Black History Month from 1926 to the present
By Rosemary Sadlier, Order of Ontario
February Black History Month is a special time to bring focus and attention to the experiences, achievement and contributions of people of African descent in Canada. It was however never meant to be the only time that we learn about or appreciate the Black Canadian experience or future.
It is hard to believe that in 1996 with the first national celebration taking place, that is was only then that symbolically the Canadian government was affirming that there were indeed Black people in this country and that they had a history, a long and proud history.
I met someone recently who had immigrated from the Caribbean to Toronto. He told me that when he arrived, he was almost offended that something like a Black History Month existed. For him, coming from a country where racialized people, where Black people were the majority, thinking of himself as Black and needing a month to celebrate it was odd. He had come to this country to be Canadian. More importantly, he had never realized that being a Canadian included being Black. He had not come to learn about the reality that Black people have contributed to this country since before it was even Canada. He had accepted what he had been allowed to believe, that this was a white country or a country of immigrants perhaps with a nod to our First Nations. Upon arrival, he just guessed that other Blacks had only recently arrived like himself.
When people ask me why we still need a Black History Month now, I believe it is needed more than ever. We know that there are inequities that trouble many Black Canadians and likely will continue. But we will never be able to see any change take place unless we do something about it. At a time when Black History still remains an optional academic subject in schools perhaps with the exception of BHM events, how to we raise awareness? How can we have the type of society we want where everyone truly has an equal chance of success no matter what race, neighbourhood, gender expression or religion they might be?
What can we do to make those improvements? Involve yourself with groups that address issues you are interested in. Read about both the historic and contemporary experiences of people who are not like you or who sometimes find themselves on the margins of our society. Ensure there is diversity in your organizations and on your boards. Listen to the concerns of people with openness and kindness before dismissing them based on what race or gender a person might have. Try doing things a different way so that you might get a different result – perhaps a better result. Black History Month is a reminder of what we have left out and a call to action to make sure we do something about redressing, correcting this lack of representation.
Rosemary Sadlier, Order of Ontario
NOTE: Rosemary Sadlier has been connected to the CHFT for a number of years and she continues in this role because she fully appreciates that scholarships can remove the financial burden making it more possible for talented and motivated students to attend college or university. She is thrilled to be able to see the scores of people succeed. She encourages those who are able to contribute to this exceptionally worthwhile fund.
A message from Allison Chase, CHFT Past President
The theme for this year’s Black History Month is “February and Forever: Celebrating Black History today and every day.”
Black History Month recalls the stories, experiences and accomplishments of people of African origin.From the arrival of Mathieu Da Costa, a navigator and interpreter in the early 1600s, to Lincoln Alexander and Jean Augustine, Black people and their communities have been an integral part of Canada’s heritage. In the month of February we honour the many contributions that Black Canadians have made and continue to make in all aspects of society. It is with great determination that they continue to work towards making Canada a more diverse and inclusive community where everyone has the opportunity to grow and flourish.
In keeping with this year’s theme, let us join them in recognizing and celebrating their many accomplishments.
Ramer’s Wood Co-operative Homes
A message from Nicole Waldron, Past President, CHF Canada
In 2020 I received the Brian Burke community builder award from CHFT what a humbling moment that made me pause and I was tearful! The tears were mixed as it came from a place of joy and gratitude. I was appreciated by my peers and that felt so heartwarming
There was also gratitude to my elders, to the many Black men, women and children who had the courage and tenacity to fight for the rights of a people and community here in Canada and around the world. In their work and with their drive, they paved a way for myself and others to come into rooms that they we were not allowed into before. They paved a road that myself and many others could walk on, though rocky at times, it was smoother than the roads they walked on.
They paved a way in strength, the days when I felt was weak, I could look at them and reflect on what they did and why they did it. inadvertently knowing that I could press forward once I kept focused and look to the vision and remember my why. I am forever grateful for the work they have done and the courage it took to create significant strides for our country to be inclusive and diverse.
As we enter into Black History Month 2023, we are still in the midst of dealing with the challenge of a pandemic. But my people have been in pandemics before, and they have showed us how to be resilient and that when we come together unified we can get through anything.
As we Recognize and document the contributions of peoples of African descent and their collective histories past and present, it is imperative that we share this information as far and wide as we can, so that we know the fullness of our collective history as Canadians.
Black History Month is not just about us acknowledging the contributions of Black people for one month only, it should now be a reminder that the contributions of Black People in Canada should be recognized daily and included in our curriculums and teachings across the board. In order for our history be truthful it has to be inclusive of All peoples that have lived and contributed in Canada.
The work that CHFT & the Co-op Housing movement has been doing intentionally, to be inclusive is significant as they seek to educate the members of our Coo-op Housing communities. I am honoured to be part of a community that works diligently to include all people throughout the various parts of the movement.
This Black History Month May you pause before you pivot to the next task and find a person in the African Canadian community who has made an impact locally and/or nationally.
Each one, read about one, then teach another. Let Black History Month serve as a reminder that it is our collective history that should not only be acknowledged for only one moment in time. It is a kickoff, a reminder that it has to be incorporated all around in our homes, our schools and community continuously. Our history will equip and educate us to have a bright and better future for generations to come.
I encourage You get a Black History poster for your coop and put it up in your common space, have a zoom Black History month event. Include information in your co-op newsletters and you can also find online social activities for children.
This month and moving forward how will you incorporate diversity into your household and in our co-op community?
Thank you CHFT for Acknowledging and Celebrating Black Trailblazers who have helped to shape our country!
Have a happy an informed Black History Month.
Past President, CHF Canada
A message from Namulinda Lester, CHFT President
“Do not look the other way; do not hesitate. Recognize that the world is hungry for action, not words. Act with courage and vision” – Nelson Mandela
I am reflecting on this quote by Nelson Mandela as a strong believer of the ability of grassroots organizations to impart change. Particularly in addressing the inequality and barriers that are imposed on Black communities.
We’ve seen measures put in place to reduce access to affordable housing such as redlining which is a systemic and discriminatory practice that disproportionally affects racialized communities in some countries. We’ve seen proclamations that these barriers do not exist when they in fact do.
In most of Canada the cost of housing has increased tremendously which once again disproportionally affects racialized communities. Co-operative federations like CHFT have taken action in response to these challenges.
As a result, alternative models have been established creating a sense of equality, ownership, and affordability in housing – acting with courage and vision. I hope to continue to play a small role in the already fruitful journey of housing federations across Canada.
Board of Directors member, CHFT