Celebrating Black History Month at Carleton

Black History Month (BHM) is underway around the world, and Carleton is hosting its own month of programming dedicated to recognition and remembrance.

Officially recognized in Canada in 1995, the month of February is celebrated as Black History Month internationally.

BHM: BLACK, Reborn is a month of events being held by the Carleton University Students’ Association (CUSA) and three of its service centres: the Race, Ethnicity and Culture (REC) Hall, the Womyn’s Centre, and the Gender and Sexuality Resource Centre.

Alexis Oundo, CUSA’s vice-president (student services) said BHM is important for students.

“BHM is always great for students both racialized and marginalized to celebrate their individuality. This is also a valuable opportunity for students at large to get involved and learn as much as they can about BHM,” she said in an email. 

Kyra Devonish, a first-year cognitive science student, said that while she wasn’t educated about the true value of BHM when she was younger, it means “everything” to her now.

“Now, I don’t cringe because I have been educated, and I know that I have something to be proud of. I know about Rosa Parks, George Washington Carver, Fannie Lou Hamer, Madam C.J. Walker, Dorothy Height,” Devonish said in a Facebook message.

“It’s an allocated month that makes it okay to talk about racial inequality, and a history of oppression and hope. For me, it’s a month that takes all of the little factors, puts it together, and makes it acceptable to talk about,” Alaukwu Anozie, a first-year electrical engineering student, added.

Selali A-W, the administration and programming co-ordinator at the REC Hall, said in an email that all of the events for the month are important. However, she said a screening of Marvel’s highly-anticipated Black Panther film and the closing ceremony are expected to draw the largest crowds.

“I’ve been waiting for this movie since I was nine. That’s all I can say,” Anozie said.

According to Devonish, many people don’t understand her excitement for the film.

“White people can go to the movie theatre and see themselves represented in every type of character. Typically, when I go to the theatre, I have the opportunity to see a Black woman represented as maybe ‘that sassy girl,’ ‘maid #1’ or ‘slave #2,’” she said. “To see an entire cast with flourishing, strong, independent and intelligent Black characters is something that I, and other Black people like me, have needed.”

Other events include “Yaaass Queen!” a discussion about the appropriation of African-American vernacular English, “In Loving Colour,” and a screening of the documentary Whitney: Can I Be Me?, which is based on the life of late American singer and actress Whitney Houston.

Oundo said the budget for this month’s events, workshops, meetings, and panels is $8,000 in total. It includes funding for honorariums for speakers and a volunteer appreciation party at the end of BHM.

Events will run until the end of February. 

Photo by Aarons Hemens