Here we are, in the 2nd half of 2014’s Black History Month – and what a month it’s been. In my world, BHM brings a clogged calendar of events, banal “Why isn’t there a WHITE History Month?” commentary, and memories of my childhood. Being the only Black student in most of my elementary classes, I came to expect the special after-school meeting, the teacher’s wide-eyed gaze and saccharine grin, and the bestowment of the duty of providing Black History Month lessons to my class. A true teach the teacher moment, indeed.
A similar moment occurred recently, when I had an eye-opening conversation with an American colleague. The topic of Black History Month came up, and she casually stated, “I learned lots back home in New York, but they never taught us anything about what happened up here. I mean, the Underground Railroad led to Canada, right? But then what?”
Being a Black woman in Canada, the close proximity to America is both a blessing and curse at times. One of the curses is that we know so little of our own Black Canadian history in comparison to the majestic stories of the USA. Children here in Canada know more about Rosa Parks and Malcolm X than they do about Viola Desmond and Mathieu Da Costa – and if we aren’t fully aware of our rich Black Canadian history, how can we expect our neighbours to the south to understand the links between us?
Allow me to don my teacher’s cap once again (willingly, this time) and introduce you to some of the major figures in Black Canadian history.
(Photo via www.canadapost.ca)