Black History Month: Celebrating excellence and achievement in Canada
Canada’s theme for Black History Month is ‘February and Forever’ and celebrating excellence and achievement is just the start of a process that lasts all year.
When Michael Assivero wrote his book, ‘My Name is My Name and My Name Won’t Change’, it was as a legacy for his three children.
“I’ve been ill chronically for 19 to 20 years,” says Assivero. “All of our children have names that have very deep meanings to us and the book was really to tell a funny story about each one of them.”
But when a publisher printed the book, little did Assivero know the impact it would provide for an entire community.
“It matters that people get to see themselves in various places; it matters that people don’t feel excluded from conversation,” says Assivero. “It’s an opportunity for everybody to learn about everybody else. It’s not unfamiliar territory anymore, everyone starts to understand everyone and then the fear starts to break down and we can start living better.”
On Feb. 13, Assivero will be part of Black History Ottawa’s Virtual Children’s Reading Series from the Black Diaspora, an event where prominent Black community members will read books written by Black authors.
“The youth will know they too can be authors right, here is a mentor for you our community,” says Joanne Robinson, BHO event coordinator, adding the event promotes inclusivity and equality for the future generation. “We have to be able to push forward in the workplace … which means that many of us still have to be pushing and doing that 120 per cent to still get to where someone else is at.”
New research by KPMG in Canada finds that nearly seven out of 10 Black Canadians say their employers have made progress on following through on their promises to be more equitable and inclusive for Black employees, and their managers and senior leaders have a better understanding of the systemic barriers Black Canadians face, but barely half have seen these efforts translate into better job opportunities
“We’ve certainly seen some real progress in corporate Canada when it comes to reducing anti-Black racism and I think this poll sort of tells us that,” says Rob Davis, Chief Inclusion & Diversity Officer and Chair of the Board of Directors of KPMG in Canada. “We’re slowly changing the tide and there is lots of work to be done but as a country I think we certainly need to keep the pressure on and this momentum going we got to keep the conversation going.”
The poll reveals workplaces need to have more Black Canadians in leadership roles and that anti-racism education must continue. Davis adds that it is critical for corporations to be allies and that it is not for the Black community to solve the problem and reduce racial barriers, it’s up to all Canadians.
“And that has to do with recognizing that the sidelining of people of racialized background over the years is getting better but it’s not where it should be,” says Rev. Dr. Anthony Bailey, with the Parkdale United Church. “We’re not going to wait for space to be provided for us, but we are going to claim that space, and claim the space means identifying our identity acknowledging the tremendous contributions people of African decent have made in our world.”
Rev. Bailey says that while corporations work at performative goodwill, it is not always substantive.
“The baby buggy, the bicycle frame, the blood plasma bag, the pencil sharpener, there are so many things that have been created and invented but because when you see the name beside that you make an assumption that must have been a white person,” says Rev. Bailey. “What we’re trying to do is conscience-tize people and to help them recognize there is an excellence within the Black community and to recognize there is a need to redress the discriminatory policies and things that need to be set aside.”
Every February, people across Canada participate in Black History Month events and festivities that honour the legacy of Black Canadians and their communities.
The 2022 theme for Black History Month is ‘February and Forever: Celebrating Black History today and every day’, which focuses on recognizing the daily contributions that Black Canadians make to Canada.