February 1st, 2021
In February, Waterloo Region District School Board (WRDSB) recognizes Black History Month.
While the conversations of Black history and heritage must go beyond the 28 days of February, this month-long acknowledgement is a time to highlight and remember the ways that African, Caribbean, and Black Canadians have contributed to Canada’s past, present and future, while recognizing the responsibility each of us has to become anti-racists and combat systemic anti-Black racism.
Black History Month is an opportunity to celebrate and reflect on the history, culture, and current accomplishments of the Black community in Canada. While the month-long celebration has its roots in the United States, it was first recognized in Canada by the Canadian Negro Women’s Association beginning in 1950. Following much advocacy and championing by the Ontario Black History Society, it was adopted by the Ontario government in 1979. In 1995, a motion to officially recognize February as Black History Month in Canada was introduced by the first Black woman elected to parliament, the Honourable Jean Augustine, and was unanimously passed by the House of Commons.
In the past 12 months, we have witnessed world-altering events – from the global pandemic, to the global anti-racism movement which included worldwide protests and activism. Like never before, our eyes have been opened to the systemic racism that still exists in our own communities and public education system. Along with that awareness has come a desire for many to learn and act. However, we need to understand that Black History Month this year will, inevitably, be shaped by the events of this past year.
With this in mind, we know that given the ongoing impact of these events, we need to be mindful of this context in our approach to marking annual celebratory events. We want to be clear: this isn’t about muting celebrations, but rather, is about taking a balanced approach in celebrating the joy of Black History Month, while understanding the significance of the time in which we live.
Throughout the month of February, we will share stories from staff and students and provide resources and information that we hope you will find engaging and helpful.
Black History Month Event
This February, we will be hosting our 3rd annual Black History Month event on Friday, February 26 from 5:30 to 6:30pm via a live stream, bringing together students, staff, and members of the African, Caribbean and Black identifying (ACBi) and broader community. It is an opportunity to learn from each other, make connections, build relationships and celebrate together, even though we cannot come together in-person.
This year’s theme is “Black Brilliance: Embracing History and Ourselves,” with Keynote Speaker Natasha Henry, current president of the Ontario Black History Society. Ms Henry is completing a PhD in History at York University, researching the enslavement of African people in early Ontario.
She will be speaking about the #BlackedOutHistory campaign, an initiative aiming to raise awareness of how little Black history is taught in Canadian schools and is calling on the provincial and federal governments to update the education curriculum.
We will share more information about the event at a later date.
We look forward to embracing Black History together with you.