: Reflections

by Channon Oyeniran

“My ultimate dream is that these things — women’s history, black history — are so included in the core curriculum narrative that we no longer need a separate time to celebrate it.” – Denée Benton 

1Slider_blackhistorymonth_2017I know, I know, Black History Month 2017 (BHM as it will be referred to for the remainder of this post) is over…so why is Channon talking about it again?! Well, I just wanted to do a brief recap and take the time out to reflect, think and discuss how BHM 2017 went! For me, BHM 2017 was awesome, one of the best yet! It started off with the Ontario Black History Society’s Annual Kickoff Brunch on January 29th, which is an annual brunch that kicks off BHM in Ontario with performances, awards, a keynote speaker and entertainment. This annual event is significant because it not only kicks off BHM, from an organization that was instrumental in getting BHM celebrated in the city of Toronto, but it’s also a time when black Canadians can come together to acknowledge our history and achievements from those doing great things in the city of Toronto. On February 8th, Historica Canada, celebrated Black Canadian Trailblazers, an evening of storytelling where notable black Canadians in various fields such as media, academia, social justice told their personal stories and those who inspired them. You can see more about that event here and here.

Desktop5Later in the month, I presented at the Burlington Public Library about the different groups of black people that migrated to Canada and at David Bouchard Public School in Oshawa, Ontario where I spoke about pre-European contact and pre-colonial Africa, the Transatlantic Slave Trade and the black presence in Canada. I also attended Afroglobal Television’s Black History Month reception. Afroglobal showcases the best of Africa and its Diaspora through programming that positively and more accurately impact and reflect the experiences and dreams of people of African heritage around the world. Towards the end of the month, I hosted my 2nd annual “Looking Back into the Future” Black History Month Conference. I also had the privilege of watching the brilliantly made and narrated James Baldwin documentary, I Am Not Your Negro. This documentary is so accurately on point about the black experience in America that it’s like James Baldwin is living in 2017 with us! I also attended the Mayor of Toronto’s Black History Month reception that unveiled artifacts from one of the first black churches in Toronto from the 1800s. I also went to Canada’s capital, Ottawa, with 165 students to learn more about BHM in Canada and meet the Honourable Jean Augustine (below in photo), the first black woman elected to Parliament in Canada and who got the motion passed for BHM to be celebrated in Canada in 1995. Such an honour! Whew, that is a lot and there were so many more events, receptions, concerts, etc. to go to in my community and in the city of Toronto that commemorated BHM!! It was a great month of learning, knowledge sharing, commemoration, education, fun and fellowship and was way too short! 


Although BHM is only officially recognized in four provinces across Canada (this year marking the first year that the province of Alberta is celebrating it), BHM 2017 in these four provinces, as well as the rest of the country, was a busy one, with many different celebrations happening in different towns and cities! From book launches, to festivals, to films, to pop-up shops, to panel discussions, to conferences, to photo, art and information exhibits, workshops669450, plays, seminars, brunches, lunches and dinners, BHM 2017 was jam packed across Canada! It was so exciting to hear about, read and see how many different activities there were to do in my local community and in the city of Toronto. It made it very difficult to decide what to participate in, as the disadvantage of having BHM in February is that, as we all know, it’s the shortest month of the year. However, on the positive side, it is so refreshing to know that there are so many different activities planned for BHM. There is never a lack of things to do during this month.


“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.” – Marty Meehan

20170228_115821As I reflect back on BHM 2017, I am humbled to see so many people responding positively to what is really another facet of Canadian history and the Canadian experience. I have said it before and I will say it again, BHM is a time to honour the achievements and excellence of a black people who have risen and keeps on rising above the previous and, more importantly, current degradation.

Again, although some people question why a whole month is dedicated to Black history, it is my sincere hope that people will take the time to really learn what BHM is all about, to learn something new and to recognize its importance. It is also with great anticipation that I hope black history will be known as simply just history – a history that includes people that helped shape the world as we know it now.

“That the history of black people is really a part of Canadian history, the contributions that we made to Canadian history, the contributions that we made to Canadian society are part of the contributions we should have made as Canadians in Canadian society. I think that in every aspect of Canadian life you can find someone of African descent, of Caribbean descent, of black… participating and therefore it is essential that, that be recognized by the society.” – Honourable Jean Augustine


For more information on BHM, what it is and why it still matters, check out these posts from myself and Michelle here and here.

Note from Michelle: One of the coolest things that happened this year was the Black Futures Month project from Huffington Post. Various issues concerning black lives were highlighted, as well as the community leaders working towards a better future.  


For more information…


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