Emancipation Day a time to reflect on meaning of freedom, says Black Cultural Society of P.E.I.

·2 min read
Tamara Steele, executive director of the Black Cultural Society of P.E.I., is hoping for a large turnout for the live celebration Monday night in Rochford Square. (Tony Davis/CBC - image credit)
Tamara Steele, executive director of the Black Cultural Society of P.E.I., is hoping for a large turnout for the live celebration Monday night in Rochford Square. (Tony Davis/CBC - image credit)

Although there will be music, dancing and laughter, Emancipation Day on P.E.I. is not just a time for celebration, but also for education, says the executive director of the Black Cultural Society of P.E.I.

So on Monday, Tamara Steele is asking people to reflect on the question: What does freedom mean to you?

"This is a really great way to engage with everyone and we should all be thinking about this at this time," said Steele.

"On a day like Emancipation Day, let's really consider what freedom means to us and really consider not taking that freedom for granted."

Last March, the P.E.I. Legislature passed the Emancipation Day Proclamation Act, formally recognizing Aug. 1, 1834, as the day when slavery was abolished across the British Commonwealth, including Canada.

The proclamation of Emancipation Day is an important show of "love and support," Steele said in an interview with Mainstreet P.E.I. host Matt Rainnie.

"I think it shows that the government is making a commitment to the Black community to do better and to really recognize the community here, not only the community that exists here now today, as in newcomers to the Island, but also people who have been here for decades, Black families who've existed here since before Confederation."

There are more initiatives she'd like to see in the future, including an anti-racism commission, and more accountability for racist acts.

"It's just something that you can just do and deny and get away with right now by saying, 'I'm not racist, that's not how I meant it.' But there really needs to be some consideration for impact versus intent and some consequences for that impact, especially when it's deliberate."

Full lineup of activities

Education is key, she said. The Black Cultural Society of P.E.I. has virtual and in-person activities and discussions planned for Aug. 1, with performances in Charlottetown's Rochford Square from 6-8 p.m.

Steele is hoping for a large turnout, not just from the Black community but from others, as well.

"Having the allies there is important, too, as a good show of faith and a good show of commitment to allyship. We want to show how much this day means to us and how important it is for the community, and we really want to get that across. So I think it will be just wonderful if we have a good attendance there."

For more stories about the experiences of Black Canadians — from anti-Black racism to success stories within the Black community — check out Being Black in Canada, a CBC project Black Canadians can be proud of. You can read more stories here.

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