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Queen’s and Kingston recognize Black history

University, student, and community groups mark Black History Month with 28 days of virtual activities and events.

Graphic treatment of calendar of events
Black History Month events are taking place at Queen's and in Kingston throughout February. Visit the calendar.

Black History Month recognition and celebration events are underway across Queen’s and Kingston and are set to continue all February. An online opening ceremony on Jan. 31 marked the launch of a month-long calendar of virtual festivities highlighting Black arts, culture, history, and community.

Hosted by Queen’s Human Rights and Equity Office, together with campus and community partners, the opening ceremony was emceed by senior undergraduate drama student Paul Smith, and featured remarks from Community Elder, Judith Brown, who reflected on 25 years of Black History Month being recognized in Canada. The event also included a five-member panel discussion, including Stephanie Simpson, Associate Vice-Principal (Human Rights, Equity, and Inclusion); Celina Caesar-Chavannes, Senior EDI Advisor (Faculty of Health Sciences); senior undergraduate student Kemi King; and local grade 12 students, Sefanit Zeray and Alyssa Kutama.

“Black History Month is an important time of reflection that holds many meanings for many people,” says Associate Vice-Principal Simpson. “This year's Kingston BHM opening ceremony created a virtual space in which the vibrancy of community could be shared and celebrated. I invite everyone to use this month and everyday beyond to be inspired by the joy in community that BHM brings.”

February’s itinerary features a wide range of daily events, including mental health workshops, listening and watch parties, anti-racism forums, dance and cooking tutorials, learning and networking sessions, and more. Programming continues until Feb. 28, when the African-Caribbean Students Association will host their popular annual Culture Show online for the first time.

The opening ceremony closed with a spoken-word performance by author Abena Beloved Green, who addressed the evening’s theme: Joy in us. Joy in Community. Read her full piece.

“Black History Month is a time to reflect on and recognize the innumerable triumphs, accomplishments, and contributions made by Black members of our campus community,” says Patrick Deane, Principal and Vice-Chancellor. “It should also be a time for us to examine and commit ourselves to dismantling the barriers that continue to hinder the pursuit for equity, both within the post-secondary sector and beyond.”

Along with recognition festivities, Queen’s continues to expand its supports for Black students, faculty, and staff – an important component of Principal Deane’s recent Declaration of Commitment to Address Systemic Racism which redoubled the university’s efforts to ensure that those who experience racism and related forms of injustice are treated equitably and are able to participate fully and authentically in the life of the university.

Initiatives have been launched to create and strengthen available supports for Black campus community members, like new Queen’s National Scholar funding to recruit emerging academic leaders to Queen’s expanding Black Studies Minor program, and a number of changes to Queen’s admissions processes designed to remove barriers to higher education for BIPOC and equity-seeking prospective students. Queen's recently partnered with the Onyx Initiative as well — an organization working to connect Black Canadian university graduates with careers.

Becoming involved in local Black History Month recognition and celebration activities today. Check the schedule of events to find out how you can join.