A note from Fanshawe College’s Anti-Racism and Inclusion Specialist
Black History Month is a celebration of Black history, Black culture, and accomplishments of Canada’s multifaceted Black population representing Black Canadian citizens, Afro- Indigenous peoples, international students, Caribbean and African refugees, asylum seekers, migrants, and new Canadians who live and work and contribute to the many platforms of Canadian life: its economy, education, arts, politics, sports, food, music and social structure.
In mid-January, the government of Canada announced the official theme for Black History Month 2024 is Black Excellence: A Heritage to Celebrate; Future to Build. It has been almost 400 years since the first Black resident arrived in Canada, leaving lots of Black Canadian heritage to acknowledge and celebrate. Historically though, most Black History Month events tend to focus on the post-Colonial Black experience only; recognizing the significance of a period of time that is steeped in struggle, oppression, and power dynamics that continue to present barriers to this day. I feel that while addressing history is an important step to acknowledging the past, it is also important to learn from it, to take the knowledge we have now, and use it to build a better future and move forward together as a society. To this effect, the EDI office has invited Shelland House of Films to start the month’s events with a FREE screening of their documentary, What We Deserve on Feb. 5 at 2 p.m. Award-winning filmmaker Shelley Jarrett’s new documentary, What We Deserve – Restorative Justice and Reparation, examines over 400 years of the trans- Atlantic slave trade and the major roles played by European powers, including the British, Portuguese, French, and Dutch. Please join us in the Alumni Lounge, (SC 2013) for this very important and informative viewing, to be followed by an open mic Question and Answer panel with the filmmakers.
On Feb. 6, the Fanshawe Student Union (FSU) is pleased to offer a free viewing of Black Panther: Wakanda Forever in lecture theatre D 1060 at 8 p.m. Mark your calendars now and plan to attend this moving tribute to another chapter in the MCU. Snacks and refreshments will be provided courtesy of the FSU while supplies last.
This year, the EDI office is excited to be collaborating once again with the FSU to present a Black History Month showcase event, where Fanshawe will acknowledge and celebrate contributions from some of our own. We invite you to join us in the new Forwell Hall space inside Innovation Village on Feb. 15 from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. when our Black History Month showcase event will feature contributions from the London and Fanshawe community through music, art, literature and food. We are very excited to announce our keynote guest will be celebrity Chef, Suzanne Barr who will be speaking on the intersection of food, race and culture, and introducing her new book, My Ackee Tree. To accompany this theme, the Fanshawe Culinary Management program will be preparing some Afro-centric delicacies for tasting. MIA alumni and Texas King frontman, Jordan MacDonald will get the crowd going with music and song.
There may be a couple of surprise speakers and contributions, so be sure to attend the whole event! Everyone is welcome as we celebrate and support Black Canadian culture. Later that night, the FSU will be hosting an Underground Comedy night in the Out Back Shack at 8 p.m. Don’t forget to watch Fanshawe’s four main social media platforms for our BHM Four Calls to Action – with a different action posted each week during the month of February.
In addition to on-campus events, students and staff are encouraged to learn about local Black history, not just in February, but every month.
You can visit 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. You can visit 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. Or you can visit 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 has been fully restored and granted designation as an historic site. You can also check out the London Black History Coordinating Committee website to learn more about the many BHM events taking place at venues around London during the month of February.
In closing, I would like to say what a humbling experience it is for me to work every day towards developing anti-racism programming, training and awareness pieces to offer our Fanshawe community; engage with students on various outreach projects and events; and get to know so many of you on a personal level. Being anti-racist means more than just not being racist. Being anti-racist in itself is a call to action. To educate, to inform, to share posts, to call people out, to speak up and engage in difficult conversations. Our country, our city, and our community has sat too long in a comfortable space with racist ideals and attitudes, and now it’s time to step out of that comfort zone and actively engage in anti-racism allyship in our collective journey towards a better future to build. As always, any students experiencing racism or discrimination in any form is encouraged to reach out to me at EDI@fanshawec.ca.