Black History Month commemorated by museum, university

Graphic from the Saskatchewan African Canadian Heritage Museum (SACHM) website

Carol LaFayette-Boyd, being a second generation Canadian with African heritage herself, has a close connection with Black History month; and she hopes to bring more attention to this month and its purpose.

“[Regina does] lots of things but there are still lots of people that aren’t aware … that February has been designated as African Canadian/Black History month. Especially in the schools I don’t think they are totally aware,” said Carol LaFayette-Boyd

LaFayette-Body is the executive director of the Saskatchewan African Canadian Heritage Museum here in Regina

The museum collaborated with the Mackenzie Art Gallery to host an event at the beginning of the month. The event took place at the Civic Museum of Regina with a panel discussion focusing on African Canadian artifacts.

In 1995 Canada declared February would be dedicated to celebrating African Canadian and Black History, just 84 years after the government considered passing an act that people of African descent were deemed unsuitable to live in Canada’s climate. And 10 years earlier, in the 1901 census, six people were listed as being of African descent in Saskatchewan.

“It is interesting to know this history that people of African descent have had in Canada and particularly in Saskatchewan,” said LaFayette-Boyd.

“It interesting to know about everyone’s history and heritage.”

Before the Saskatchewan African-Canadian Heritage Museum (SACHM) began in 2002, the history of African heritage in this province was mostly unknown and undocumented.

“Most people think that… people of African descent have just been coming here in the last 40 years. But they have been here since the 1900’s,” said LaFayette-Boyd.

Even though Black History Month is relatively new in Canada, the African Canadian population is not.

Immigration numbers are continually growing. Canada welcomed 313, 580 immigrants in 2019 compared to only 240,76 in 2015. Nigeria has been one of the top 10 source countries for immigrants to Canada and six of the top 10 source countries for refugees being in Africa.

LaFayette-Boyd believes it is important for Canada to honour and celebrate not only Black History Month but also African Canadian culture and ethnicity.

“I think it’s important for all of us to be aware of each other’s heritage,” she said.

Victor Adeolu Oriola, the president of the University of Regina’s Student Union (URSU), shares the same sentiments.

“Historically [it] has either been ignored, underappreciated, sometimes misattributed to other people and Black History Month, while it does not undo or wholly address some of the injustices that black people across the world have… suffered and experienced it is a recognition of the significant accomplishments and attributions that black people have made,” said Oriola.

Oriola commends the You Belong Here anti-racism campaign the university is undertaking and says it is a good start in celebrating Black History Month and proclaiming that racism has no place on this campus.

“But we cannot stop at campaigns,” said Oriola.

“We can’t stop at banners and posters and speeches and t-shirts and caps. We have to follow these public shows of support with actionable policies, policies that are designed to ensure the campus continues to be welcoming,” says Oriola

The president of URSU believes that the University could do more to acknowledge this month. But by University, he means than just those who hold positions at the school.

“The university does not comprise only of the administration on the fifth floor, it comprises of the 16,501 students who are educated here, are professors, faculty, teaching assistants, and staff. We all make up the university,” said Oriola.

Oriola and LaFayette-Boyd both believe it is more than just African Canadians that should be celebrating.

“While February is Black History month it is important to recognize that black history is human history,” said Oriola.

“When the opportunity arises for people to recognize and celebrate these accomplishments it should be… something that is universally applauded… because while you might not be a black person the accomplishments that are being celebrated have affected you.”

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