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Celebrating Black History Month Beyond the Surface
Every February, Canada observes Black History Month. It is the month that beckons us to pause a bit from our personal affairs and steers us to reflect on the experiences and stories of Canadians of African descent. It is also about celebrating their accomplishments and contributions that shaped and continues to shape and awaken the consciousness of our communities in Canada. Despite such a legacy, Black Canadians continue to suffer racism on both individuals as well as systemic levels. Black History Month, therefore, represents a call to action for each and every one of us to speak up and rally against hate, discrimination, and racism of any kind.
We at Flourish Sales Corp are committed to the goals of Black History Month. As a startup headed by a Black Founder, we acknowledge our responsibility in propelling the movement of Black History Month forward. For communities and local businesses in a country like Canada to make sustainable progress, we are convinced that it is crucial for community members to fully recognize the history they have inherited in which ancestors of many of their community members were enslaved to build this country. Moreover, the younger generations of Black communities continue to suffer its direct manifestation in the form of individual and structural inequities on a day-to-day basis in Canada today. So how is it possible for a community to talk about its better future with no confrontation of the past and reparation for the centuries of injustices suffered by our Black community members in Canada? While celebrating the culture and accomplishments of Black Canadians through hosting events, incorporating Black representations in promotional marketing efforts, and acknowledging Black historical figures are noticeably important ways to observe Black History Month in Canada and are definitely encouraged, these efforts however are only scratching the surface of what Black History Month truly represents.
To make the most out of Black History Month, one needs to be ready to feel uncomfortable and courageous to invite others to feel uncomfortable. Here are some re-examined ways to optimize the invaluable time of Black History Month.
First, acknowledge that what you learned about the history of Black Canadians in High School History Books was a sanitized version and was vastly incomplete and misrepresented. One has to take it upon themselves to actively educate themselves and their younger generations on the reality of anti-Black history in Canada. As the history of Black Canadians is gapingly absent from the history of Canada, it is not only important to learn about the complete and correct History of Black Canadians but also critical to question its absence. One way to start would be to start reading Black scholars' works and listen and hear stories and experiences of Black members within your community.
Second, one’s understanding of anti-Black racism shouldn’t be confined in the form of knowledge, but rather one needs to empathetically see how racism manifests within our own spaces that we had previously condoned or failed to notice. More importantly, Black communities are impacted by racism, especially if it occurs in the spheres of influence, resulting in structural racism. One, therefore, should cultivate the courage to speak up and take action to stop it at any cost.
Third, while it is easy to point to racism occurring outside, it is extremely difficult and uncomfortable to acknowledge one’s own biases and prejudices around race and black communities. As one learns more about Black Canadians’ history and pays focused attention to Black experiences in Canada, one also should look inward and reflect on any changes ideologically and behaviorally one needs to undergo to become an ally for Black communities. It is important not to misunderstand the role of an ally with the role of a saviour. Black communities are filled with community leaders and role models fighting for a more equitable present and future for their black communities and do not need anyone to save them. Instead, your role as an ally is to support and amplify their efforts and invite others to become an ally.
Fourth, to see substantial changes in the status of racism in Canada, transformation on an individual level is simply not enough. To see black communities, get equal opportunities in Canada across all sectors like workplaces, education, health, the justice system, military, politics, policing, and so forth, concrete steps of reparations need to be taken on an institutional level by the government officials, people in leadership positions and policymakers. For that to materialize, people need to collectivize and put pressure on their representatives in the government to pass bills and write policies that mandate a correct and complete curriculum of Black History in schools, provide Black communities with a levelling field in all sectors of our society, empower them to succeed and protect them from discrimination.
Fifth, it is important to note that the celebration of Black History Month should not stop when the month of February ends. The centuries of injustices and suffering cannot be addressed in just one month. This movement should continue until the day when every Black lives matters in reality! Let this February be the beginning or a continuation of observing Black History Month beyond the surface.
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