Black History Month Events in Canada

Book of NegroesIn 1995, the Canadian House of Commons unanimously voted to pass a motion by Member of Parliament, the Honourable Jean Augustine, to officially designate February as Black History Month.

In 2008, the Senate, Canada's Upper Chamber, unanimously passed the motion of Canada's first Black senator, Senator Donald Oliver, for Black History Month to recognise the:

"...important contribution of black Canadians to the settlement, growth and development of Canada, the diversity of the black community in Canada...."

As the result of this diversity, the history, culture and contributions of the Caribbean community figure prominently in Canada's Black History Month celebrations and events. (In the USA, June is designated as Caribbean-American Heritage Month.)  In fact, Black History Month events often represent a rich tapestry of the history, culture, food, music, dance, and national history of specific African, Caribbean and Latin American countries.

Every year, the Canadian government selects a different theme for its official Black History Month events.

Here are examples of the types of events that take place in Canada to mark Black History Month.

  • Sports: In Canada, the theme for Black History Month 2015 is "Year of Sport". A series of events recognising the contributions of Canada's athletes of African heritage are taking place.
  • Film and TV: The Toronto Black Film Festival, which takes place during the 2nd week of February, showcases movies and filmmakers of African heritage from Canada, USA, the Caribbean, and Africa.

    Toronto's public libraries and the National Film Board (NFB) are also hosting a number of film screenings during Black History Month.

    Last week, I attended a screening, panel and reception with the writer, director, and star of the 6-part TV mini series, Book of Negroes, currently being aired on the CBC in Canada. The series focuses on events that took place in the USA, Canada, and Africa. It will start airing in the US on BET in mid-February. (This larger panel took place during the Toronto International Film Festival.)

  • Theatre: Theatrical productions by the works of Canadian, Afro-Caribbean and African writers are a perfect fit for Black History Month celebrations in Canada. Examples include Angelique by Lorena Gale, Old Story Time by Trevor Rhone (Jamaica), and Moon on a Rainbow Shawl by Errol John (Trinidad).

    Montreal's Black Theatre Workshop is presenting a play about Harriet Tubman.
  • Fashion: In Montreal, during Black History Month, Haitian designer Annie Melissa Etienne will be presenting her cash-and-carry fashion show at Galerie Boutique Helmer.
  • Music: Musical events during Black History Months in Canada may include reggae, calypso, soca, and traditional African drumming.
  • Radio Interviews: Radio interviews are a great way to discover personalities and potential speakers for events.

    In Montreal, CBC Radio 1 has a series called Homerun featuring interviews with the 2015 Montreal Black History Month laureates. These high achieving Black community members of all ages have left a significant mark on Quebec.

In Toronto last weekend, Harbourfront Centre brought many of these elements together in its annual Kuumba Festival. With the theme Afrofuturism, influences that continues to shape art, music, fashion, literature, and film were explored. This was an important reminder that Black History Month events can showcase achievers of the past, present and the future, emerging talent.

Visit the official Government of Canada website for Black History Month. The official Black History Canada website has a lot of resources that event planners designing Black History Month events in Canada will find helpful.

For more ideas also consult 10 Tips for Creating Caribbean Corporate Events.

Photo Credits:Canadian Film Centre (Sam Santos | George Pimentel Photography)

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