A note from Fanshawe College's anti-racism and inclusion specialist

CREDIT: KATE OTTERBEIN
Troy Townsend, Fanshawe’s new Anti-Racism and Inclusion Specialist.

Black History Month is a celebration of Black culture, Black excellence, and Black Pride on several intersecting planes. The Black diaspora which contributes to Fanshawe’s total community population, represents natural‑born Canadians, international students on study permits; Caribbean and African refugees, asylum seekers, migrants, and new Canadians who now live and work and attend school in London.

This year’s theme for Black History Month is: resilience. As I reflect on this theme, I cannot help but wonder at how appropriate that is. In the face of so much adversity, oppression, and repression, Canada’s Black people and Black communities have flourished and thrived in a country steeped in hundreds of years of colonial attitudes. Historically, Canada has not provided the most inclusive environment for all its citizens, yet Black Canadians maintained their resiliency and persevered; living the full Black experience in a country not yet ready to embrace them in entirety. Here we are, almost 400 years after the first Black resident came to Canada, still fighting some of the same oppressive power dynamics that continue to present barriers, yet Black folk have not faltered, nor quavered in their resilient efforts to make daily contributions to the many platforms of Canadian life: its economies, education, arts, politics, and social structure. It is this resiliency and their enriching contributions which we now celebrate.

There is so much valuable Black history to be found around London and surrounding area that can be taken in and celebrated this month and every month. Celebrate the Meeting Tree; a 700‑year old White Oak tree in London’s Westminster Ponds, which became a beacon of hope and a stop on the Underground Railroad. Celebrate towns like Lucan, Ont.; the once former colony of Wilberforce, a community of freed slaves migrating north from the northern USA, named for abolitionist, William Wilberforce. Celebrate Dresden, Ont.; one of the final stops on the Underground Railroad and the home of Josiah Henson, who harboured many fugitive slaves and was affectionately known as Uncle Tom. Celebrate the restoration of the Fugitive Slave Chapel in its new, permanent home at Fanshawe Pioneer village where it will be fully restored and granted purpose as an historic site.

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Celebrate Fanshawe’s own like music industry arts (MIA) alumna Haviah Mighty; winner of the Polaris music prize and 2022 Juno award for Rap album of the year. Celebrate Fanshawe alumnus Damian Warner; 2020 Olympic Gold medal winner of the Decathlon, and a London resident. The London Black History Coordinating Committee will be organizing several events at venues around London during the month of February to recognize and celebrate the contributions of other local Londoners in person for the first time since 2019.

Fanshawe’s Equity, Diversity and Inclusion team is also quite excited to be partnering with the Fanshawe Student Union (FSU) and other areas around the college to offer a month of in‑person and remote activities and events as part of Black History Month celebrations for the first time. We invite you to join us as we recognize and celebrate Black contributions to the London and Fanshawe community through music, art, literature and food. All are welcome to attend and participate as we celebrate Black culture, whether during cold February days or every day!