February is Black History Month, or African-American History Month; an annual observance in Canada. It is a time in which we celebrate and remember all the ways that black Canadians have contributed to Canada’s history and culture and provides an opportunity to learn more about African cultures.
Black History Month dates back to 1926 in the United States. At that time, an African-American historian named Carter G. Woodson founded a week that focused on celebrating the accomplishments of African Americans. He decided on a week in February due to two important men born this month – Abraham Lincoln and of Frederick Douglass. Frederick Douglass, a slave in the 1800s, later spoke out for the freedom of all slaves as well as equal rights for women. Abraham Lincoln was the 16th president of the United States; he is often recognized for fighting for the freedom of all slaves. Celebrations of Black history began in Canada also shortly after 1926 and in December 1995, the House of Commons officially recognized February as Black History Month in Canada.
The celebration has become even more important in light of recent events around the world and here at home. We’ve seen an increase in racial profiling and attacks on people of colour, religions, countries of origin, and more. Collectively, many people are countering such blatant abuses using their collective voices. Black Lives Matter works for a world where “Black lives are no longer systematically targeted for demise.”
Libraries throughout the Lower Mainland and the Fraser Valley have a number of events that will give you an opportunity to learn more about African history, culture, and the contributions black Canadians have made to Canada. In particular:
The Richmond Public Library (RPL) has partnered with the City of Richmond, Richmond Arts Centre, Chimo Community Services, and community advocate Mary Wilson to present a series of programs in celebration of Black History Month. The theme of these presentations is “Honouring our local heroes.” To find out more about these events, dances, story-telling events, and more, check out the RPL Events Calendar for dates and times.
The Vancouver Public Library (VPL) is offering a number of events at library branches across the city, including an author event with Lisa-Anne Smith (Our Friend Joe: The Joe Fortes Story), panel discussions and film screenings of Intore, Let the Fire Burn and Journey to Justice.
And, of course, there are a number of books, available at all times, that highlight the accomplishments of black Canadians that have shaped the diversity of our country. The
I encourage you to take some time to acknowledge the contributions of the diverse peoples who have helped make our country what it is today. Diversity matters and we must honour through our active participation of learning more.
Attend an event. Borrow a book. Learn.