Reflections on Black Canadians – As Black History Month celebrations take place across Canada, senators share their reflections on this year’s theme: “Ours to tell.”

Senator Wanda Thomas Bernard

The theme for Black History Month 2023 is a reminder that Black people have valuable stories to share. These stories are an integral part of our history. Many stories go unheard or unnoticed, so this theme feels especially important to highlight the stories of Black people in Canada. At every single Black History Month event I have attended this February, I have heard countless inspiring stories from Black Canadians. I have heard stories of hardship and struggle, racism and pain. I have also heard stories of joy and celebration, triumph and critical hope. These complex and striking narratives are an integral component of Canadian history. They are the legacy of our ancestors before us and the legends still among us. This Black History Month, take the opportunity to share, listen and acknowledge all of our stories, because they are truly Ours to Tell.

Senator Sharon Burey

As we celebrate Black history, not only this month but every day of the year, I am honoured by the opportunity to speak with young Canadians. Young people are our past, present and future, and it is vital that as senators, community leaders and, most importantly, African Canadians, they feel that they belong in decision-making and power spaces like Parliament.

This year’s Black History Month theme is “Ours to Tell,” and I strongly believe in this statement. As a new senator, I hope my work will allow African Canadians to feel a sense of ownership over and agency in their history, culture and legacy in Canada.

Black history is Canadian history. Black history is world history. And Black history is ours to tell, celebrate and voice in our fight to build a more equitable and just society. Together, I know we can achieve excellence, inclusivity and transformative change in Canada.

Senator Bernadette Clement

February is Black History Month. This year, I am pleased to participate in a number of activities to celebrate the Black community. I enjoy engaging in discussions at schools and universities where I can interact with the younger generation. I have always been impressed by their openness, involvement and energy when it comes to exploring our differences. Looking back on previous centuries, and even recent years, we can clearly see that inclusiveness, sharing and community harmony are crucial to our social cohesion. I love hearing the dreams, inspirations and goals of these young people, and I am happy to share my experience as a Black woman in politics and the legal world with them in return. I think this year’s theme, “Ours to Tell,” is very fitting.

Senator Amina Gerba

Black communities have made important contributions to building our country. The theme of the 28th celebration of Black History Month invites us to highlight the many accomplishments of Black Canadians across the country. I feel very strongly that we are the best ambassadors for our community. The African-Canadian diaspora has a voice, and it is important that it be heard. While we need to highlight this heritage, we also need to draw attention to the current experience of Black Canadians, who are still deeply impacted by systemic racism. As an entrepreneur, I know what barriers can stand in the way of business owners from diverse backgrounds. We must work together to ensure that all Canadians have an equal opportunity to succeed.

Senator Mobina Jaffer

I love the theme of this year’s Black History Month. We all have stories to tell that reveal so much about ourselves and our families, where we’ve come from and where we hope to go.

I have learned so much already from the stories my colleagues have told and from the stories I hear from the young people I meet in my work and life. There is sadness, loss and anger in many stories – Black history is too often cruel and unjust, and certainly cruelty and injustice persist today – but there is also so much warmth and pride and love. There is pride in ourselves, our families and our accomplishments. And there is love in our community that has held us together through the darkest times and that fuels the progress we have made.

Every year, especially at this time, I see more and more of that pride and love from within our community and from growing numbers of allies of all races and creeds. We tell each other our stories and find that what connects us is so much more powerful than what divides us. I hope Canadians, especially young Canadians, will join me in celebrating and cherishing the lives and stories of Black Canadians.

The theme of Black History Month 2023 is “Ours to Tell.” What a great way to tell our stories through the arts!

This month, the African Canadian Senate Group, in collaboration with Mosaïque Interculturelle in Ottawa and the Afro-Canadian Cultural Centre of Montréal, presents Tales, an extraordinary exhibit in the Senate foyer honouring Black Canadian artists from diverse backgrounds.

The title, Tales, echoes the official theme. It invites us all to listen to the many different stories of Canada’s Black communities, that are absent from the history books. This month gives us the opportunity to tell those stories and put the spotlight on our Black communities that have been invisible in Canadian history for too long!

Senator Rosemary Moodie

Black History Month is an opportunity to celebrate the achievements, contributions and determination of Black Canadians, and the impact we have had in shaping this country. It’s a time to recognize and highlight the voices of Black Canadians across the country and throughout history.

The theme is a reminder that we have a responsibility to share our stories, our history and our experiences. It calls on us to ensure that our stories are preserved and shared with current and future generations, and it is a recognition that Black history is an integral part of Canada’s history.

This year’s theme is also a reminder that the responsibility of telling our stories rests not only with older generations, but also with the youth. By sharing their own experiences and ensuring their voices are heard, Black youth will help shape the present and the future of
this country.

Senator Mohamed Iqbal Ravalia

While Black History Month is a time to honour and celebrate the contributions of Black Canadians, it is also a time to continue to listen, learn and commit to action. In my home province of Newfoundland and Labrador, Black community activists including Precious Familusi, Brian Amadi, Raven Khadeja, Rioko Milani and Nuna Toweh and allies have created a space through Black Lives Matter (NL Chapter) to share stories of success, sacrifice and triumph.

The Black Student Association at Memorial University continues to facilitate community interaction, encourages dialogue and promotes the expression of the political, social and cultural views of Black students on the Rock. Continuing to open dialogue by and with Black Canadians – and actively listening – is critical to building a more inclusive Canada.

Photo courtesy of Senate of Canada

Source: Senate of Canada