It’s a little embarrassing to admit, but I don’t know all that much about Black History Month. I remember learning about it and celebrating it in school when I was younger. But since then, I’ve found that I’ve had fewer chances to attend Black History Month events. Sometimes it’s because I don’t know when or where the events are happening. Other times, I can’t go due to previous commitments. And then there are times when I choose not to. Sometimes it’s because I’m lazy. And other times it’s because I think to myself “this doesn’t apply to me.”
Last Thursday, a friend and I attended the Faculty of Kinesiology and Physical Education’s “Lunch for a Cause” event, in acknowledgement of Black History Month. I was a little worried that we’d stand out, but I was pleasantly surprised to find that that really wasn’t the case. The event was a wonderful learning experience. It was amazing to see different people from different backgrounds sharing and remembering the accomplishments of a single culture together. It was also the first time that I’ve tried Caribbean food and it was right up my alley! I love spicy foods and flavors and the jerk chicken and goat curry were exactly that.
We hung around for a bit and I spent some time talking to the organizers of the event. I stood with them as they watched people from different walks of life mingling and laughing with each other and discussing some of the historical figures who were responsible for the Civil Rights Movement (Martin Luther King, Jr., Harriet Tubman, Rosa Parks, Frederick Douglass, among others). Reflecting on the injustices that African Americans have encountered and remembering the individuals who stood together to overcome some of them was humbling (http://www.cic.gc.ca/english/multiculturalism/black/index.asp). One of the organizers turned to me and said “Isn’t it funny to think that something like this wouldn’t have been possible a century ago?”
That’s when I realized that Black History Month is important for us all, not only because of who it honours but also because of what it teaches us:
1) It teaches us to celebrate, rather than to tolerate, each other’s differences and unique characteristics.
2) It teaches us to share our culture, our food, our thoughts, and our accomplishments with those around us, regardless of ethnic background.
3) It teaches us to be thankful to past and present leaders who have fought long and hard to ensure we live in a society that is largely accepting.
4) It teaches us that it’s never too late to change. That society is dynamic. And the injustices that exist today don’t have to exist tomorrow.
5) Finally, it teaches us that we are never truly alone. We should never exclude ourselves from events and opportunities because we feel they “don’t apply to us.” Sometimes (more often than not), the only barriers that exist are the ones that we establish in our own mind.
Black History Month continued throughout February. I hope you consider participating in some of these events!
Happy Black History Month, UofT!