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Black History Month looks to the future

The theme for February’s celebration of African and Caribbean culture is the resilience of black people throughout history, and how that resilience continues today.

This year’s Black History Month at Queen’s will examine the struggles faced and overcome by black people both here at Queen’s and throughout the world. It will also look at how their collective strength through those moments has shaped their present and future.

The African and Caribbean Students’ Association (ACSA) and the Queen’s Black Academic Society (QBAS) will be working together to organize an opening ceremony on Sunday, Feb. 4 at Renaissance Event Venue in downtown Kingston.

Organizers, speakers, and some attendees of Black History Month 2017. (Supplied Photo)
Organizers, speakers, and some of the attendees of Black History Month 2017 gather in Robert Sutherland Hall. (Supplied Photo)

QBAS will be holding talks on diversity and mental wellness within the black community, exploring structural sources of mental wellness obstacles for persons of colour and ways in which the community can work together to eliminate obstacles for individuals seeking resources and help.

They will also be hosting a social mixer, and running a unique campaign within the Queen’s community centred on one of its most prominent black alumni, Robert Sutherland.

“His story is carved into the very structures of Queen’s University and it lives through the black excellence and resilience of Queen’s black students and alumni,” says Asha Gordon (Artsci’18). “Through a media and tabling campaign called “I Am Robert Sutherland”, we hope to show his story is both a narrative of the past and of the present. The faces of the Robert Sutherland legacy are all around us.”

ACSA will also be looking at the history of black people within the Queen’s context, and highlighting their story of resilience. As one example, they will be hosting Queen’s employee and former journalist Edward Thomas (Sc’06, MSc’11) who, on the one-hundredth anniversary of the event, has investigated the expulsion of black medical students in 1918, and what happened to them after Queen’s.

“We chose the theme of resilience because black people have gone through so much and have come out stronger than before,” says Elorm Vowotor (Artsci'18). “Another focus this year is on bringing the community into our celebrations, so everyone – Queen’s students and the broader Kingston community – is welcome to join us at our events. We are inclusive and want to welcome everyone to learn more about the history of black people in Canada.”

The group will also host a dance workshop, and an event celebrating African and Caribbean food, with traditional dishes such as Jamaican jerk chicken, West African jollof, and Guayanese pholourie.

Both QBAS and ACSA received grants from the Alma Mater Society and the Deputy Provost (Academic Operations and Inclusion) to help fund this year’s activities. The two groups will be regularly providing updates and photos throughout the month through social media.

Planning for Black History Month began last semester, and involves both students and members of the Kingston community. For more information on the launch of Black History Month at Queen’s, please stay tuned to the Kingston Black History Month Facebook page.

To learn more about the history of Black History Month in Canada, please visit the Department of Canadian Heritage’s website.