February is Black History Month — a time to honour and celebrate the rich history, stories and achievements of Black Canadians.
While the occasion is being marked during a pandemic for the second year in a row, community organizers say there are plenty of ways to celebrate safely.
Silvia Mangue Alene, the president of British Columbia Black History Awareness Society, said her organization is holding a series of free events this month, most of which will take place virtually.
According to their website, Black history in B.C. dates back to April of 1858 when the first Black settlers arrived in Victoria.
“They were teachers. They had restaurants. They had shops. They did all sorts of things that any other citizen will do,” explained Mangue Alene.
After more than a century and a half later, the community continues to push for fairness and equality.
For community organizer and athlete Pamphinette Buisa, celebrating Black excellence means fair compensation — in other words, paying Black people for their labour in educating others on anti-Black racism.
“This month is a huge opportunity Black experiences, but also listen and invest our coin to make sure we continue that momentum, so there’s not that invisible labour that goes unnoticed,” she explained.
She says she’s dedicated now more than ever in the Black Lives Matter movement, but understands the momentum fluctuates.
“I think that’s what movements are about. But I think it’s important with that consistent allyship,” Buisa said.
“That consistent choice to be anti-racist is something you have to actively work to do. We can’t just stay passive because it’s not enough. It hasn’t been enough and it won’t be enough,” she continued.
Mangue Alene echoes the same sentiment, adding that society has become so divisive in recent years.
“I would just like people to respect each other,” she said.
She and Buisa also want people to take this time to acknowledge First Nations.
‘There’s no such thing as Black liberation without also acknowledging Indigenous peoples, the lands that we’re on,” said Buisa.
So for the next 28 days, they wants everyone to celebrate and learn about the many achievements and contributions of Black Canadians that have helped shape the country it is today.
“A Canadian person is not only one colour. It’s many, many, many colours, many, many different backgrounds, many many races,” Mangue Alene said.