A historical perspective
Re: Black History Month
To the editor:
Black History Month is an opportunity for black people to celebrate being black as part of a distinct culture and community regardless of each individual's country of origin. It is an opportunity to conceptualize being black in this day and age. This is not always a pleasant experience, but it is necessary. Black history challenges the status quo and demands accountability, redress and that achievements and contributions of blacks be encompassed in a process called re-righting history. That is, the book of history has already been written, but the contributions of black people have not been considered or addressed in this book. Hence, what we now learn is a skewed version of the real events.
For example, professor Ezmeralda M.A. Thornhill, who spoke at Western on Feb. 4, 1997, taught us that when Columbus "accidentally arrived" on North American soil, not only did he find North America's First People living and carrying on, but he states clearly in his notes that there were settlements of black people there as well. Before Columbus, Africans had come and left North America after trading with natives. Many of their traded textiles and personal effects remained behind. These are facts which appear in the notes and diaries which Columbus wrote. They are a part of North America's history. These historical facts continue to be denied.
What Black History Month does is give an opportunity for black people to celebrate many of our heroes and heroines. The mainstream recognizes many black athletes and entertainers, but there are others who suffered and toiled so that black people would no longer have to be slaves or called sub-human. One such person is Marie Joseph Angelique who was a slave in Montreal in the 1700s. If we ignore Black History Month, we deny black people the opportunity to celebrate her struggle and mourn her death at the hands of the Catholic church. Her struggle against slavery becomes erased. These are facts about our nation, Canada. Black history is also Canadian history. We cannot continue to deny it.
Few would argue that Chinese New Year is an event which should be shared with all other multicultural events. This event clearly speaks to the Chinese community and events specific to them. In the same way, Black History Month is an internationally acclaimed and recognized month to celebrate black history and reflect on the contributions of black people in this world. While I fully support the idea of a multicultural month, I also recognize that there is a time and a place for everything.
Refusing to run a Black History Month centrespread and replacing it with a cultural diversity issue is an affront to black people everywhere. If we keep in mind that black people fought long and hard to be recognized as human beings, then fought again to have black history acknowledged, it is intolerable to have The Gazette unilaterally decide that when the entire world is celebrating Black History Month. Such an action denies all members of the university community the opportunity to be educated for one month (the shortest month) about the missing parts of our history the parts which contain the contributions of black people.
The Gazette should include a centrefold which is dedicated to Black History Month in as many issues as it has articles for this month. Such an action would serve to repair some of the damage which has been done to this university and continue to foster the community of learning which academia is supposed to create. This is the least that we, as a university community, can do for our black students, staff and faculty.