Nine years have passed since I was first given the opportunity to work as a coordinator for Black History Month. During these nine years, I’ve watched the event grow, mature, find its place, build bridges, and increase social cohesion. Each year questions about the relevance of Black History Month seem to pop back up. I’ve always wondered which among these three words seemed to be causing such a fuss: “Black”, “history”, or “month”? Why is it still considered so taboo and unsettling to highlight the historical, social, or cultural contributions (past or present) of Black communities? Some others ask why this theme should be given its own month? Why not? Isn’t it only healthy for members of a given society to understand the identity, history and journey of those who make up that society? Isn’t it dialogue and mutual respect that makes us stronger? I’m Black—that doesn’t determine my future, and above all, isn’t the only component within my multifaceted identity. And that’s great! But the thing is that being Black involves historical baggage that I can’t simply cast off and of which, to the contrary, I’m quite proud. Being Black requires me to understand the world in which I live— a world which has its gaze directed at ME (whether or not I wish, accept or know it). Being Black is a source of personal strength to me, and not a weakness! And it’s this strength that pushes us to self-improvement! A strength that demands that we be extraordinary citizens and trailblazers for our generation! Our theme this year is “Black History Is Made Every Day”. Our actions each day will determine the nature of the world that we’ll leave as our legacy. They say that “each man is a humanity, a universal history” and that “there is no end to history”, so while there’s still time, it’s up to us to take the necessary measures to put an end to prejudice and racism. There is no question that the racial issues impacting our society need to be resolved, so why call into question the role of an event that’s very mission is to do just that?
As a Black woman, growing up in Quebec rarely provided me with role models I felt represented me. Faced with institutional racism, I decided to get involved to change things. After arriving in Montreal at the age of nine, at no point did my schooling give me the opportunity to discover the history of Black people in Quebec or the contributions they’d made to society. For years, I felt doubly “other”: Not only was I an immigrant, but I also realized that no matter how far back into the past Black people’s presence in Quebec might go, Blacks were not recognized as being wholly part of the social fabric here. It was through my involvement with Black History Month that I learned more about our history, and was able to realize the extent to which Black people have contributed to Quebec society and to Canada. We don’t need to ask permission for greater visibility or a chance to assert ourselves—I’d finally understood that we have our place here, and that my voice is an important one that deserves to be heard.
I hope this 27th edition of Black History Month will provide some with inspiration and serve as a source of awakening for our generation. Each in their own way, this edition’s laureates and spokespeople are making contributions to the legacy of Black people in Quebec. Thanks to their voices and talents, they’re able to defy the status quo and break down barriers. They allow us to dream of a juster society.
I invite you to take part in the activities the Month has to offer, to celebrate, and to find out a bit more about our history and the role models who, each day, write its most-recent chapter!