On Feb. 3, the Office of the Provost and Vice-Principal (Academic), the Black Students’ Network (BSN), and the McGill African Students’ Society (MASS) commenced McGill’s fourth annual Black History Month (BHM). Under the theme “Rooted”, this year’s celebration aims to continue the tradition of bringing together students, staff, and community members to commemorate Black history. Since 1995, BHM has been celebrated in February to honour the important achievements and contributions of Black folks across Canada.
BHM was only institutionalized at McGill three years ago. Shanice Yarde, the Equity Education Advisor in Anti-Oppression and Anti-Racism at McGill University, explained the need to recognize the complete history of this celebration at McGill.
“There have always been Black folks organizing and celebrating Black History Month at McGill,” Yarde said. “So there is something important about not erasing those legacies and [remembering] that [BHM] existed way before 2017.”
This month will host events and material that seeks to immerse people from McGill and beyond in the rich history of Black people, something that Yarde and the organizing team deemed crucial.
“It’s exciting that we get to host these very different events every year, and [what’s] also important is that there’s something for everyone,” Yarde said.
Yarde highlighted that having a diverse event schedule is also vital in facilitating more spaces around McGill and Montreal at large.
“There is so much more happening around campus [in this year’s BHM],” Yarde said. “It’s kind of exciting to see the ripple effect of people being engaged and interested in creating spaces within their own communities.”
To foster a sense of togetherness within the Montreal community, BHM is hosting an annual Community and Family Day on Feb. 23.
“We [will spend] the whole day at La Citadelle,” Yarde said. “It’s a free day and open to [all members of the Montreal] community. It [will be] a beautiful day of celebration, history, culture, and food, so I’m really excited for that [event].”
Involvement of the student community is key to facilitating this year’s BHM’s event. To achieve this, Yarde worked closely with two assistant co-coordinators, Shona Musimbe (BA ‘17) and Catherina Musa, U2 Arts and President of the MASS, who were crucial in facilitating this year’s celebration.
“So much of what we’re able to do is made possible because of students mobilizing and organizing,” Yarde said. “I think there’s something really important about making sure that students are not only involved, but [also] have real decision making power.”
Yarde remarked that a vital takeaway of BHM is that the events and content encourage people to carry on the spirit of advocacy for Black communities past February.
“As an [Equity] Education Advisor, […] I want people to leave [BHM] inspired and excited about learning more, taking action and getting engaged,” she said.
The organizers emphasized the importance of continuing the conversations raised by BHM outside the boundaries of February, since prejudice does not stop after the month’s end.
“Anti-Blackness [and] systemic racism […] continues [past this month],” Yarde said. “The momentum of the conversations that happen in February [is] a really important part of challenging that kind of systemic oppression that exists in and beyond February.”
For more information on Black History Month 2020, students can contact Shanice Yarde at [email protected]