In 1995, just after the Honourable Jean Augustine became the first Black Canadian woman to be elected to Parliament, there was a unanimous vote to dedicate February as Black History Month in Canada.
This motion is to honour and recognize the contributions of Black Canadians in the growth, development, settlement and overall history of Canada.
What makes Black History Month extra important this year, is that the Government of Canada has created a campaign for this month called: Black Canadian Women: Stories of Strength, Courage and Vision.
For so many years, prejudice and injustice overshadowed the accomplishments of these incredible Black Canadian Women, and I am so happy that we are now taking the time to celebrate their legacy and continuous contributions to our beautiful country. My only wish is that is could have been done sooner.
In honour of Black History Month, I took the time to read up on some of these incredible Black Canadian Women, and I must say that naming the campaign “Stories of Strength, Courage and Vision” is certainly fitting!
Let us begin with Harriet Tubman, a woman who escaped slavery in Maryland and fled to St. Catharines, Ontario, via the Underground Railroad in 1851. This was the year of the Anti-Slavery Movement in Canada. What makes Harriet even more phenomenal is that once she knew the way, she did 19 dangerous trips to the US and back to Canada, leading hundreds of enslaved people to freedom. They would travel by night and sleep by day to remain unseen, and she would encourage everyone the entire way. What an incredibly brave, selfless woman.Over the course of 1800-1865, over 30,000 Black people traveled to Canada via Underground Railroad and found freedom.
This year, as we celebrate every amazing Black Canadian woman, I have chosen 10 who have truly enriched this country with their legacy, to share with you!
- The Honourable Jean Augustine– Politician, Activist, Educator. First Black Canadian Woman Elected to House of Commons. Successfully established February as Black History Month.
- Carrie Best– Founded The Clarion, the first Black-owned newspaper in 1946.
- Senator Anne Clare Cools- Became the first Black senate of Canada (1984), and first female Black senator in North America.
- Violet King- Canada’s first Black female lawyer, and the only woman in her graduating class.
- Deborah Miller-Brown- 17 year old track & field Olympian, first Black person to participate in the Olympics from Nova Scotia.
- Dionne Brand- Award winning poet, writer, political and social activist.
- Viola Davis-Desmond- In 1946, was arrested for 30 days after sitting in the “White Only” section of a movie theatre in Nova Scotia. In 2010, the province granted an official apology for the unjust racism. Now, Viola Davis-Desmond in the first Black Canadian to have their face on a Canadian Banknote (the $10 bill!)
- Lori Seale Irving- In 2007, Lori became the first Black female RCMP to become a commissioned officer.
- Jully Black- Known for being Canada’s Queen of R&B, Jully is an award-winning musician, as well as an overall altruistic woman, donating her time to many charities.
- Measha Brueggergosman- An award winning Classical Soprano, who happens to be from my home province of New Brunswick! I have seen her live in concert and she is awe-inspiring!
Although I am no history buff, I will continue to educate myself on Black History Month.
Why do I believe this is so important? Because, unfortunately, past unjust and extreme prejudice, created certain false stereotypes that negatively affected opportunities for Black Canadians. Even though we cannot go back in time to fix this mistake, we can certainly retroactively recognize the contributions, development, growth and enrichment our Black Canadians have given to all of us.
Moving forward, let’s continue to make positive strides to unify every ethnicity, gender, religion, sexuality, disability and socioeconomic background. Let’s spread acceptance, and equal rights for all. Being diverse is what makes us interesting and helps us learn from one another. Borders are man-made. Our differences make us stronger.
Happy Black History Month Everybody!
Love, Satisfy Her Soul
Related Post: Book Review: Letter to My Daughter by Maya Angelou