By Ettie Rutherford
During this month, due recognition will be given to the contributions of Blacks in Canada, starting with the arrival of our Nova Scotian brethren, who fought during the war of 1812, as well as the tens of thousands of us, who continue to contribute to various aspects of Canadian life.
Needless to say, we must all be thankful to former Member of Parliament and federal Minister, Honourable Jean Augustine, who was the first Canadian Black woman to be elected to the Federal government, and who, in December 1995, persuaded the government to legalize, and make official, the recognition of February as Black History Month.
It is also noteworthy that the Augustine continues to be a beacon of light, as she assists people, the world over. Here in Ontario, she has established the Jean Augustine Academy for Girls, and there are also schools, parks and other buildings named after her.
She also spent years developing the Congress of Black Women of Canada, in order to acquaint Black women with the whole concept of working in sisterhood, to uplift the lives of women and their families. As her life has shown, Black celebration is not just about food and dance but, rather, it is about making a positive difference, while portraying a life of service to others.
When I met her, over 30 years ago, when she came to Alberta to spread the word about the Congress of Black Women of Canada, I was immediately captivated with her words of wisdom, which were: “Lift as you climb” and “Grow where you are planted”.
So, let us be propelled by her life of service, while joining hands in an inclusive organized manner, from March to January, in order to be quite clear as to why we are celebrating in February.
It is my hope that during our Black History Month celebrations, we will pause to pray for our single mothers; our teenagers, who are experiencing a rise in mental challenges; our young men, who are using the gun as a sign of manhood; as well as their families who, in most cases, have been forgotten in their sorrow.
Let us never forget that we do not have to honor only Blacks in the USA, who have made a difference in sports, music, and the civil rights movement, because here, in Canada, there have always been memorable trailblazers in various fields of endeavor.
Let us enlarge our celebration, by embracing Black history books, Black art in our homes, as well as time spent teaching our children and grandchildren about our struggles, our accomplishments, our African heritage, as well as our Black spirituals, those sorrow songs of bondage, which lifted the spirits of our slave ancestors.
Our celebration will be useless, if we do not support parents but, instead, leave our children’s future to the whims and fancies of the school system and our elected officials.
I urge everyone to let our annual February celebrations be about how we have treated our brothers and sisters during the other 11 months of the year.
Have a great Black History Month and keep remembering that we must “lift as we climb”.
Award-winning Ettie Rutherford, B.Ed, Dip.Ed, M.Ed, is an educator, life coach, consultant and author of “Why Perch Like A Chick When You Can Soar Like An Eagle?”. An accomplished public speaker, Ettie is the Founder and CEO of Women Are Worthy, which provides step-by-step strategies for women to achieve their goals, with a minimum amount of stress. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org