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Black History, Black Present, Black Voices

February 2, 2011

Growing up there was no Black History Month in my school. It was something that I’d heard about on the TV. And for a while I justified that we didn’t need Black History Month because there were really only a handful of black kids in my high school. Yet as the years passed every February something nagged inside, the books that I read by black authors, the more I began to research about African American and African Canadian history, the more questions popped up. Why was the only Canadian content I found about Black History Month Portia White and the Underground Railroad? How come the librarians didn’t display at least one book on the showcase from a writer of colour? Why is there a Valentine’s board but nothing about Martin Luther King Jr.? My concern about answering these questions soon trumped my shyness and I campaigned to have Black History Month in my high school. It wasn’t always easy: fighting for visual space with a groundhog, arguing with a principle when I’d slip in timbits of black history facts over the morning announcements and eventually submitting when he told me to “stick to the script.” But I feel like a lot of my strength to carry out my campaign came from the support of my history teacher, a few friends and the black voices I read religiously.

Black History Month to me is about reflecting on the past but also celebrating the present with hopes to nurture the future. This February I want to share some outstanding eloquent, outspoken, truthful words from black voices that influenced me in a world where it’s hard to be black. Some of the authors are the foundation of African-American and African Canadian literature, others are tradition challengers, and many are fresh voices making waves in issues today. Black, white, male or female, I believe everyone can benefit from hearing these voices. Everyone should know their history.

This is MY Black History.

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