Since 2019, MacEwan University has been observing Black History Month, offering opportunities for learning, reflection and celebration.
This year’s Black History Month will be taking place virtually, with events covering a variety of topics, from history and health to politics and personal stories. All MacEwan students, employees and members of the community are invited to take part in the virtual panels, discussions and “Human Library” presentations.
“The fact that we’re doing this virtually gives us the ability to share it with more people. The events are all free of charge and it's very easy to share the link with anyone – friends, colleagues, family members from around the world – and encourage them to participate in these important conversations,” says Justine Dogbe, who is part of MacEwan’s Careers and Experience team and member of the Black History Month planning committee. “Sometimes it’s hard to know how to talk about these things at home, with your children or your partner or whomever is in your life. You might not have all of the words but you can share some of these events with folks and start that dialogue.”
The kickoff event, The Double Pandemic for Black Canadians, is hosted by Canadian Senator Wanda Thomas Bernard and will address how issues like anti-Black racism and the COVID-19 pandemic are affecting Black communities.
“Black History Month is not just about history — it's about our present and future as well,” says Dr. Valerie Ouedraogo, assistant professor of social work and a member of the Black History Month planning committee. “The kickoff event is going to be about where we are right now and what our future will look like.”
“Black History Month is not just about history — it's about our present and future as well.” —Dr. Valerie Ouedraogo
Addressing anti-Black racism is a prominent theme this year. At the Countering Anti-Black Racism: Student Forum, student members of MacEwan’s anti-Black racism advocacy group will join students from NorQuest College to provide tangible recommendations to their institutions that validate student concerns. This event is a continuation of work that began last year in response to the killing of George Floyd and other instances of anti-Black police brutality and systemic racism experiences.
“It speaks volumes when students commit to being part of the work and creating the change they want to see,” says Dogbe. “These students are only here for a few years, but they recognize that these issues matter and they want to see certain things changed for the students that will come after them.”
According to Ouedraogo, educational institutions like MacEwan have unique opportunities – and responsibilities – in sharing the stories and helping shape the futures of Black Canadians.
“As a university, we have this educational component that we can really make use of in having our own Black History Month,” she says. “It's an opportunity to reinforce and claim our collective role and responsibility in these issues that impact us as learners, teachers, students and community members.
“We need to talk about the stories that are ours – how Black communities evolved in Canada, particularly in Alberta,” she continues. “Talking about our history gives us the opportunity to reach out and change our relationship with one another.”
All members of the MacEwan community are invited to attend Black History Month events, and Dogbe encourages non-Black community members to participate in the spirit of learning and support. “There are a lot of things that people just don't know about,” she says. “I hope that people come to these events with an approach that's open minded, humble and reflects a willingness to learn.”
We acknowledge that the land on which we gather in Treaty Six Territory is the traditional gathering place for many Indigenous people. We honour and respect the history, languages, ceremonies and culture of the First Nations, Métis and Inuit who call this territory home.