Embracing diversity in Black communities

The African Arts and Cultural Society presents the Regional Black Canadians Forum, a community forum focused on the International Decade for People of African Descent, from Feb. 6–Feb. 7 at the Greater Victoria Public Library.

As Black History Month approached, Founder of Victoria’s African Arts and Cultural Society Pulchérie Mboussi sought the opportunity to enlighten her community on African culture and discuss socio-political issues affecting Black people of African descent.

For seven years, Mboussi has hosted events for Black History Month ranging from live music concerts to family-oriented activities. This year, however, Mboussi has been inspired by the International Decade for People of African Descent.

Proclaimed by the United Nations General Assembly and officially recognized by Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, 2015–2024 marks the International Decade for People of African Descent – an opportunity to honour people of African heritage and promote anti-racist, anti-discriminatory recognition, justice and development.

“Here in British Columbia, it is difficult to bring Black communities together to discuss national issues,” says Mboussi. “When it comes to these national issues, they need someone connected to the issues in both a national way and a local way.”

Including oneself in an inclusive environment

Originally from Cameroon, community leader Mboussi immigrated to Canada in the mid-1980s. Before promoting African culture in the Greater Victoria area and starting the Victoria African Arts and Cultural Society in 2012, she acted as an advocate for African cultures in Quebec.

“I am always proud to tell people that I am originally from Cameroon, I am bringing a culture that I want to share,” she says. “My goal is to encourage every single Black person to showcase their own culture because that is a way to be more inclusive.”

Mboussi celebrates African and Caribbean voices, creating accessible spaces to broaden cultural awareness and initiating reciprocal exchanges of stories through what she calls “sustainable cultural sharing.” The Regional Black Canadians Forum aims to provide a platform for these forms of engagement.

“We (Black Canadians) give up our own culture [to be] more inclusive. Canada encourages multiculturalism. Canada loves a mosaic culture. But you are not being inclusive by giving up one part of you,” says Mboussi. “Being inclusive is acceptance, so you have to accept the other person the way they are to find a way to live together.”

A forum for many voices

The Regional Black Canadians Forum brings together both local and national voices to encourage active advocacy and educate the public about worldwide humanitarian challenges. It encompasses the visions of The African Arts and Cultural Society and the deep-rooted objectives of Black History Month celebrations. The forum will welcome a panel of experienced, professional speakers, hand-picked by Mboussi to address the following topics: Black Ownership & Generating Wealth, Media Representation, Arts & Black Identity, Mental & Physical Health, Accessing Justice & Community Safety, Migration & Inclusion, Education, Democratic Engagement, Access to Affordable Housing and Shelter.

Pulchérie Mboussi, founder of Victoria’s African Arts and Cultural Society.

Mboussi’s work continuously emphasizes diversity in cultural expression. She aims to highlight the variation found through the experiences of even those with similar descent and heritage. At her prior events (even in limited space), she has readily displayed the 54 flags of the countries of Africa and the 26 flags of the Caribbean to respectfully present and embrace the beauty and complexity of cultural heterogeneity.

“Black people are trying to fit in other people’s shoes,” says Mboussi, when asked about cultural assimilation and Black pride. “You have to find your shoes and wear your own shoes.”

The Regional Black Canadians Forum will take place over the course of two days. Focus groups open to people of African descent will run on Feb. 6 to discuss the Canadian Strategic Plan in response to the International Decade. The events of Feb. 7 are open to all and will consist of brunch, networking opportunities, and discussions moderated by panellists and guest speakers.

For more information and to register for the forum, please visit www.eventbrite.ca/e/regional-black-canadians-forum-tickets-75224142435 and the African Arts and Cultural Society’s Facebook page.

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