Episode #119 – The Origins & Future of Black History Month in Canada

If this country evolves to fulfill its potential as an open and diverse democracy that welcomes people of all backgrounds and from all countries of origin, we wouldn’t need to celebrate Black History Month. Both newcomers and longtime residents, especially Black, Indigenous and People of Colour (BIPOC) would feel welcomed and valued every month of the year regardless of their race or country of origin. But here in Peterborough and across the country, we have a long way to go in order to be able to live in that shining reality.

Our panellists have a wealth of experience in fostering and promoting the values that underpin Black History Month. Stephen Wright emigrated with his family from Jamaica to Canada as an 8-year-old and has lived in New Brunswick, Alberta and now Peterborough; from 2018 to 2022, Stephen served as a Peterborough City Councilor representing Northcrest Ward. In the 2022 municipal election, he ran as a candidate for mayor of Peterborough. Rosemary Sadlier was born and raised in Toronto; she has degrees in teaching and social work. Her roots in Canada reach back to pre-Confederation: her mother’s family can be traced to 1840, while her father’s ancestors arrived in New Brunswick in 1793 as United Empire Loyalists. Rosemary was the president of the Ontario Black History Society (OBHS) from 1993 to 2015. As president, she contributed to the recognition of Black history through education, research and outreach programs. Rosemary’s pressure was central to the Canadian government’s 1995 decision to make the celebration of Black History Month a national annual event. Along with the 1995 establishment of National Black History Month, in that same year, Rosemary also initiated the formal celebration of August 1st as Emancipation Day, which is still being sought nationally.

Our discussion touches on the coverage of Black History Month across the country and Peterborough’s very recent recognition of this month on the municipal calendar. In future, could we do more by reflecting on how we might recognize this month of significance for citizens of all backgrounds in our community? This panel discussion was recorded online on February 17th, 2023

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