Why We Must Continue to Celebrate Black History Month

There is much to celebrate during Black History Month. Among which includes a vibrancy that comes from the diversity that is embodied in black populations, the resilience that has been passed down through generations and the incredible contributions to local and international communities.

History has many names etched in volumes of books with the likes of Michaëlle Jean, the first black Governor-General of Canada, Viola Desmond, a Canadian civil and women’s rights activist and businesswoman, and Elijah McCoy who created 57 inventions. If you’ve heard of the catch phrase, “the real McCoy,” it was coined after Elijah McCoy for his famous device that helped lubricate machinery. Let’s not forget Masai Ujiri who became the first and only African general manager in the basketball league. Ujiri led the Toronto Raptors to the first Canadian basketball championship win and is currently the team’s President.

Black people have made an impact in every sector – aerospace, business, medical, politics, sports, the navy, film, and fashion, to name a few, and yet remain cloaked with a fabric of less than, invisible or an afterthought.

How so?

  1. People still question why it is necessary to celebrate black history month including politicians.
  2. Black people still consistently experience racism in the travel industry, in the workplace, in the justice system and in social settings.
  3. Businesses owned and run by black communities bring in considerably less in income than their white counterparts or other racialized groups, 1 (StatsCan) due to systemic challenges including securing loans or grants (CBC). “Investment, measured by physical capital held, is also lower on average for businesses owned by Black people ($190,800) than for businesses owned by White people ($617,600) or other racialized groups ($274,400),” Statistics Canada.

To put it more simply, here is why we must continue to celebrate Black History Month:

In celebrating black communities, doors to equality and inclusion are opened; opportunities in traditionally non-racialized industries become available and systemic barriers will be continually broken. Where black persons and communities see themselves in diverse settings, their contributions will naturally compound, further benefiting society as a whole.

The movie Hidden Figures speaks into this. As more black women see this historical movie, more choose to go into predominantly white male sectors such as aerospace. Where black women read profound books from authors such as Maya Angelou and Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, we see more black authors rising across Canada sharing the richness that comes from diversity.

Black children seeing Sir Lewis Carl Davidson Hamilton racing in F1 which is a predominantly caucasian sport, are being inspired to embrace their backgrounds while reaching for the stars. Not too long ago, Jann Mardenborough broke barriers in the gaming and professional race driving worlds when he used his gaming skills to transition into the real world of professional car racing and became the youngest driver to win GT Academy.

The fact that black people’s achievements and accomplishments are mostly recognized when communities are reminded to, further emphasizes why celebrating Black History Month is essential for communities to grow stronger, increase in justice and equity, while becoming more diverse and inclusive.

Here’s a call to action: celebrate Black History Month especially every February and throughout the other 11 months of the year by:

  1. Engaging with black communities in meaningful conversations that acknowledge and uplift them.
  2. Investing in black-owned businesses and recognize their contributions in your local community.
  3. Being an ally for black persons and stand against any racism and discrimination.
  4. Encouraging the inclusion of black history education in schools and communities.
  5. Travelling with a mind to learn from black populations when visiting their communities.

And to the black community, we are incredibly talented and innovative people. Let’s continue to build each other up and shine together.

This article was written by community writer Tsungai Muvingi as part of our J.E.D.I. Initiative – Community Writers Project. All thoughts and opinions expressed are Tsungai’s own. You can learn more about Tsungai on our team page here

To learn more about our Intercultural and Intergenerational Diversity and Inclusion Engagement Project, go to our J.E.D.I. Initiative landing page here.

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