The Black Cultural Society of PEI (BCSPEI) has officially launched Black History Month to celebrate the various cultures that make up the Island’s Black community.
Black History Month (BHM) is held in February every year to celebrate Black heritage, accomplishments and important events in the timeline of Black populations throughout history.
This year’s theme is Sankofa: Honouring our Past, Igniting our Future. It was chosen to give PEI’S Black community a platform to reflect on their history and acknowledge the significance of this history in shaping the future.
Sankofa symbolizes the ways in which Blackness is redefined in perpetuity and the history as a guidance for current and future generations.
“To ignite one’s future is to illuminate all possibilities, to clearly see the textures and landscapes of those possibilities,” explains Tamara Steele, executive director at BCSPEI. “Like the Sankofa bird, we continue to look back to honour the strength, magnificence and adversities of those who came before us to empower our communities to go beyond.”
Sankofa is a Twi word that means to look back into our past to guide our future. The word Sankofa, and its eponymous bird can be seen with its head turned back while its feet are firmly planted forward. San (Return) Ko (Go) Fa (Look, seek).
BHM Program Coordinator Reequal Smith has been busy planning events and activities throughout the month, including flagship events like panel discussions, lectures and community group meetups, where community members will discuss their lived experiences on emerging topics related to the theme, history, culture and their aspirations for the future.
“We are working with community members to talk about mental health and wellbeing, fostering skills and talents, excelling in education, supporting local Black businesses and artists, and advocating for representation in PEI,” shares Smith.
This year’s celebrations also feature practical cultural activities and workshops, as well as additional events at new locations across PEI. “BHM is going to be at Canada Games 2023 this year. That’s where the cultural presentations and workshops will take place. It will also be a space for Black creatives to showcase their products and services,” adds Smith.
BCSPEI Education and Policy Coordinator Aaron Sardinha will facilitate educational sessions in Island schools for BHM this year. He says, “Black History Month activities celebrate not only Black history, culture, and arts, but also the diversity of the Black population while educating people about the issues this community faces. BCSPEI’s educational programs help promote an understanding of our culture and history to foster stronger relationships with other cultures.
“We have developed a new Black History presentation that will be delivered to participating schools across the Island. This year, we are seeing enhanced collaborations and an openness to giving Black people on PEI the space to teach their histories and tell their stories in their own words.”
Chijioke Amadi, president of the BCSPEI board of directors, promotes the recognition of Black people’s presence across the province.
“The Black community in PEI is growing and its members are seeking connection with one another; the Pan African flag is a unifying symbol for members of the African Diaspora,” he says. “We will raise the flag in six locations across PEI. This is our symbol and a reminder for our community to remember our history, celebrate our today, and have hope for our future.”
Flag-raisings will take place at city/town halls in Charlottetown, Stratford, Kensington, Summerside and Bordon-Carleton, and a flag will also be raised at UPEI.
Other BHM activities include lunch conversations, talks and presentations on Black history, activity kits and storytelling for children, a film screening, and movie nights.
BCSPEI is a not-for-profit organization whose goal is to support and advocate for the growing Black community on PEI as well as the descendants of Black Islanders. BCSPEI’s vision is to shape the future by preserving our heritage, promoting racial equity, and creating partnerships that will assist in the development and success of the Black community in PEI.
The Black History Month 2023 calendar is located on page 31 of this issue of The Buzz.
For more information about Black History Month activities, visit bcspei.ca and follow @blackculturalsocietypei on Facebook and Instagram.