February is Black History month. It is a time when we celebrate the people of African descent who have helped make the world the amazing place that it is today. Black History month is most often talked about when you are a student, and it’s where you learn about courageous people like Rosa Parks, Martin Luther King Jr., The Honourable Lincoln M. Alexander, Chinua Achebe, and Buddy Guy to name only a few. It’s where you learn about slavery, about civil rights, and about racism.
As a teacher I know that is it sometimes very hard to fully celebrate Black History month because the curriculum doesn’t leave much time or space for it. However, this is something that needs to be celebrated, taught, and remembered because while slavery is a thing of the past, racism still abounds. We don’t like to admit that it does, but it does, and it has no place in our multicultural society, or in our multicultural world.
Two years ago the United Nations declared 2011 to be The International Year For People Of African Descent. Accompanying this decision was the statement by Ban Ki-moon the Secretary-General of the United Nations who said “…we must remember that people of African descent are among those most affected by racism. Too often, they face denial of basic rights such as access to quality health services and education,” (United Nations Centre, Dec 10 2010). 99% of us read that statement and know that is horrible, but we don’t know what we can do about it other than treating everyone we meet how we would like to be treated – equally. But we can also teach our children to be more accepting, and teach them their history, so that the terrible mistakes that were made in the past aren’t made again.
We’ll start teaching them with this date: August 1, 1834.
On August 1, 1834, 800,000 enslaved Africans in the British colonies, including Canada, were declared free. The story of Emancipation Day, a little-known part of Canadian history, has never been accessible to the teen readers through either the school curriculum or classroom resources, despite its significance in the story of Canada. Talking About Freedom closes this gap by exploring both the background to August 1 commemorations across Canada and the importance of these long-established annual celebrations.
What is the connection between the Caribana festivities in Toronto and emancipation? Why are some communities restoring Emancipation Day to their roster of annual events? Talking About Freedom introduces a range of personalities and happenings through historical facts, memorable personal recollections, vivid images, and detailed narratives. Included are connections to the ongoing struggles of people of African ancestry as they seek to achieve equality, with insightful links woven across the past, present, and future.
Black History month is a month of remembering, teaching and celebrating. That’s why it was created, and why it will continue because one day (and this is not a pipe dream) we will eradicate racism.
The Markerting Coordinator at Dundurn, lover of books, tea and dancing in the rain.