Black History is for the entire community: Task Force collaborates to highlight the history around us

·4 min read

It hasn’t even been a year since members of Aurora’s Anti-Racism and Anti-Black Racism came together at a very poignant time in our collective history.

As the first formal committee established by the Town to address systemic racism within and beyond the community, they have made history of their own. Now, they are bringing their voices and experiences together to make next year’s Black History Month one of extra-special importance.

February is Black History Month, an observance celebrated around the world.

Last month, the Town issued a proclamation recognizing Black History Month, shining a light on “the contribution that People of African and Caribbean descent have made to Canada, shaping its identity.”

“Black History Month continues to provide the Town of Aurora with the opportunity to celebrate the contributions and vital role that Canadians of African descent have made to strengthen the social and cultural mosaic of our community, province and the country,” said Council in its proclamation.

As such, throughout the month of February, the Town, in association with the Aurora Black Community group on Facebook, have spearheaded and compiled several events throughout the month to mark Black History Month. In collaboration with such organizations as the Aurora Public Library and the Aurora Film Circuit, events include online cooking demonstrations, lectures, and film viewings, but there are more opportunities that should be explored in the lead-up to February of 2022, according to Task Force members.

“I think [the events of last summer related to Black Lives Matter] really opened the eyes of a lot of people in Canada and all over the world,” says group member Mae Khamissa. “I think now is the time for us to stand up and put an even bigger focus on the importance of Black History Month. Celebrating is the key factor. Next year, we would like, as a Committee, to showcase it and hopefully we can showcase it in a much more personal venue of some sort, celebrate it, whether it be music and the arts, so we can bring people together and understand what Black History is.”

The Town’s plans for Black History Month came into sharp focus last month during a virtual meeting of the Task Force. On the agenda was time allocated for members to provide input on what was in store, but some members expressed frustration at being asked for their opinions so late in the game – particularly the individuals with lived experience invited to come to the table.

It was agreed that it was a good start and they set a goal to use the months ahead to plan a particularly meaningful celebration of all the accomplishments of Black Canadians and contributions they have made to the development of the country.

“In Aurora, I want people to know that Black History is not for Black people, it is for the entire community,” says Phiona Durrant, founder of the Aurora Black Community Facebook group. “The Aurora Black Community group is not a Black people group but a place where we are bringing people together. It’s about that piece more than ever. We want to create events, as little as they are, to [reflect] an eclectic culture for participating so is not just Black faces. It is very important that that piece is highlighted.”

Black History Month commemorations this week include an online presentation on Black History through a specifically Canadian lens hosted online by the Aurora Black Community from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m., this Thursday, February 4, and a lecture from Dr. Cheryl Thompson hosted that evening by the Aurora Public Library. A cooking demonstration will be hosted by the York Region Food Network highlighting the cuisine of Barbados on Friday morning from 10 a.m. to 12 noon.

Over the weekend, the Aurora Film Circuit will host a live review and discussion about the Netflix series “Self Made”, in which Octavia Spencer portrays beauty entrepreneur Madam C.J. Walker. This will take place Saturday evening at 7 p.m.

A further cooking demonstration, this time hosted by the Aurora Black Community on their Facebook Page and YouTube channel will take place beginning at 6.30 p.m. on Thursday, February 11.

For a full listing of events, including registration, and how to become a member of the Aurora Black Community group, visit aurora.ca/blackhistorymonth.

Brock Weir, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Auroran