On February 1, the start of Black History Month, I posted a message of gratitude for the work of two Black women who have assisted in my ongoing education about Black History in Canada.
The theme of Black History Month this year is February and Forever: Celebrating Black History today and every day. This is a reminder to us all that if we want to be sure that we are learning the true and complex history of our country and highlighting the important contributions of Black Canadians, we must commit to celebrating Black History beyond just this month.
St. Clement’s School is a girls’ school, dedicated to girls’ education, and so I make it my business to seek out expertise from women. In educating myself about Black History in Canada, I have turned to several Black women who have assisted in this learning.
The first woman, Natasha L. Henry, is an educator, historian, author, and curriculum consultant as well as the President of the Ontario Black History Society, a not-for-profit organization that aims to encourage public interest in Black History. Ms Henry has led many workshops and is working to ensure that learners delve deeper into Canada’s Black History, including the Underground Railroad and the realities of the existence of slavery and overt racism in our country. I encourage the reader to take some time to connect with the Ontario Black History Society, with the intention of learning far more than what our curricula has taught us in the past.
The second woman, Dr. Afua Cooper, also challenges the notion that Canada was a haven to those fleeing slavery south of our border. Dr. Cooper is a Jamaican-Canadian poet, author, and sociology professor currently working at Dalhousie University in Halifax. She received the Nova Scotia Human Rights Award in 2015. My first introduction to Dr. Cooper was her book The Hanging of Angélique: The Untold Story of Canadian Slavery and the Burning of Old Montréal.
This important work is the result of fifteen years of research, and sheds light on slavery in Canada. Since then, I have turned to her work to continue mine, and I urge you to do the same.
As we challenge ourselves while celebrating Black History Month, I am grateful for Ms Henry’s and Dr. Cooper’s continued work year round.