Celebrating February as Black History Month has become a powerful tradition in North America. Canadians have been officially recognizing it on a national level since 1995. Important groundwork laid by the Ontario Black History Society and strong community support enabled the Honourable Jean Augustine, the first Black woman elected to Parliament, to successfully champion the motion in the House of Commons.
Jean Augustine identified February as Canada’s Black History Month to align with the United States, where the February birthdays of President Abraham Lincoln and former slave and anti-slavery activist Frederick Douglass provided the original rationale for its timing. However, Augustine distinguishes Canada’s national celebration, describing it as an opportunity to recognize the excellence of Black Canadians in all fields as well as individuals of African descent who, historically and today, have emerged “as contributors, as builders, as participants, as collaborators in Canadian society.” Augustine also underscores the essential role that active self-reflection plays in Canada’s Black History Month. It offers a time, she noted in a 2021 interview, “for all of us to examine our own prejudices, to examine our relationships, to ask ourselves, ‘are we allies to ensuring that others are [full] participants … in the workplace, in … ceremonies, and everything that happens in … [Canadian] society?’”
I encourage every member of the U of T community to embrace the many dimensions of Canada’s Black History Month this year, and to engage in active reflection and learning. On February 24, our Anti-Racism & Cultural Diversity Office (ARCDO) presents Addressing Anti-Black Racism at the Intersections: Stories, Advocacy and Actions, a virtual event including a keynote address by Moya Bailey, Associate Professor in the School of Communication at Northwestern University, and a screening of the film HERstory in Black, directed by Emily Mills. On February 14 and 16, ARCDO invites members of the Black community at U of T to participate in Restore sessions led by Yamikani Msosa of Hill Studio. Details about these and other events across U of T can be found on the ARCDO website. We also invite the University community to view the Black History Month Calendar highlighting Black History Month activities occurring across the tri-campus.
Of course, as important as it is to recognize and celebrate Black History Month, doing so cannot replace ongoing efforts—365 days a year—both to address anti-Black racism and to amplify Black excellence. To this end, the University of Toronto joined nearly 50 colleges and universities across Canada in signing the Scarborough Charter in November 2021. For U of T, implementing the principles and actions of the Scarborough Charter is occurring in tandem with work already being done—including implementing the recommendations of the Anti-Black Racism Task Force Report (approaching its first anniversary in March 2022) and efforts led by the Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion offices at the University of Toronto Scarborough and University of Toronto Mississauga—to remove barriers and create environments in which Black students, staff, faculty, and librarians can thrive. Divisions, units, and faculties across our three campuses share U of T’s collective progress in making lasting change to our systems and processes on the institutional Commitments microsite.
For more information about how to support Black excellence and address anti-Black racism at the University of Toronto, I encourage you to explore the Programming & Resources listed below. Together we can sustain the momentum of Black History Month throughout the year.
Programming & Resources
Find out what’s happening across U of T to celebrate Black History this month and beyond. Event submissions are also welcome here.
Facilitator Yamikani Msosa (Hill Studio) leads two sessions for U of T students, faculty, and staff who identify as members of the Black community. Both celebrate Black joy and honour shared strength.
- For faculty and staff who identify as members of the Black community:
February 14, 2022, 11:00 am – 12:00 pm
- For students who identify as members of the Black community:
February 16, 2022, 12:00 pm – 1:00 pm
February 24, 2022, 10:00 am – 12:30 pm
Join the Anti-Racism & Cultural Diversity Office (ARCDO) for a keynote presentation and film screening exploring strategies, stories, and resources to address anti-Black racism as it intersects with forms of gender-based discrimination.
Moya Bailey, Associate Professor in the School of Communication at Northwestern University, begins the event with her presentation “Misogynoir Transformed: Black Women’s Digital Resistance.” In the screening HERstory in Black, which follows, director Emily Mills shares the experiences of 150 women who excel in their field, push for greater diversity, and help build vibrant communities.
Training Opportunities for Faculty and Staff
Understanding your responsibility to prevent racial discrimination & harassment in the work environment
April 7, 2022, 10 am – 12 pm
What is Harassment? Tools to identify and address racial and sexual harassment in the work environment
April 13, 2022, 10 am – 12 pm
Advanced Courses for Faculty and Staff
Please visit the ARCDO website for updates.
- Anti-Black Racism Training (Module 1): Understanding Anti-Black Racism: The Foundation
- Anti-Black Racism Training (Module 2): Going Deeper in Addressing Anti-Black Racism: Understanding Whiteness, Internalized Racism and Debunking Myths
- Anti-Black Racism Training (Module 3): Anti-Black Racism & Tools for Organizational Change
Training Opportunities for Students
Understanding your responsibility to prevent racial discrimination & harassment in the work and learning environment(s)
February 3, 2022, 5:30 pm – 7:30 pm
February 9, 2022, 5:30 pm – 7:30 pm