By Rosemary Sadlier
In the 1950’s the Canadian Negro Women’s Association brought the celebration to Toronto, Ontario.
By 1978, Ontario Black History Society successfully petitioned the City of Toronto to have the monthly celebration formally recognized. This celebration is currently proclaimed across Canada.
But why have a Black History Month? African Canadian students need to feel affirmed; need to be aware of the contributions made by other Blacks in Canada; need to have role models; need to understand the social forces which have shaped and influenced their community and their identities as a means of feeling connected to the educational experience and their life experience in various regions in Canada. They need to feel empowered.
The greater Canadian community needs to know a history of Canada that includes all of the founding and pioneering experiences in order to work from reality, rather than perception alone.
As a people, with roots dating back to 1603, African-Canadians have defended, cleared, built and farmed this country; our presence is well established, but not well-known.
The celebration of Black History Month is an attempt to have the achievements of Black people recognized and told.
We need a Black History Month in order to help us to arrive at an understanding of ourselves as Canadians in the most accurate and complete socio-historical context that we can produce. As a nation with such diversity, all histories need to be known, all voices need to be expressed.
Black history provides the binary opposite to all traditional histories. One needs traditional history to engender a common culture; one needs Black history to engender a clearer and more complete culture.
When the contributions of people of African descent are acknowledged, when the achievements of Black people are known, when Black people are routinely included or affirmed through our curriculum, our books and the media, and treated with equality, then there will no longer be a need for Black History Month.
Rosemary Sadlier is President of the Ontario Black History Society (OBHS).